Palm Beach Gardens | The Diocese of Palm Beach Office of Permanent Deacons describes the etymology of the words “deacon” and “diaconate” as derivatives of the Greek word diakonia, which means “service” or “ministry.” Upon ordination, a deacon is called to service to the word, service to the altar and service to charity. This September, five men will be ordained permanent deacons and begin a life of service in the diocese.
What many might not know, is that these men do not undergo diaconate formation alone. The five soon-to-be deacons have traveled through their vocation journey with dedicated wives, who have also transformed in knowledge and spirit.
Charlie Immordino, a candidate for the permanent diaconate, met his wife, Diana, when they were both in their late teens. “At the time I met my wife, I was considering the priesthood. I entered the seminary shortly after we met at our parish in New York, and she continued to write to me throughout my time there and went to Mass with me on the weekends I was home,” Charlie said. “I ended up not becoming a priest because of some personal doubts I had. Diana never gave up on me, though. We’ve been married going on 47 years.”
After 30-plus years in the military, a career in nursing, and raising three children, Charlie expressed to his wife his calling to become a deacon. “This was something Charlie has always wanted to do, and I knew it would happen soon enough,” Diana said. “I knew it would be a vocation for me too, so I had to be ready to commit. If you’re not ready, it will be a challenge.”
The ways in which the rigorous five-year diaconate program has brought Charlie and Diana closer is through knowledge of the faith and a transformed prayer life. “Charlie would come home from class bursting from the topics he had learned, and my eyes were just opened. I’d find myself saying, ‘I didn’t learn that in school.’ I realized just how much I didn’t know about Catholicism,” Diana said. Charlie explained how drastically their prayer life has changed. “We pray together now. Before it was an individual thing, but now we’re united through our intimacy with the Lord. It’s been a tremendous benefit to our marriage.”
Charlie and Diana both feel that the Lord has prepared them for this vocation through their life path. “My life as a military spouse trained me to take charge of the home front when Charlie was deployed. It prepared me for his long hours studying for the diaconate or being away in ministry,” said Diana. “As a military man and nurse, I guess it’s natural for me to want to serve. Now that I’ll be ordained a deacon, my service will have a spiritual dimension. This process has been extremely challenging, joyful, difficult, glorious and rewarding,” said Charlie.
Edwin Velasquez and his wife, Rosa, are another couple who have been strengthened by the permanent diaconate formation. “We met in Maryland and were very active in our faith there. Rosa was transferred to Jupiter by her job and so we moved our family here. We attended St. Jude in Tequesta and St. Peter in Jupiter and saw a huge need for leadership and service in the Hispanic ministry. Rosa became involved with the Hispanic religious formation at St. Peter and I helped the group there,” said Velasquez. Rosa joked that their friends and family would say that Edwin took Rosa’s lead with many things in life; for example, moving to Florida and ministry work. “But now it’s I who need to follow him,” said Rosa. “Through his formation as a deacon, I’ve needed to learn to follow his example and be a support to him.”
One thing is for certain, they are both following Christ. “I love that I can talk to Edwin about topics I don’t know. I do a lot of listening, which is a new spiritual role for me. But I know it is God calling me to support my husband,” Rosa said. “I kept hesitating about taking on a leadership role through the permanent diaconate,” Edwin said. “I’d open the application on my computer and then close it, making excuses that it was too long. We travel a lot and the homily’s at different churches seemed like they were directed at me about answering the call. This was God getting my attention.”
“A deacon and his wife have to be ready to commit to a life of public service. I feel that I have been public in the Hispanic ministry for a long time, so now it’s Edwin’s time to lead,” Rosa remarked. Edwin emphasized how impactful a deacon can be to the secular world. “I work in information technology for the town of Jupiter,” he said. “It’s a government job, and there’s this pressure to keep church and state separate. But I don’t keep it separate. I say ‘God bless you’ and ‘have a blessed day’ all the time. I was worried about negative reactions, but I’ve only received positive support at work. One co-worker even asked me why I’m so happy all the time. I said, ‘Because I have Jesus in my heart.’”
To reinforce the vital role a strong marriage plays in the permanent diaconate, Rosa and Diana will accompany their husbands for a portion of the diaconate retreat required for the men who will be ordained in September. Both men are grateful for their wives’ endless support through their vocation journey. “God gave me Diana so that I could get through the difficult times and ultimately carry out his will,” said Charlie.
Edwin similarly reflected, “My wife is a blessing from God without whom I couldn’t have come this far.”