CHARLESTON — “How blessed we are!” With those words, Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone welcomed three men to the transitional diaconate at an ordination held May 23 at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist.
As transitional deacons, Philip Gillespie, Richard Jackson and Artur Przywara will serve at parishes around the Diocese of Charleston in preparation for their ordination to the priesthood in 2010. A fourth man, Richard Tomlinson, will be ordained to the diaconate in Rome on June 19.
The men now are able to preach, baptize, proclaim the Gospel, assist during the liturgy and witness a marriage outside of Mass.
At one point in the ordination, Bishop Guglielmone reassured the candidates that it was all right if they faltered during the ceremony.
“This is my first time doing this too,” he said, referring to the fact that he was just ordained bishop on March 25.
During his homily, the bishop encouraged the men to focus on their role as servants of God and bearers of the Gospel message.
“As deacons, do the will of God,” Bishop Guglielmone said. “Serve the people in loving joy. You come from varied backgrounds, and you bring a richness of experience to this diocese that will build up the local church … We are delighted you willingly say ‘yes’ to God on this day.”
The bishop reminded the three men of the work they will perform at their assigned parishes, and said they will have his full support and that of their fellow priests and the laity in the diocese as they prepare for the priesthood.
“Serve the parish community well … love them and allow them to love you as you continue your journey,” he said. “Bring every gift you have to serve the people of God … never allow yourselves to be turned away from the hope of the Gospel. You are now not just hearers of the Gospel, but ministers of it.”
Bishop Guglielmone heard each man’s commitment to celibacy and his promise of obedience. They prostrated themselves during the Litany of Supplication, and the bishop laid hands on each one of them and prayed.
The men received and put on the vestments worn by deacons: the stole and the dalmatic, which is a long, wide-sleeved tunic for liturgical services.
Bishop Guglielmone also held the book of the Gospels in front of each man and described its importance.
After Mass, the bishop spoke on the significance of the ceremony.
“I can’t tell you how happy I am to be with you on this day,” he said. “Today we affirm what God has done … he has suffused their hearts with the Holy Spirit. We are grateful to all those involved in the formation of these men. Thank you for all you have done to get them to this point of saying ‘yes’ to God.”
Family and friends of the new deacons then attended a reception held in the cathedral hall.
Two carloads of people from Our Lady Star of the Sea Church in North Myrtle Beach made the trip for Deacon Przywara, who spent several months there in 2008. The group said it was important for them to attend because his family is in Poland.
“We’re just very proud of him, he’s a wonderful young man,” said Harry Walker, a member of Our Lady Star of the Sea. “I’m as proud of him today as if he was my own son.”
“I think he’ll be a wonderful priest because he worked with people of all ages so well at our parish,” said Yvonne Phreaner of North Myrtle Beach. “Artur is very personable.”
Friends of Deacon Jackson drove from Laurinburg, N.C. Several of them spoke about his commitment to helping the homeless and needy in that state.
Dan Royals said he admired the wide variety of life experience Deacon Jackson had before beginning his studies at the seminary. He is a retired colonel in the U.S. Army Reserves, and also worked for many years as a public defender in North Carolina.
“With his background and his abilities, he’s going to be a gift to the church,” Royals said.
“I feel very honored and exhilarated and awed by the opportunities in front of us,” Deacon Jackson said.
Deacon Gillespie’s nephew, Derrick Sullivan of Charleston, came out to celebrate with his uncle.
“I just couldn’t be more proud of him,” Sullivan said. “This was a beautiful service and a beautiful day all around.”
Deacon Gillespie stood smiling, surrounded by well wishers outside the Cathedral, and summed his feelings up about the journey ahead of him.
“It’s all new. It’s exciting and wonderful,” he said.