Fifteen men are set to join the Diocese of Wilmington’s permanent diaconate when they are ordained on Aug. 7 at 11 a.m. at St. Joseph Church in Middletown. It is the first ordination since 2017 and will bring the number of permanent deacons in the diocese to 122.
Father John Grasing, the director of the diocesan Office for Deacons and the pastor of Sacred Heart Parish in Chestertown, Md., said the class is a mix of ages and backgrounds. Several are still working. Six have military or law enforcement backgrounds and two are attorneys.
The 15 men to be ordained come from various backgrounds and range in age from 36 to 65. Six live or worship in Maryland, four of those in Cecil County. Eight are members of the Knights of Columbus. All are married, and collectively, they have 35 children.
“It’s a pretty good cross section. That has a broad appeal to people. I think that’s why the diaconate continues to endure,” he said.
One of the ideas behind the resurrection of the permanent diaconate about 40 years ago was to have the ordained men “in the marketplace,” Father Grasing said.
“The next cubicle over could be a deacon,” he said. Those who are still working become “signs in the workplace of ordained commitment to the church.”
Some Catholics feel more comfortable talking to a deacon rather than a priest about issues because the deacon might be more familiar with those things, Father Grasing said. Most are married and have families, mortgages and traditional jobs.
“That’s really the beauty of it,” Father Grasing said. “That comes across in how they minister to people.”
Candidates for the permanent diaconate participate in a year of discernment that includes spiritual direction, interviews and psychological testing. They then begin a four-year formation program of spiritual, theological and pastoral training.
“It’s not easy,” Father Grasing said. “These guys work hard.”
After Bishop Koenig ordains them, they will be assigned to serve in parishes and other ministries in the diocese.
Permanent deacons assist priests at Mass and are allowed to proclaim the Gospel, deliver homilies, and officiate at weddings, baptisms and funerals. They cannot hear confessions. Outside church, they participate in a variety of ministries, including home visits and prison chaplaincies, for example.
Father Grasing said he was appointed director of the Office for Deacons about halfway through the formation for the current class. He is impressed with the group who will be ordained.
“They’re all very service-oriented. Ordained is a particular way of living out that call of service. That runs strong through all of these guys,” he said.
“It’s very affirming that guys are still interested in this ministry.”
The diaconate is a ministry rooted deeply in Scriptural accounts of the early church. The word “deacon” comes from the Greek word diakonia, which means, “to serve.” As Christianity grew, it was necessary to appoint men as deacons to work alongside the apostles. In Acts 6: 1-6, the apostles “laid their hands” on deacons “wise and full of the Holy Spirit” to assist them in caring for the needs of the people of the early Church.
The Mass is open to the public and will be streamed live at YouTube.com/DioceseofWilm.
The men to be ordained are:
Matthew F. Boyer, a resident of Wilmington and member of St. Ann’s Parish, is an attorney with Connolly Gallagher, LLP. He holds degrees from Harvard College and the University of Virginia School Of Law. He and his wife, Mary, have three children and one grandchild.
As his ordination approaches, Boyer stated, “I am praying for the guidance and gifts of the Holy Spirit that I may, in the way God knows best, help build the Kingdom of God in our little corner of the world.”
Robinson Collado lives in North East, Md., and is a parishioner of the Church of the Good Shepherd in Perryville. He and his wife, Gladys have two children. He is employed at Flowers Baking Company of Oxford, Pa.
“The call of God to the permanent diaconate reminds me how Jesus came to this world to serve,” Collado said. “There is nothing more beautiful in this world than to humbly serve our Father and his people.”
Howard S. Eck Jr. lives in Wilmington and attends St. Mary Magdalen Parish. He earned degrees from University of Delaware and Widener University and is employed at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. He and his wife, Renee, have two children and one grandchild.
Eck said, “I am humbled and honored by this call to service of the church. When this program began, I thought that five years is a long time and yet it has flown by.”
Benjamin G. M. Feril and his wife, Rita, live in North East, Md. They are parishioners at Immaculate Conception Parish in Elkton. He holds degrees from Central Michigan University, Florida A & M University, Naval War College, Marymount University and St. Mary’s Seminary and University. He retired from the United States Navy in 2014 with the rank of cptain.
“The journey towards ordination has been full of surprises as I discerned my calling,” Feril said. “The academic program was challenging and I learned much about my faith. My appreciation and love for our Church grew during the last five years, especially alongside my fellow deacon candidates.”
Walter Ferris Jr. of Wilmington is a University of Delaware graduate and a retired Wilmington police sergeant. He currently works as an investigator with the Delaware Department of Justice. He and his wife, Elizabeth, have three children and belong to St. Elizabeth Church. Their son, Brennan, is a transitional deacon for the Diocese of Wilmington slated for ordination to the priesthood in 2022.
Ferris said, “I am excited and a little nervous, but looking forward to starting my ministry. I converted to Catholicism and I want to share that joy and peace of mind with others.”
Anthony J. Gallo lives in Wilmington and attends St. Patrick/St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception churches. He and his wife, Ellen, have six children and one grandchild. He holds degrees from both St. Joseph’s University and Drexel University. He recently retired after 40 years of employment with Sunoco. Additionally, he was an adjunct professor at Wilmington and Widener universities for over 30 years and served as a high school football official for more than 20 years.
“I am honored to be a part of this diaconate class with these fourteen men,” Gallo stated. “I pray that the Holy Spirit continues to guide us and give us the strength to do the will of God.”
Francis X. Hesson lives in Centreville, Md., with his wife, Jo-Ann. They have three children and eight grandchildren. They attend St. Christopher’s Church on Kent Island. A Philadelphia native, Hesson served in the United States Coast Guard for over 25 years and currently works for Slack Corp.
Hesson stated, “I am blessed and honored to be called to the diaconate. I pray for the guidance of the Holy Spirit as I serve God’s people.”
Richard J. Kosior and his wife, Kathleen have three children, live in Dover and are members of the Church of the Holy Cross. The Chicago native’s military service began in 1986 in the United States Air Force, the United States Air Force Reserve, and he presently serves in and is employed by the Delaware Army National Guard. He has a degree in Business Management from Wilmington University.
“I feel extremely grateful and blessed to be at this point in my diaconate formation,” Kosior said. “Now, as I approach my ordination, I feel hopeful that somehow I will be able to make a difference and have a positive impact on the church I love.”
Joseph M. LoPorto was born in Sicily, Italy, and came to the United States with his family at the age of 9. He is a parishioner of St. Mary of the Assumption Church in Hockessin. He and his wife, Teresa, live in Hockessin and have five children. He has a degree from Rutgers College of Engineering and has worked as an electric utility engineering manager and consultant.
“I am grateful for this opportunity to be of service to God and His Church,” LoPorto said. “I look forward with humility and excited anticipation to the reception of Holy Orders. I’m sure that my very devout Catholic mom, from whom I learned to love my faith, will be smiling in heaven.”
Stephen W. Oldiges is an Ohio native with a degree in chemical engineering. He worked for DuPont for many years. He and his wife, Valerie have two children and two grandchildren. The Hockessin resident attends St. John the Beloved Church in Wilmington.
“I pray that each of the men being ordained and I will always radiate the joy of the Holy Spirit in our ministry,” Oldiges stated. “I thank God for His inspiration and encouragement, and ask that He continue to bless us with the gifts of ministry.”
Roberto Ortiz lives in Middletown and attends Immaculate Conception Parish in Elkton, Md., and St. Jude Mission Church in North East, Md. He and his wife, Cynthia, have two children. Born and raised in Puerto Rico, Ortiz earned a degrees from the University of Puerto Rico and Colorado State University. He served in the United States Navy and currently works for Siemens Healthineers.
“I give praise and thanksgiving to God, who has taught the ministers of our Church to, ‘seek not to be served but to serve,’” Ortiz said. “I pray to be filled with a spirit of humility and zeal and the gifts of the Holy Spirit.”
Adam Perza is a real estate attorney in Dover. He and his wife, Kasey, have two children and live in Felton. They attend St. Benedict Church in Ridgely, Md., and St. Elizabeth of Hungary Church in Denton, Md. He is a graduate of the University of Delaware and Duquesne University and is a former Dover city councilman.
Of his upcoming diaconate ordination, Perza said that he was praying that he and his classmates would be, “… worthy witnesses of the Gospel of Christ and humble servants to God’s people. Every Christian is called at baptism to be a witness of the Gospel, using words and deeds to share the truth revealed by Jesus and the Holy Spirit, and to serve others by being doers of the Word, a calling that is the heartbeat of the ministry of a deacon.”
Justin Pollio and his wife, Melissa, have two children, live in Wilmington, and are members of St. Mary Magdalen Parish. He is a graduate of the University of Delaware and is employed by DuPont.
Pollio said that he, “is very excited to be ordained a permanent deacon in the Diocese of Wilmington. I have greatly enjoyed the studies I have undertaken over the last five years in preparation for ministry and the (brotherhood) I have developed with the other men who have prayed and studied with me.”
Matthew Raymond lives in Rising Sun, Md., and attends the Church of the Good Shepherd in Perryville. He and his wife Mary Ellen have two children. He works as a ballistics technician at Aberdeen Proving Ground and served for nine years in the Army National Guard.
“I am very excited about becoming a deacon,” Raymond said. “I love being a Catholic and look forward to sharing that with my parishioners.”
Guillermo Vasquez was born in Puebla, Mexico, and lives in Lincoln with his wife, Iris. They have three children and are parishioners of St. John the Apostle Church in Milford.
“As my ordination approaches, I feel an excitement inside my heart knowing that it was my Lord that started this journey with me,” Vasquez stated. “It is a special calling to continue the work of His kingdom that makes me feel so close to my God.