New Class Of Deacons Reflects Diversity Of Diocese

Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio Will Ordain 27 Men to the Diaconate

Brooklyn, N.Y. – Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio will ordain 27 men to the diaconate for the Diocese of Brooklyn at a Mass at Our Lady of Angels, Bay Ridge, on Saturday, May 28, at 11 a.m.

They recently completed theological studies in preparation for ordination and will serve the church at parishes in Brooklyn and Queens.

“I am profoundly grateful to the 27 men who will be ordained on Saturday,” Bishop DiMarzio said. “Their generosity and that of their wives and children is a wonderful expression of the vitality and new life present in our diocese.”

The deacons come from various backgrounds. Most are from Brooklyn and Queens, but almost a dozen are foreign-born, reflecting the diversity of the “Diocese of Immigrants.” Their countries include El Salvador, Haiti, Italy, Mexico, Nicaragua, Puerto Rico and Trinidad.

Brooklyn-born Carlos Garcia is a retired corrections officer who served with the New York Department of Corrections at Rikers Island for 17 years. He and his wife Barbara have been married for 19 years and have four children.

“One thing that kept my sanity during my time in corrections was my faith,” he said. “I always tried to bring the faith forward to the inmates that were there.”

A parishioner at St. Michael-St. Malachy, East New York, and director of the SS. Peter and Paul Spirituality Center, Garcia calls his journey to the diaconate, “God’s plan to bring me from Hell to Heaven.”

He trusts “that God is going to lead me back to Rikers Island to minister. If anyone knows anything about it, they call that the belly of the beast, and it’s very true. There is a lot of need to not only minister to the inmates but to the officers that work there as well.”

Former seminarian Chris Wagner is now a custodian engineer for the New York City Department of Education. He and his wife of 13 years, Melissa, have two daughters.
“Our goal is to help evangelize people who are our age,” he said. “We are in our early 40s, and our age bracket of people don’t come to church. My wife teaches in the parish school, I will be serving as a deacon, and we would really like to encourage young families to come back to church and live out their faith.”

Wagner, a parishioner at St. Bernard, Mill Basin, graduated from Cathedral Preparatory High School and went on to study philosophy at St. John’s University. He lived at Cathedral Residence of the Immaculate Conception in Douglaston during his collegiate studies and later moved on to theology studies at Immaculate Conception Seminary in Huntington. After completing a pastoral year, he realized, “I wasn’t being called to the priesthood.”

He married two years later, but “the call to ministry was always there.” He continued to worship in the faith with his family, and many friends encouraged him to discern becoming a deacon. “And now, here I am, on the cusp of ordination,” he said happily. “In less than 24 hours, I will be a deacon!”

The journey of Jeremiah Schwarz, from Holy Child Jesus, Richmond Hill, is an inspiring one. Married to Janice for 39 years, Schwarz suffers from a progressive decline of spinal function from damage to his spinal cord and has nerve loss in both his hands and right leg.

During the formation process, he had to undergo surgery rehabilitation, which took over six months. “I was tutored by priests and deacons in the subjects that I had missed,” he said. “But their kindness and generosity was heartwarming to me, and it showed Jesus working through our Church.”

He said that experience “turned the whole process from ‘Why Me?’ to ‘Why Not Me?’ You become aware of how the Lord wants to work through you, and you give up your ego. Your hands, arms and legs become His. You realize that the Living Stone that was rejected by the builders becomes the Stone that built Jerusalem.”

And to the men who think they may be called to the diaconate, Schwarz advice is, “Pray. And pray. And when you think you’re done praying, pray some more. Prayer is the only way you can discover within yourself whether the call is real. Talk to the Lord and he will tell you if it is real or not.”