By Natalie Romano
The Diocese is celebrating one of its biggest new classes of deacons following the ordination of ten men on August 12th in Chino Hills.
“You deacons brought your own fan clubs with you. That’s good,” Bishop Gerald Barnes quipped upon surveying a packed St. Paul the Apostle Church. “Everyone must be happy.”
Bishop Barnes presided at the Ordination Mass that welcomed Bernardo Hernandez, Francisco Herrera, Jose Herrera, John Lawson, Antonio Mejico, Francisco Meza, Manuel Ramirez, Jesse Robles, Richard Simpson and Wilfredo Vita to the Permanent Diaconate.
The class of 10 new permanent deacons is the largest in 21 years.
The Mass included the Litany of Supplication and the Laying on of Hands, both deeply stirring to the deacons.
“It’s kind of this electric, warm feeling. I’m still trying to wipe the tears from my eyes,” explains Deacon Robles.
Said Deacon Vita, “I just couldn’t even describe how it felt when the Bishop was laying his hands on me. I want to fall down but the power of the Spirit is really here.”
According to Bishop Barnes, that strength will be called upon often. He told the men they must “combat the evils” in society like racism, poverty and injustice, but should also be the “bearers of good news.”
“The greatest need we have is to be present to our brothers and sisters in the world,” the Bishop said.
The new deacons say they get it.
“Deacons live in the marketplace, work in the community, have a family,” reasons Deacon Robles. “They’re a lot closer life-wise than a priest so they understand things. That’s why people gravitate to the deacon and that’s a big responsibility.”
The official duties include proclaiming the Gospel, giving homilies at Mass, administering some Sacraments, and performing acts of charity.
That’s exactly what Deacon John Lawson has in mind.
“Now it’s time to get to work. Right off the bat…ministry to the sick. It’s something I’ve embraced. It’s not easy but it’s very fulfilling.”
Deacon Vita’s first goal; feel at ease at the altar.
“I want to get very, very comfortable in the Sanctuary during Mass and also during the Sacraments like Baptism and Marriage.”
The latter is especially important to Vita. He runs Engaged Encounter with Muriel, his wife of 33 years. Vita says Muriel provided great support during his formation but it took a while to get there.
“I had to wait for her yes to be able to start. I asked her four times but on the fifth time she was the one who asked me,” the couple chuckles.
“I had no dream of being a deacon’s wife but everything is God’s plan,” said a smiling Muriel.
Conversely, in the Lawson family…wife Veronica was the one waiting.
“I wanted to introduce him to the joys of the Catholic faith. He was not Catholic when we got married,” she shared. That was 25 years ago but today...
“It was a miracle happening here.”
Each of the deacon’s wives; Carmen Hernandez, Laura Herrera, Marina Herrera, Veronica Lawson, Emma Elena Mejico, Mercedes Meza, Elena Ramirez, Monica Robles, Ruby Simpson and Muriel Vita received flowers and applause.
Monica Robles says now she can take it easy.
“I can sleep in on Saturdays, I’m done! The formation was hard but rewarding. We worked together and made it together.”
In this she had no doubt.
“He’s always been service oriented, always cared about people and family,” she says of her husband of 43 years. “He’s just a wonderful man.”
Bernardo Hernandez will serve at Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Riverside, Francisco Herrera and Jesse Robles at St. Frances Xavier Cabrini in Yucaipa, Jose Herrera at Christ the Redeemer in Grand Terrace, John Lawson and Francisco Meza at St. Catherine of Alexandria in Temecula, Antonio Mejico at The Holy Name of Jesus in Redlands, Richard Simpson at St. Anthony in Upland and Wilfredo Vita at St. Martha in Murrieta.
Natalie Romano is a freelance writer and a parishioner of The Holy Name of Jesus in Redlands.