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Joyful Service: Becoming a deacon is a family celebration

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SAN DIEGO — On June 12, Bishop Robert McElroy will ordain eight local men to the permanent diaconate.

The liturgy will be livestreamed at 10 a.m. at sdcatholic.org/newdeacons2021.

The following are profiles of the diocese’s next deacons:

Dominic Guzzardo
St. Gregory the Great Parish

Dominic Guzzardo grew up thinking of the Church as his “second family.”

He attended Blessed Sacrament School, located on the site of present-day St. Katharine Drexel Academy, and St. Augustine High School. He was an altar server and held a leadership role in his parish youth group.

As a young adult, he even considered the priesthood before ultimately discerning a call to marriage.

Guzzardo first experienced the “spark” of a calling to the permanent diaconate in the 1990s, while he was serving as a parish youth minister, and again while attending a Marriage Encounter Weekend in late 2015. That second time, the call was persistent.

“God pestered me relentlessly almost every single day until I said yes,” said Guzzardo, who has worked as a sales representative for the past 18 years. “It was intense, almost unbearable at times.”

During his second year of formation, God brought him to an important realization: “I am happiest when I am in the service of others.”

“I never really knew what I wanted to be when I grew up,” said Guzzardo, who, as a deacon, most looks forward to walking alongside those in the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults process. “I hadn’t figured it out until that moment. It was the first time in my life that I knew what I was called to be: a servant.”

Guzzardo and his wife, Suzanne, have been married for 28 years and have two sons. They have been members of St. Gregory the Great Parish in Scripps Ranch for almost 15 years.

David Hall
All Hallows Parish

Two different wives played pivotal roles in David Hall’s path to diaconal ordination.

Hall wasn’t even baptized when he met his first wife, Cindy, in 1980 and married her in 1986. He would make his sacraments of initiation in 1990.

Widowed in 2013, Hall met his second wife, Jo Ann, while attending classes offered through the Diocesan Institute. He was taking courses as part of his studies for the diaconate, while she was earning a catechetical certificate. He doubts that he could have completed the formation program had it not been for Jo Ann’s support.

Reflecting on the diaconal ministry for which he will soon be ordained, Hall said, “The life of the deacon is … all about service.”

But it wasn’t until after he had already entered the diaconal formation program, after feeling “more or less recruited” by the previous director of the diocesan Office for the Permanent Diaconate, that he truly felt a calling.

“I am not one who is given to experiencing an epiphany,” he said, contrasting his vocational journey with that of others, “and therefore, for me, it was more of … a gradual realization.”

Hall, who retired in 2016 after three decades as a patent attorney, said he has yet to meet with his pastor to discuss the specifics of ministry. But, he said, “I look forward to whatever service my parish priest wants of me.”

David and Jo Ann Hall were married in February of last year. He has been a member of All Hallows Parish in La Jolla since 1994.

Andy C. Jazmin
St. Charles Parish

Before entering diaconal formation, Andy C. Jazmin had already served his parish in a variety of ways, including in the choir, through music ministry, as a lector and as an extraordinary minister of Holy Communion.

But that still wasn’t enough.

“I felt that I needed to take the next step,” said Jazmin, a 20-year veteran of the U.S. Navy who has been a defense contractor for the past 21 years.

He took that step in a spirit of prayerful discernment and after seeking the counsel of priests and deacons.

The actual moment when he recognized his call to the diaconate has stuck with him.

“It happened years ago, but I vividly remember, during one morning in prayer, I felt a sense of God’s presence and peace,” he said. “God has always been good to me. He has never let me down. I knew then I had to act on His call.”

Within a few months, he met with his then pastor, who recommended that he contact the diocese.

“That was the beginning of it all,” Jazmin said of a formation period that would be marked by the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting lockdowns, which shifted classes and days of recollection online.

For Jazmin, who is looking forward to presiding at baptisms, weddings and burials, it is the deacon’s responsibility “to serve with humility, compassion and love, as our Savior did.”

Jazmin and his wife, Grayce, have been married for 39 years and have three daughters. He has been a member of St. Charles Parish in Imperial Beach for 52 years.

Tim Keane
St. Thomas More Parish

Tim Keane’s vocation story gives new meaning to the phrase “A walk to remember.”

“My first call to the diaconate was on the streets of San Marcos,” he recalled. “I was on a walk, calming my nerves from a culmination of work-related drama and life issues.”

He prayed as he walked, pleading with God for some direction. God’s response was a call to the diaconate, although Keane didn’t recognize it as such at the time. Instead, he and his wife simply became more active parishioners and gave the Church pride of place in their lives.

“It took me four years to understand my initial call and to start my diaconate journey,” said Keane, who has served as the administrator of a home care agency for about five years.

Keane said deacons are called to be “Christ’s hands and feet here on earth” through preaching and being present to those in need.

“It’s an honor to serve the Church,” he said. “It’s a blessing that the Church has allowed me to fulfill my call and to be Christ’s servant here on earth.”

He credited his parents’ example and the support of the Church as “a compass leading me to the diaconate.” Like his fellow deacon candidates, he also noted his wife’s role in the formation process.

“All of this would not be possible without my wife,” he said. “She has been my rock and my partner throughout this entire journey.”

Keane and his wife, Lia, have been married for 27 years and have three children. They have been members of St. Thomas More Parish in Oceanside for 18 years.

Patrick McCay
St. Brigid Parish

Patrick McCay says his faith walk has had “its ups and downs.”

“During my formative years, I think I would have been voted least likely to become a deacon out of everybody in my extended family,” he said.

But McCay always felt love for God and respect for His Church and, whenever he strayed away from regular Mass attendance, he always felt called to come back.

His first encounter with a deacon came during his freshman year of high school when he was the only youth to respond to his parish’s request for volunteers for a food distribution. That deacon, who “wasn’t afraid to go out and get his hands dirty,” made an impression. Years later, McCay would meet many more deacons and even members of his Cursillo small group who answered the call to the diaconate.

Even so, McCay had never considered becoming a deacon himself until his pastor called him into his office and asked him.

“I feel that I am being entrusted to a special ministry,” said McCay, who has worked for the U.S. Navy for 30 years in the roles of facility planner or environmental planner. “Deacons have done so much for me in my faith walk. Now, I have an opportunity to pay it forward.”

During formation, when COVID restrictions precluded him from his pastoral ministry assignment, McCay demonstrated the sort of ingenuity that will serve him well as a deacon. He and a friend played music through the windows of local hospices to spread joy to the patients, offering them conversation and prayer as well.

McCay and his wife, Danielle, have been married for 26 years and have two children. He has been a member of St. Brigid Parish in Pacific Beach for about 29 years.

Javier Mozo
Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish

Javier Mozo has always been Catholic, but he wasn’t always a very active one.

“The Lord led me to my wife and she led me to Christ, so now … I can serve the Church as a deacon,” he said.

Years ago, Mozo and his wife assisted the Missionary Servants of the Word. On the last day of the couple’s work for the religious sisters, the mother superior asked about his openness to becoming a deacon.

For Mozo, it felt like he had just received a “clear call” from God. But he quickly responded with what he described as an “immature and confused” answer: No. At the time, he was reluctant to “enslave” himself to Church life.

Three years later, when he was actually inclined to say yes, he applied for the diaconal formation program, underwent a period of discernment, and was turned down for admission. He spent eight years as coordinator of a parish ministry before re-applying for the diaconate and being accepted.

Mozo praises God for the delayed entry into the program, explaining that God needed him to work on aspects of himself first to be “free to respond to His mystery and call.”

Mozo, who has worked in the environmental health and safety field since 1997, also saw a silver lining to the COVID-related disruptions to his formation.

He said, “Embracing discomfort is embracing a change, and embracing a change is to recognize that God is in control of everything. … This challenging time has prepared me to depend on God’s mercy and to always ask for His grace.”

Mozo and his wife, Beatriz, have been married for 29 years and have three children. They have been members of Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish in San Diego for about 18 years.

Jose Oscar Paredes
Corpus Christi Parish

“I cannot say that becoming a deacon was ever part of my plan. But, apparently, it was God’s plan,” said Jose Oscar Paredes.

He said that, while the call to a vocation might be clear and undeniable to some people, that was not his experience.

Even after entering formation, Paredes was still seeking proof of God’s call. Eventually, he called off the search.

“I felt I was forcing the issue,” he said. “So, I decided to focus on my classes and … my spiritual growth. It became clear that, if there was to be a call, it was going to be when I least expected it.”

His certainty about his call to the diaconate didn’t come until almost five years into the five-year formation program.

He was on retreat with his fellow deacon candidates last March and, somehow, every Scripture reading, every prayer and every experience during Eucharistic adoration seemed to confirm that he was on the right path.

“The foundation of our vocation is the sacramental and intimate relationship with Christ,” he said. “Therefore, we as deacons are the living icon of Christ the Servant. So, we serve the Church as Christ served His people.”

Paredes and his wife, Patricia Ann, have been married for 39 years and have four children. They have been members of Corpus Christi Parish in Bonita for eight years.

Paredes has been the owner and president of an architectural design firm for the past 21 years.

He is “elated” that the deacons’ wives will be the ones vesting them in their liturgical vestments during the ordination Mass. He said it’s fitting because, in a sense, “it’s their ordination, too.”

Javier Rodríguez
Mater Dei Parish

It all started at Panera Bread.

Javier Rodríguez and his wife, Laura, were enjoying a nice cup of coffee at the restaurant after Sunday Mass.

When the conversation shifted to what their life would be like after he retired, Rodríguez joked, “Hey, could you imagine me as a deacon?”

Rather than bursting into laughter, his wife said she actually had a dream about it once.

About three weeks later, the couple was at Panera once again. At one point, they were joined by their pastor, who asked Rodríguez a series of questions. Rodríguez didn’t think much about it until a week later, when his pastor told him that he thought he was called to the diaconate and asked him to pray about it.

Providentially, Rodríguez was admitted to the formation program in the final week before that year’s application period closed.

During his first year, Rodríguez thought he might have to drop out of the program after discovering that he had a serious condition that required open heart surgery.

“It was by a miracle that I found out,” he said, adding that the doctor told him that it should have already killed him.

The then director of the Office for the Permanent Diaconate encouraged him to put everything in the Lord’s hands and to continue with the program.

“So, I did and here I am now, ready to receive the grace of God one more time,” he said, as he anticipates his ordination day.

Rodríguez retired in June 2019 after 30 years in information technology with the Sweetwater Union High School District.

Javier and Laura Rodríguez have been married for 26 years and have two children. They have been members of Mater Dei Parish in Chula Vista for 16 years.

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