From Saving Bodies to Saving Souls: Former EMT Ordained as Transitional Deacon


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SAN DIEGO – Local seminarian Manuel del Río has been ordained to the transitional diaconate.
Bishop Robert W. McElroy presided over the ordination liturgy, which was celebrated June 1 at Holy Spirit Church and marks the last major step on the 38-year-old deacon’s path to priesthood.
Deacon del Río, a former U.S. Marine who worked as an emergency medical technician before entering the seminary, has been assigned to ministry at Scripps Mercy Hospital and Holy Spirit Parish. In the fall, he will resume his studies at St. John’s Seminary in Camarillo, where he will earn a Master of Divinity degree next year.
“To me, the transitional diaconate is the foundation for priestly ministry,” he said. “This milestone will help me better learn the servant role [that] priests are to conform to, for Christ came not to be served but to serve, and I will be given more grace to live this out.”
In his homily at the ordination Mass, Bishop McElroy declared that priesthood is “not a possession nor a privilege,” but rather “an invitation to share in the sufferings of Jesus Christ by subordinating our desires constantly to the service of our least brothers and sisters, and to find precisely in that subordination an enduring joy.”
The bishop acknowledged that, through his military service and work in the medical field, Deacon del Río’s life had been “already oriented to service and sacrifice even before entering the seminary.”
Born and raised in the College Grove area of San Diego, Deacon del Río and his family were members of Holy Spirit Parish, where he was an altar server and attended the parochial school which is now closed.

He said it was the love – for God and for one another – experienced in his family home that “inspired and nurtured” his vocation.
Since youth, Deacon del Río had aspired to a career that would be “self-sacrificing, fun and active.” Among other things, he toyed with the notion of being an astronaut. It was in 2001, when he had just started training to become a Marine firefighter, that he first felt God was calling him to the priesthood.
“I was out for a night run in Texas, when I looked up and saw the sky like I had never seen it before and was placed in awe,” he said, recalling that moment. “The still small voice within said, ‘Stop and pray.’ So I did.”
He didn’t enter the seminary right then and there. Instead, he would continue discerning his vocation for the next decade. But, while working as an EMT, he ultimately recognized that his service was needed elsewhere.
“There were plenty of people working together to help save the physical self, but not nearly enough to help minister to the soul,” he said, with his former patients in mind. “As a priest, I look forward to bringing Christ to the people and the people to Christ.”

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