SAN DIEGO — Seven local men joined the ranks of the permanent diaconate June 6.
Bishop Robert W. McElroy conferred the sacrament of holy orders during a morning liturgy celebrated at The Immaculata Church. Though ordinations typically occur in a church packed with family, friends, fellow parishioners and well-wishers, this year’s was sparsely attended in order to comply with social distancing requirements.
In his homily, the bishop began by referencing a passage from the first reading: “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations” (Jeremiah 1:5).
“For each of you who will be ordained this day to the diaconal order,” he told the seven deacon candidates, “these words are not only an inspiration, but a reality and an explanation of why you have come to this moment.”
After briefly recounting the “particular moments of grace” in the lives of each of the seven men that had led them to recognize a call to the diaconate, he said, “For each of you, the trajectory of God’s call has been very different, and yet the core reality is the same: God destined you to this service from the first moment in your mother’s womb and joyfully accepts you today into this fuller ministry of the Church.”
The following are profiles of the diocese’s new deacons.
Deacon William Stewart Adsit
St. Michael Parish, Poway
About 10 years ago, Bill Adsit’s pastor asked if he had ever considered becoming a deacon.
He had not and, at the time, neither he nor his wife thought that God was calling him.
Still, they took the pastor’s words as an invitation to begin praying that God would reveal His plans for them.
“God is patient but persistent,” said Adsit.
While praying for an increase in vocations, he received “a very clear message” that God wanted Him to be a deacon. He prayed, if this were truly God’s will, that his wife might come to the same realization. Some 18 months later, she unexpectedly asked, “Have you given any more thought about that deacon thing?”
Adsit, a former Presbyterian who became Catholic in 1986, served for 20 years in the U.S. Navy before retiring in 1997. He then worked as an orthopedic surgeon in private practice for the next 21 years, retiring again in December 2018.
Reflecting on diaconal ministry, he said, “I find joy in service: responding to the needs or the pain of others, be that from a physical, spiritual or emotional hunger.” In May 2019, Adsit was appointed by Auxiliary Bishop John P. Dolan as director of the Mental Health Ministry of the Diocese of San Diego. The ministry’s mission is to accompany those suffering with mental health issues and those who love them, to refer them to mental health professionals when needed, and to work to end the stigma associated from mental illness.
Deacon Adsit and his wife, Sandy, celebrated their 35th wedding anniversary in May and have three children. They have been members of St. Michael Parish for seven years.
Deacon William Walter Kazmierowicz
St. James Parish, Solana Beach
For William Kazmierowicz, the call to the diaconate did not come all at once.
“My experience was more of a spiritual awakening that occurred over the course of several years,” he said. “It included falling in love with the Mass, reciting the Liturgy of the Hours with fellow parishioners, increased liturgical engagement, and finally a calling from a parish priest with the words, ‘Have you ever considered becoming a deacon?’”
Kazmierowicz, a software manager for the past quarter-century, had thought about the diaconate for about four years before receiving what he considers the “official call.” Even after that, he initially rejected the idea, but ultimately accepted the Holy Spirit’s invitation to take the process one day at a time. A Cursillo weekend that he and his wife attended during this discernment period also provided clarity.
“It was clear to both of us that a deeper life with Christ was how we wanted to spend our ‘empty nest’ years,” he said, “and the Lord appeared to be leading us in the direction of the diaconate journey.”
As a deacon, he said, “I look forward to sharing the joy of service, encouraging others to discuss their faith and to help our young adults find the beauty of God’s order in their lives.”
Deacon Kazmierowicz and his wife, Adelina, have been married for 29 years and have five children. They have been members of St. James Parish for 17 years.
Deacon José Guadalupe Macías
St. Pius X Parish, Chula Vista
To be a deacon is “to be the servant of others and their needs,” said José Macías.
In his new ministry, he explained, it will be among his responsibilities to let others know “that there is a merciful God that loves them and is close to them.”
But for Macías, a project manager/supervisor with a roofing company for the past 17 years, it took a while before he realized that he was intended for this vocation.
He had been asked by many people over the course of many years about whether he felt called to the diaconate. Even his wife had suggested the possibility. But none of this has led to serious discernment.
Then, he attended the funeral of a friend who had been a deacon. And something happened.
“I felt something inside of me moving,” he recalled, and it was strong enough that he reached out to the diocesan Office for the Permanent Diaconate to learn more about what was required to be a deacon.
Years later, while Macías and his wife were at a meeting with their pastor, the priest became the latest to broach the subject of the diaconate.
Macías’ response to the idea of entering the diaconal formation program was as succinct as it was scriptural: “Here I am, Lord.”
Deacon Macías and his wife, Gabriela, celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary in May and have three children. They have been members of St. Pius X Parish for about 15 years.
Deacon José Luis Maldonado
St. Francis of Assisi Parish, Vista
Nine years ago, at the reception that followed a friend’s diaconal ordination, José Luis Maldonado was asked by two different people when he was getting ordained.
A few weeks later, while helping out at a marriage retreat, both a deacon and a priest also seemed to recognize in him the attributes of a potential deacon.
The following week, in the church vestibule, he came across a pamphlet about vocational discernment, which explained that one way that God chooses to inform a person of his vocation is through other people — a phenomenon he had seemingly experienced firsthand in the preceding weeks.
In case he needed any more confirmation, only a few days after he had been admitted to the diaconal formation program, he ran into a friend he had not seen in a long time. The friend, who had no way of knowing about his recent vocational discernment, proceeded to recount a dream in which he had seen Maldonado dressed in an alb and stole.
“God calls us in very interesting and amazing ways,” said Maldonado, an elementary school teacher for the past 29 years.
He added, “I still have fresh in my mind the words of the pastor who recommended us to the diaconate, ‘If it is God’s will, it does not matter what I say, or anybody else; it will happen.’”
Deacon Maldonado and his wife, Margarita, have been married for 39 years and have five children. They have been members of St. Francis of Assisi Parish for 11 years.
Deacon Jeffrey Gerard Penta
St. Therese Parish, San Diego
Jeffrey Penta and his wife, Kimberly, are unlikely to forget their 28th wedding anniversary: On June 6, their anniversary date, Jeffrey was ordained to the permanent diaconate.
In 2015, after the couple had attended a Cursillo retreat, Penta began praying that God would reveal to him how best to serve Him.
“I know that God answers prayers, but I didn’t expect the answer I received, especially since I didn’t share that prayer with anyone,” he said.
That was when he began receiving “unsolicited suggestions” that he become a deacon. And, when this kept happening, he knew he couldn’t ignore it.
“I realize that ordination is just one step in what will be a lifelong formation,” he said. “Over the past four years, my understanding of the Church and my thirst to continue to understand and learn about His Word is unquenchable,” he said.
Penta retired in late January after 41 years working in the field of eye banking, the donation of ocular tissues for cornea transplantation and research. He sees a connection between the career he left and the ministry he is only beginning.
“In my work life, I was able to help give sight to the blind around the world,” he said. “I look forward to [being] His instrument to help give sight in a totally different way.”
Deacon Penta and his wife, Kimberly, have attended St. Therese Parish together since 1993. He had grown up at the parish, attending Mass there from 1970 until 1983, when he moved out of state.
Deacon Manuel Fernando Rivas
Good Shepherd Parish, Mira Mesa
As a teenager, Manuel Rivas received what he believed was a call to service. At age 17, he even felt he might have a priestly vocation; he kept those feelings to himself and didn’t act on them, swayed partly by fear that he would miss out on life if he were to become a priest.
“I decided to not listen and do it my way,” Rivas recalled.
In the years that followed, he found himself “drowning in worldly life” both in his native Colombia and in the United States.
But in 1999, he reconnected with God and his Catholic faith. The sense of a call to service also returned, and he started believing that he might be called to the permanent diaconate.
“Little by little, I began talking to deacons and priests, but always keeping a ‘safe’ distance,” said Rivas, a senior construction engineer with the California Department of Transportation, where he has worked for 23 years.
About six years ago, after his then pastor expressed a need for deacons and for Hispanic deacons in particular, he accepted the call.
“While it may seem that it was my decision to come into the formation program, it was actually always the work of the Holy Spirit guiding me,” Rivas said.
He added, “It can only [be] the work of God that would make a shy, unspoken, Spanish-speaking, Colombian man come to the USA and, little by little, enable him to get up in front of big crowds to proclaim His word and His goodness for all.”
Deacon Rivas and his wife, Martha, have been married for 16 years. He has two children and one stepchild and has been a member of Good Shepherd Parish for 19 years.
Deacon John Patrick Roberts
Sacred Heart Parish, Coronado
“Trust in the slow work of God.”
It’s a saying that resonates with John Roberts, who cannot pinpoint an exact moment when he felt called to be a deacon.
“Conversion, for most of us, is a slow process,” said Roberts.
Confirmed as an adult in 1987, he was a Jesuit novice for two years before meeting his future wife and discerning a call to marriage.
“The seed was planted a long time ago,” he said of the diaconate. “As my children started leaving the house, the call to the diaconate began to grow stronger.”
In 2014, feeling that it was “time to take the next step,” he entered diaconal formation.
Roberts has served as the chaplaincy program manager at Father Joe’s Villages since April. Previously, he has worked as a Marriage and Family Therapist, as a helicopter pilot for the U.S. Army, and as a civilian airplane pilot.
What is he most looking forward to as a deacon? “Everything really,” he said. “I am so excited. … I am sure I will make mistakes and embarrass myself from time to time. But I am following the call of Christ and I know He will never abandon me.”
He added, “It is my second vocation, but it is all rolled up together. Trying to follow Christ into diaconal servant ministries can only make me a better Christian, husband, father, brother, friend, and so on.”
Deacon Roberts and his wife, Maria, have been married for 25 years and have three children. They have been members of Sacred Heart Parish in Coronado for 25 years.