In a grand ordination, the Diocese of Buffalo welcomed two new priests and 10 new deacons who promised to serve the people of the Catholic Church with humble charity. The morning of Sept. 19 saw St. Joseph Cathedral as packed as health codes would allow, as the diocese celebrated the sacrament of holy orders on these men.
Bishop Edward B. Scharfenberger, apostolic administrator of the diocese, ordained six men as permanent deacons and four as transitional deacons, as part of the process to becoming a priest. Two men were ordained priests in a ceremony postponed from May due to Covid-19.
During his homily, Bishop Scharfenberger drew together the three readings used at the service. Jeremiah 1:4-9, the Call of Jeremiah; Romans 12:4-8, which speaks of each person being part of one body; and the Gospel of John 12:24-26, which speaks of blossoming by following Jesus, saying they spoke about the role of the ordained minister, who should include listening, praying and charity in all his works.
As if speaking directly to each of the new ordini, Bishop Scharfenberger spoke of one of his first homilies. Nervous about what he would say, he began reading from a prepared script, but soon lost his place. Many of the priests present chuckled in a "been there" sense of recognition.
"At that moment I had to make a choice. Was I going to talk to the people or was I going to talk to my paper?" he said.
It was then he experienced the sacrament of preaching. "Something goes on between what the preacher or the teacher says, what the people hear, and what God does in between," the bishop explained. "Why should that surprise us? The Scriptures themselves are not just a book, not just a piece of paper, not just a lot of words, but there's a real person behind that. The Holy Spirit wrote them. And every time a homily goes on, the Holy Spirit is doing something in my heart and in your heart and in between."
Preaching is not just speaking words, the bishop pointed out, but acting as a vessel for the Lord's words.
"I have to want to preach God's word and I have to want to do it with charity and love, because without charity and love, people are not going to hear. But something has to be in the heart of the people to want to hear something. And then, of course, ultimately it is what God does in between," he said.
The ordination involved calling each of the dozen candidates to the stand before the altar. Deacon Timothy Chriswell, director of the Permanent Diaconate, told the bishop that the men have been found to be worthy of ordination. With the laying on of hands and a promise of obedience, the bishop announced, "Relying on the help of Lord God, our Savior Jesus Christ, we choose these, our brothers, for the order of the diaconate."
Denning Achidi and Christopher Emminger were ordained to the order of priesthood.
The men were then vested in white by their fellow clergy who have guided them through their vocational journey.
Following the nearly three-hour ceremony, the men were congratulated by family and friends.
"I'm very proud of him. I'm very excited," Colleen Emminger said of her son. "We weren't really surprised (at his decision to join the priesthood) because he was giving us some signs. We were really happy that he took some time to at least discern and see if this is what God is really calling him to."
Deacon Daniel Ulmer, who will be ordained a priest this June, said he felt joy at arriving at this major step in his journey.
"We've been looking forward to this moment for so long and it's finally here. It's just a great blessing to be ordained a deacon for Christ and His Church," he said.
The Perrysburg resident will continue his studies at Christ the King Seminary during the week and serve as transitional deacon at Queen of Heaven Parish on weekends.
"I'm most looking forward to serving at the altar, as a deacon preparing the chalice, elevating the chalice. I'm also looking forward to preaching the Word of God, breaking down the Scripture and applying them to everyday life," he said.
Permanent Deacon Steve Gajewski is looking forward to carrying out God's will in service to Him and His people.
"I did have a few doubts going into this, I'm not going to lie, but when I was sitting up there and the bishop laid hands on me, I knew it was where I was supposed to be. Now I'm on top of the world. I know this is God's purpose for me," he said.
Deacon Chriswell has worked with the half dozen permanent deacons during their five years in formation. He thinks their varied backgrounds will be an asset for the Church "All six guys collectively are a great group of guys," he said. "They created a bond and a friendship together over these past years in formation. Individually they are so different, but that's a good thing. They come in with their own gifts and talents and skills. I can see each one of them helping out their parish and the diocese as a whole in their own individual and unique way. Some of the guys are just very down to earth, you know, your blue collar guys, and then you have guys who were the intellectuals, and then the service guys. So, there's this whole gamut of differences, which is really great. And it's great to see that they get along so well together and they've worked through formation so well together too."
Father Denning Achidi will serve as parochial vicar at Queen of Heaven Parish in West Seneca, while Father Emminger will serve in the same role at St. Stephen's on Grand Island.
Each permanent deacon received a parish ministry and a work of charity.
Deacon Stephen P. Czarnecki will serve at Christ the King, Snyder, and Little Portion Friary. Deacon Stephen M. Gajewski will serve at Good Shepherd, Pendleton, and Beechwood Continuing Care Facility, Getzville. Deacon Howard M. Morgan will serve at Immaculate Conception, Ransomville, and Diaconal Formation Program and field ministry. Deacon Christopher J. Privitera will serve at St. Vincent de Paul, Niagara Falls, and Pre-Cana administrator for the Western Niagara Vicariate. Deacon Walter W. Samick will serve at St. Joseph, Gowanda, and parish coordinator at St. Mary, Cattaraugus. Deacon Thomas L. Sutton will serve at St. Stephen, Grand Island, and Beechwood Continuing Care Facility, Getzville.
The four transitional deacons have received the following parish assignments for their diaconal year. Deacon Charles Johnson will serve at Annunciation, Elma. Deacon Michael Johnson will serve at St. John Paul II, Lake View. Deacon Ryan Keating will serve at St. Mark/St. Rose of Lima, Buffalo. While, Deacon Daniel Ulmer will serve at Queen of Heaven, West Seneca.