Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington

From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302

Eight men continue journey to ordination in Hispanic deacon formation program

by Bonita Lawhead, Inland Register staff

(From the May 1, 2003 edition of the Inland Register)

Eight men in the southwest part of the Spokane Diocese have taken the first step on the long road to becoming deacons in the Catholic Church.

In Spokane, a class of deacons began their four-year journey to ordination in September 2001. That group presently numbers nine men.

A second deacon formation program specifically designed for men from the Hispanic Catholic community started last September under the direction of Msgr. Pedro Ramírez, pastor of St. Patrick Parish in Pasco. He oversees the four-year program, with the assistance of a number of individuals – laity, clergy and Religious.

Among those contributing their expertise are Providence Sister Myrta Iturriaga of Spokane; Deacon Olegario Reyes, Walla Walla; Deacon Chalo Martinez, Spokane; Father José Jaimé Maldonado, parochial vicar of St. Patrick Parish, Pasco; Father Tim Hays, pastor of Assumption Parish, Walla Walla; Father Pat Kerst, pastor of St. Patrick and St. Francis of Assisi parishes, Walla Walla; Father Richard Poole, pastor of the parishes in Eltopia and Connell; and Father Miguel Mejia, pastor of Sacred Heart Parish, Othello.

The candidates are:

Pasco: Victor Ortega, Luis Ramos, Antonio Rodríquez, Abraham Valdovinos.

Othello: José Cortez, Magdaleno Casillas, Jessie Rodelo.

Connell: Ramiro Reyna.

As part of their formation the men and their wives meet twice a month for five hours. There are also retreats and prayer and social gatherings.

Their formation covers several areas: personal, spiritual, church, and pastoral. The first part ended in February and they currently taking some time off for vacation and discernment.

The wives of the candidates are nearly as involved in the program as their husbands.

Msgr. Ramirez said the candidates are “pretty excited” to be in the program. Three candidates offered reflections about their involvement.

Luis Ramos of St. Patrick, Pasco, is “so happy to be in the program. It’s such a pleasure,” he said. His wife, Maria Elena, said she “feels good” about her husband becoming a deacon. “It’s something good for us, really good for the family,” she said.

Luis and his wife are already very involved in the church, where they help with the pre-marriage program, with Cursillo, and with the catechumenate.

José Cortez of Sacred Heart, Othello, said he has always had a call to serve God. “I wanted to enter the seminary,” he said. “But because my two older brothers were already in the seminary, my dad said we couldn’t afford it.”

The years went by and Cortez said wherever he was, he was involved with the church. “I was always helping but I never did seek out anything else,” he said. His wife, Mona, suggested he check with Father Tim Hays, then pastor in Othello, about the deacon program. “Things just fell into place after that,” he said.

Like the Ramoses, José and Mona Cortez are busy at Sacred Heart Parish. José teaches religious education to fifth graders, a job he loves. “I’m happiest around kids,” he said, and he expects he will continue to minister in that area. He is also a lector and Eucharistic minister.

Ramiro Reyna directs the Hispanic choir at St. Vincent Parish in Connell. “In a way, I’ve always been close to the church,” he said. “To (become a deacon) seemed like a good idea.” His wife, Anita, supports him in his decision. She, too, helps at their parish, coordinating religious education classes at the elementary level.

Reyna’s parting thought indicates his readiness to discern God’s will: “So far I’m willing. I’m asking God to give me the wisdom to see if this is where I should be.”

When the men are ordained, they will continue to be involved with their parishes, only in a deeper way. Deacons are ordained for service, particularly service to the bishop of the diocese. Their ministry focuses on three areas: works of charity; liturgical presence; and the Word, through proclaiming the Gospel at Mass and preaching.

The parishes in Othello and Connell have large Hispanic congregations, especially Pasco, which has grown phenomenally in the last few years, and their services are “urgently needed,” Msgr. Ramírez said.

Father Mike Kwiatkowski is Director of Deacon Formation for the diocese.

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