Bishop ordains six as transitional deacons

NEW CANAAN — Bishop Frank J. Caggiano ordained six men as transitional deacons on Saturday, urging them to preach the Truth fearlessly to “a world that has grown colder and darker, lacking compassion, lacking civility, lacking respect and lacking a place for Christ.”

During his homily at the Pontifical Mass at St. Aloysius Church, he told the six candidates, “You are called to the Ministry of the Word, and you will have the privilege to preach and teach the Word of God, so I ask you to preach it courageously and preach it fearlessly, to teach the truth, the whole Truth, and nothing but the Truth, whether the world wants to hear it or not.”

Ordination as a transitional deacon is the last step before ordination to the priesthood, which typically occurs a year later after additional pastoral, liturgical and education formation.

The six candidates were Ricardo Batista Comim, James DiVasto, Jr., Ferry Galbert, Andrew LaFleur, Miguel Betancur Lenis and Matthew Loman.

The bishop told the packed church that it was a “day of joy and blessings because these six, our brothers, heard the call, the whisper of the Lord, enter their hearts and generously responded, and having gone through years of formation and no small measure of sacrifice, they present themselves today, freely and willingly, to be configured to Christ, the Deacon, the Servant, to become a living sacrament of service in our midst.”

He told the six men that he had come to know them over the past few years and was privileged and honored to admit them into Sacred Orders.

“When I look upon your very different lives, you each manifest the reckless, generous love of God for each of you,” he said. “I and all who are in Orders, could never earn the call or the response. We’re never fully worthy of it, for it is the Lord who has guided you all these years by your parents, grandparents, sisters and brothers and friends, by the experiences of your life, serving as a teacher, a nurse, a professional in business, and a student, amidst the ups and downs, the triumphs and challenges, the tears and the joys which have molded you for this moment of grace.”

He said the ministry of the diaconate was foreordained by Christ “so there would be those among us who would be at ready service to the needs of the community and the needs of the world.” It represents “a sacrament of service” through Service to the Word, Service to the Altar and Service in Charity.

The bishop urged them to preach fearlessly but “to never preach what you are not willing to live, for it is your life that is the living homily … and the integrity of your life will strengthen God’s people.”

He said that the Ministry of the Altar meant more than “praying reverently and beautifully.”

“You are the bridge to all those individuals you will serve humbly and quietly,” he said, “to bring their hopes and their dreams and their tears and their disappointments and their wounds to the altar through the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ that they may find hope and healing in Him.”

Quoting St. John Chrysostom, the bishop said, “The Lord does not want golden chalices to be held up to God’s people as much as he wants golden hearts. And that is my prayer for you — that your hearts will always reflect the beauty of Christ’s healing love to every person you meet.”

Finally, he discussed the Ministry of Charity.

“From the beginning, this was the moment God had foreseen — for you to be here to receive this gift,” he said. “This is the age in which we live — a world which is fractured, broken and divided, a world that is losing its understanding of what love really is. This Ministry of Charity is to will the good of another, to speak, to challenge and to have mercy, forgiveness, patience and kindness. Those words do not resonate out there in the world … so you have been formed from the beginning to be the leaven of change.”

Bishop Caggiano shared the story of Pope Sixtus II and his deacon Lawrence during the third century persecution of Christians by the Roman Emperor Valerian, who ordered the death of all bishops, priests and deacons.

When the pope was taken by the imperial guards, Lawrence asked, “Father, where are you going without your deacon?” And Sixtus replied, “You will follow me in three days.”

The Roman prefect tried to bribe Lawrence to spare his life and told him, “Bring me the treasure of the Church, and I will let you go free.”

The bishop said: “Three days later, Lawrence brought the treasure of the Church — the sick, the orphans, the widows, the poor and the homeless. He told the prefect, ‘Look upon the treasure of the Church.’ And he went to his death.”

The bishop told the candidates, “Today, my brothers, is given to you the true treasure of the Church. To you, as ministers of charity, are given the sick, the homeless, the lonely, the despairing, the poor and the lost in our midst. They are your greatest possession. To you, I say ‘love.’ Let them know that Christ is love, and if you do that, you will give them life, you will give the Church life, and you will be well on your way to everlasting life.”

When Bishop Caggiano concluded his homily, he examined the candidates who knelt before him and declared publicly their intentions to undertake the office to assist the bishop and priests and serve the people of God.

Then, as they lay prostrate, the Litany of Supplication was prayed on their behalf, supplicating God for the grace to serve him and the Church. later, laying his hands over each candidate, the bishop recited the prayer of ordination, and they were vested with a stole and dalmatic. Bishop Caggiano presented them the Gospels and said, “Receive the Gospel of Christ, whose herald you have become. Believe what you read, teach what you believe, and practice what you teach.”

The church, which was filled to capacity, erupted in applause after the rite of ordination concluded. The bishop also announced their assignments: Deacon Andrew LaFleur was assigned to St. Mary in Bethel; Deacon Ricardo Batista Comim to St. Charles Borromeo in Bridgeport; Deacon Miguel Betancur Lenis to St. Matthew in Norwalk; Deacon James DiVasto Jr. to St. James in Stratford; Deacon Ferry Galbert to St. Catherine of Siena in Trumbull; and Deacon Matthew Loman to St. Gregory the Great in Danbury.

n his final comments, Bishop Caggiano commended the newly ordained deacons to the Mother of God, saying, “You will do great works for the Lord Jesus, but when you cross the threshold of this sacred space and go out into the world, I commend you to the protection of Our Lady because she will always be there to protect you, guide you, inspire you, intercede for you and lead you on the path to her Son. Always trust in her because she will allow you to do great things to the glory of God the Father.”

The ordination of Ricardo Batista Comim is particularly meaningful to the Redemptoris Mater Diocesan Seminary of Bridgeport, said the rector, Father Marco Pacciana, because he is the first of their group to enter Sacred Orders.

“The ordination of Ricardo is really an event for the Redemptoris Mater Seminary,” he said. “This seminary was born a little over six years ago and finally we have reached our first big goal with his ordination. It is proof of the faithfulness of God, for Ricardo, for the rest of the seminarians in formation, and for those who support this house.”

He said Ricardo’s way to the diaconate had been a bumpy road with many challenges and always the temptation of discouragement, but God was calling him, and Ricardo’s conviction and the grace of God gave him the capacity to persevere, Father said.

“The fact that he is a deacon today is an exultation of God’s mercy,” he said. “It is also proof for the rest of the men in formation because finally they see one of their brothers being ordained, and this gives courage, hope and enthusiasm to the rest of the men who might see their formation as a long one.”

In the seminary there is an atmosphere of family so that joy for one is really the joy for everyone, Father said. The ordination is “proof of God’s fidelity for this seminary, which started with six men, and Ricardo was one of the first to come. It is proof that God is blessing this house, and he wants this house here in this diocese … and that Bishop Caggiano was prophetic when he decided to open this seminary against all odds.”

Thomas Cruz, a seminarian at Redemptoris Mater, first met Deacon Ricardo 5-1/2 years ago when Cruz was 18 and arrived in Stamford.

“He was humble and quiet, but firm when it came to our shenanigans,” Cruz recalled. “He was helping us become men. He was an older brother, serving us, helping us, correcting us … and sometimes screaming at us. He is a holy man that God made. This is a milestone for us. There is something so real here; it’s like when a couple has a child. I look out at the church today and I see the faithfulness of God.”

Deacon Ricardo Batista Comim was born in São Paulo, Brazil to Valdinei Comim and Marcia dos Santos Batista Comim. He currently resides in Stamford. Deacon Batista Comim attended Seton University in South Orange, N.J., from which he graduated in 2015 with a bachelor of arts degree in theology.

“My vocation was born through the Neocatechumenal Way community,” he said. It was through this charism that God called him to the journey of the priesthood.

“I grew up in a simple Catholic family in Jundiai in São Paulo state, Brazil. As an only child, I was always searching for happiness and meaning in my life. I had everything — a good job, friends, and a good career — but nothing could satisfy me.” When he heard the “Kerygma,” he realized that God loved him the way he was.

“I always thought that a priest’s life was a sad and lonely life, which I was not looking forward to. However, a missionary priest from the Neocatechumenal Way formed at the Redemptoris Mater Seminary of Brasilia in Brazil came to my parish on a Saturday night and he shared his experience of his mission,” the deacon said. “I was moved by his happiness; I could see that he had meaning in his life. So, I asked him, ‘Are you satisfied with your life by being a priest?’ He said with great joy, ‘Yes, because the grace of God is enough for me.’ And from that moment, I understood that God was calling me to a beautiful mission, to be a witness to his love and to be grateful for what he has done in my life.”

Deacon James DiVasto Jr. was born in Stamford, Conn. to James and Lena DiVasto. He graduated from Saint Anselm College in Manchester, N.H. He served as a compliant administrator for the Knights of Columbus Supreme Office for 37 years.

In May 2018, he found himself overwhelmed by thoughts and feelings that God might be calling him to the priesthood. After four years of priestly formation as a seminarian for the Diocese of Bridgeport, he has come to realize that God has been calling and forming him to be a loving servant all along through every person, place and event of his 63 years of life.

“I’m just very, very grateful, humble and thrilled,” he said. “I’m here in no small part because of all the prayerful support of my family, friends, brother seminarians, religious sisters, priests, deacons, everyone at Pope Saint John XXIII National Seminary, and especially Bishop Caggiano. What a gift! Thanks be to God.”

His first Mass as a deacon was celebrated by Father Joseph Gill at St. Jude Church in Monroe.

Deacon Férry Galbert was born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti to Soimil Saint Preuve and Yvonne Lops. He currently resides in Norwalk and is a parishioner of the Basilica of St. John the Evangelist in Stamford. He graduated from Norwalk Community College in 2014 with an associate’s degree in nursing and Sacred Heart University in 2019 with a bachelor’s in philosophy. He has worked as a data register at the basilica and as a registered nurse at Stamford Hospital.

Galbert reflected on the words of Jesus to his disciples: “‘You did not choose me, but I chose you, and I appointed you that you would go and bear fruit.’ These words also remain effective and applicable today today as I reflect upon my journey to answering the call,” he said. “I am forever grateful to the Holy Spirit and our Blessed Mother for their guidance in my life and for working on my heart to give the Lord a chance to reveal his love for me and to realize he was already there as ‘the answer’ to all the longings of my heart.”

Galbert’s call started when he was a boy and wanted to be an altar server. He later discovered a desire to evangelize and engage in missionary work during his junior year of high school. While working at his home parish, he began to think about the possibility of the priesthood as he encountered and witnessed parish priests ministering to the community.

“During my time working at Stamford Hospital as a registered nurse, I began to really reflect on the Lord’s call on my life, as I became more aware of the limitations of science and of the experience of human suffering,” he said. “It was there that I began to truly surrender to the Lord and looked to him for the answers. My vocation to the priesthood was a process that kept unfolding as I was drawn by the love of Christ, who desired to make use of my life by making me an instrument in his Church.”

His first Mass as a deacon was concelebrated by Msgr. Stephen DiGiovanni and Father Cyprian La Pastina at St. John’s Basilica in Stamford.

Deacon Miguel Betancur Lenis was born in Medellin, Colombia to to Humberto de Jesus Betancur Piedrahita and Miryam Stella Lenis Velez. He currently resides in Danbury and is a parishioner at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church. He received his theology degree while studying at St. John Fisher Seminary.

“As the apostles felt the call of Jesus to be fishers of men, I also feel that Jesus calls me to be his disciple and to continue his mission of spreading the Gospel throughout the world,” he said.

Deacon Betancur Lenis was in high school when he began to realize the path that God was calling him to. A teacher described priests as “pontiffs,” explaining that priests in Ancient Rome received that name. He said he connected with the Latin root of that definition.

“Pontiff comes from the word pontis, which means bridge,” he said. “I realized that I was meant to be that bridge, a bridge between men and God. Jesus called me to be his instrument, to bring his love to the world and to help people reach heaven, here all of us will find true happiness. As a priest, I want to be God’s instrument of salvation, a bridge by which God can reach men with his eternal love, and a bridge over which men can reach God and enjoy heaven in his presence.”

His first Mass as a deacon was celebrated by Very Reverend Arthur Mollenhauer and Father John J. Perez in Danbury.

Deacon Andrew LaFleur was born in Bridgeport to James LaFleur and Pamela Smith LaFleur. He currently resides in Bridgeport, where he attends St. Ann Parish. He graduated from Sacred Heart University in 2019.

Deacon LaFleur said his vocation story is rooted in the parish setting, specifically his home parish of St. Ann’s in Bridgeport.

“It was through seeing the priest work at the parish, specifically seeing him minister the sacraments, that I first started hearing the call to the priesthood and became drawn to the priesthood,” said Deacon LaFleur, who explained it was through that constant call and contact with the life of the parish that he was able to learn who he priest is and, with God’s help, discern his vocation.

His first Mass as a deacon was celebrated by Father Eric Silva at St. Ann Parish.

Deacon Matthew Loman was born in Derby, Conn. to Wallace Loman and Irene Lazowski Loman. He currently resides in Derby, where he attends St. Michael the Archangel Parish. He graduated from Southern Connecticut State University in 2000 with a bachelor’s in geography and elementary education. He then received a Juris Doctor from Quinnipiac University School of Law in 2005. In his work experience, he has served as a camp counselor, teacher and associate attorney.

“The Church has always been the center of my life,” he said. “From the time I served as an altar boy and a young reader until now, the Lord has been calling me to serve as one of his priests. I am humbled to receive a call from Christ to the sacred priesthood and thankful for all the blessings and graces He has bestowed upon me as I have journeyed through life.”