In what is usually a kind of penultimate step on the road to priesthood, three seminarians recently became transitional deacons for the Diocese of Orange.
On Saturday, June 25, Ian Gaston, David Moreno and Benjamin Nguyen were formally ordained into the diocesan diaconate during a service at Christ Cathedral.
THE TRANSITIONAL DEACONS PROSTRATE THEMSELVES BEFORE THE ALTAR DURING THE ORDINATION MASS. PHOTO BY JOHN PASCALE
With Bishop Kevin W. Vann presiding, and fellow seminarians, permanent deacons and a contingent of parish priests in attendance, the trio of newly ordained deacons made their promises.
Over the next year, the three will complete their seminary studies, two at St. John’s Seminary in Camarillo and the other at St. Angel Seminary in Oregon, before being ordained as priests next year and given their first parish assignments.
BISHOP KEVIN VANN BLESSES TRANSITIONAL DEACON IAN MICHAEL GASTON OF MOUNT ANGEL SEMINARY AT THE ORDINATION MASS ON JUNE 18. PHOTO BY JOHN PASCALE
“I’m so excited, there are so many emotions rushing in,” Deacon David said several days before the ceremony. “I’m grateful and also thinking about what the future holds.”
Throughout the proceedings, Deacon Ian, who was surrounded by his family for much of the Mass, had a beaming grin, periodically looking up to the roof of the cathedral as if to assure himself it was really happening.
Bishop Vann told the deacons they have been called in a “time of turmoil,” but nonetheless they are following God’s word to serve at the altar.
The service was replete with the traditional proceedings, which included the election of the candidates, promises of obedience and celibacy, prostration before the altar, donning of new vestments and the deacons placing hands on the Gospel and promising to teach it.
The most solemn moment was the laying of hands and prayer of ordination, when each candidate kneeled before the Bishop Vann, who placed his hands on their heads. It is the moment when the deacon becomes truly ordained. Laying on of hands dates back to the earliest days of the church.
For each of the deacons, family members were among those with whom they were able to celebrate Holy Communion. Canopies were set up outside where the new clerics were able to meet friends and family and pray with parishioners and lines soon stretched across the plaza.
Here they are members of the 2022 class of transitional deacons:
Ian Gaston, 26, Mt. Angel Seminary
Even after he entered seminary, Deacon Ian wasn’t entirely sure about his future. Like so many in search of true faith, he was beset by doubts about whether he could fulfill the commitment without reservation.
“It was here (in seminary) that I really found my vocation,” he said. “I learned how to pray, to have daily and frequent conversations with God.”
His mother, Anita, said her son eventually told her, “I feel like I want to do it instead of just being called.”
Deacon Ian said God “slowly removed my barriers.”
He said he came to understand that the commitment that “surpasses all others,” is to follow Jesus. After that rest fell into place and the hesitancy and doubt went away.
“I think one level, when you talk to him, you see how good he is,” he said. “I want to show people how good he is and to give their lives to him.”
David Moreno, 39, St. John’s Seminary
Since he was a little boy growing up in Culiacan, Mexico, Deacon David said he wanted to be close to the Lord, literally.
“I always asked my mother that in church could we sit in the front row,” he said. “Every time, something incredible happened.”
Raised and educated in Mexico, Deacon Moreno earned a computer science degree and a ,aster’s degree in business administration. He was a successful businessman until he realized his life was lacking and began to pray. He was later struck by a bacterial infection and came to Orange County.
Since then, he said, “I have fallen in love with the people of Orange County. It represents all my hopes.”
Deacon Moreno began his formation focusing on philosophy, before transferring to St. John’s to study theology. Moreno said he is happy with whatever assignment he receives. No matter what, he said, he hopes to be able to follow his passion to pursue his “inclination to social teaching.”
“I want to invite people to be holy in all the things they do,” he said.
Ben Nguyen, 43, St. John’s Seminary
Deacon Ben said he was raised in the Catholic Church since his birth in Vietnam. However, his calling to the church came later and in stages. He said he became interested in the Catholic charismatic movement and after several years of discerning with local priests after graduating from Cal State Long Beach, he applied to St. John’s seminary. Deacon Nguyen said he is open to any assignment by Bishop Vann, although he would love the opportunity to study canon law at some time
His heritage is critical to his ministry, and Orange County is home to one of the largest Vietnamese Catholic populations in the U.S.
“It’s important to keep trying to communicate to the Vietnamese community,” he said.
Ethnicities can often approach worship with their own values and understanding, and Deacon Nguyen said a priest who can bridge that gap is critical.