Four Westminster seminarians: Graham Stokes, Andrew Gallagher, Andrew Connick and Paulo Bagini were ordained Deacons by Archbishop Vincent Nichols at Westminster Cathedral on Saturday 26 June.
Archbishop Vincent said: “These men have taken an important step towards the priesthood and in doing so have entered firmly into a long tradition of priestly service in the Church.”
“Just as the body of the English martyr St John Southworth currently lies in the nave of the Cathedral, so too these newly ordained Deacons lay prostrate at his side. Their own dedication to the Lord follows in the line of St John Southworth who gave everything he had to serve Christ and the people of Westminster. I hope that these men will be able to carry on that love and service of God and his people through their ministry.”
The Rector of the Diocese of Westminster’s Allen Hall seminary, Mgr Mark O’Toole, added: “I am delighted and thank God to see the Ordination of these four new Deacons. They are men who are already much loved in the diocese. I know that their Ministry of Word and Sacrament will be a source of much grace to us all.”
One of the newly ordained Deacons, Rev Graham Stokes, said: “I believe that this is the life which God is calling me to and I have reached that point in my life where, with the help, support and guidance of many others, I am ready to say ‘Yes!’”
The Order of Deacons is the first of the three Sacred Orders of the Church, and for those seminarians aspiring to priesthood, the ordination to the Diaconate is usually made in the final year of formation. Practically, the Deacon assists in the Mass by proclaiming the Gospel and helping the priest at the altar. He may also baptise, conduct marriages and funerals, and preside over liturgical services. At ordination, a temporary Deacon will make a commitment to celibacy and promise obedience to his bishop.
The four Deacons wrote the following statement about themselves before the service:
My vocation was nurtured outside a traditional parish background through university chaplaincies and Youth 2000. So an important part of my journey has come through experiences that have enabled me to connect more fully with parish life such as being part of the core group of the “At Your Word Lord” programme at St Peter and St Paul’s in Northfields. This has continued during my seminary formation, especially during my year-long full-time placement at St Thomas of Canterbury in Fulham.
As I approach ordination, I am both excited and daunted. The commitments I will make to the Archbishop are important, life-long and counter-cultural. Yet through prayer and reflection I believe that this is the life which God is calling me to and I have reached that point in my life where, with the help, support and guidance of many others, I am ready to say “Yes!”
I grew up in the parish of Our Lady of Lourdes in Harpenden. At the age of seven I began altar serving and by the age of fourteen I was the parish Master of Ceremony. This gave me the chance to gain a greater understanding about the Mass and brought me into contact with the priests in my parish, whose lives inspired me from an early age.
In today’s society it can be hard to hear the Lord’s call, but people’s frequent prompts that I may be suited to the priesthood have been a strong sign for me to listen to God further.
I am excited that after so many years thinking about serving God in ministry I will soon be working in a parish alongside people who dedicate themselves to bringing God to his people.
Of course, ordination also brings nerves and questions about how well I will be able to serve God, but I have learnt the importance of relying on God’s grace whilst serving his people and I am sure that if I keep him at the centre of my life, ordained ministry will be full of many joys and graces.
I first thought of becoming a priest as a young altar server in my home parish of St Edward the Confessor in Golders Green. However, as a teenager the priesthood was definitely not on the agenda! I studied Computer Science at university, and it was there that I came to realise that my relationship with God was the most important thing in my life.
I began to suspect that God was telling me, gently, that it was in him I would find real fulfilment. When I plucked up the courage to really think about priesthood, it brought me a great sense of peace. It felt right.
These last five years at Allen Hall have been a truly grace-filled time. The seminary is blessed with a diverse and wonderful community of men openly and honestly seeking the Lord’s will in their lives. Their example and friendship has been an inspiration, as has the encouragement and kindness of many, many different priests and people who have become part of my life, and for whom I thank God.
I certainly feel a mix of trepidation and excitement as I approach ordination as a deacon, and deep gratitude for this gift of a priestly vocation. It is not a gift for my sake, but the beginning of a life dedicated to those people to whom I am sent.
I come from Brazil. Because of my link with the Neo-Catechumenal Way, of which my family is also part, I was brought up a practising Catholic and, even when I was very young, I wanted to be a priest. Yet I turned out to be quite a rebellious teenager because of problems within my family - I was angry at God because I felt like he had not tried to help me or my family and I ended up leaving the Church.
From the age of twelve I worked in a bakery and at fourteen I began attending night school. But I found my life to be very empty and one day picked up the courage to go back to Mass.
On that day I heard the words “God loves you as you are” in a totally new way. God was speaking directly to me! I had not experienced love like that before. Also, the lovely ‘old ladies’ of the parish came up to me on the street to tell me how happy they were to see me back in church and how they had been praying for me, the boy who used tell them how one day he would be a priest.
Eleven years later, as ordination approaches, my first feeling is of total unworthiness; that God should call a baker to announce his Good News! But it consoles me that
God chooses what is imperfect to reveal his glory. Please pray for us all!
Source: Archbishops House
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