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Eight deacons to be ordained at Cathedral June 15

June 07, 2019

METUCHEN – Bishop James F. Checchio will ordain eight men, three of whom are preparing for eventual service to the priesthood, as deacons during a Mass of the Rite of Ordination.

The Ordination will take place Saturday, June 15 at 10:30 a.m. at the Cathedral of St. Francis of Assisi, 548 Main St., Metuchen. Bishop Checchio will preside at the liturgy. While tickets are required to attend the Mass, the Ordination will be livestreamed at: https://www.stfranciscathedral.org.

All are invited to pray for the vocations of the three men who will be ordained to the transitional diaconate. The men will complete their final year of seminary preparation with the hope of priesthood ordination in June 2020. They are among the 21 seminarians preparing for service to the priesthood – the largest number of seminarians the Diocese of Metuchen has had in over 25 years. 

The faithful are also asked to pray for the five men who began their journey toward diaconate ordination in 2014 and will be ordained to the permanent diaconate. Upon their ordination, they will join the 148 deacons in active ministry throughout the four counties of the diocese – Middlesex, Somerset, Hunterdon and Warren – bringing the total number of active deacons at this time to 153.

In January, the Diocese of Metuchen welcomed a new diaconate class of Latino candidates, who are being instructed in Spanish. In addition, a new diaconate formation class, which will be conducted in English, will begin in spring 2020. Applications for that class will be accepted near the end of the summer. A general information meeting is scheduled to be held June 25 at 7:30 p.m. at the St. John Neumann Pastoral Center, 146 Metlars Ln., Piscataway.

All are asked to pray for an increase of vocations, so that the Church in Metuchen may be shepherded by good and holy servants.

“We need to go back to Jesus and promote prayer for vocations,” said Fr. Mauricio Tabera-Vasquez, diocesan Director of Vocations. “Many graces would flow if many of us would commit ourselves to regular adoration of the Eucharist and holy hours to pray for vocations,” he said. 

“We need people in our parishes gathering to pray the holy rosary for vocations,” said Fr. Tabera-Vasquez. “We cannot have holy vocations if we are not holy, if our families are not holy.”

Following their ordination, the deacons will assist the bishop and his priests in the ministry of the word, of the altar and of charity. As ministers of the altar, deacons proclaim the Gospel, prepare the altar and distribute the Lord’s body and blood to the faithful. Deacons preside over public prayer, administer baptism, assist at and bless marriages, bring viaticum to the dying and conduct funeral rites.

The following men, who are preparing for eventual service to the priesthood, will be ordained to the transitional diaconate: 

Thomas Lanza, 33, is studying at St. Mary Seminary and University in Baltimore. Lanza, who was born in New Brunswick, is a graduate of South Brunswick High School. His home parish is St. Augustine of Canterbury in Kendall Park, where he served as a religion teacher at the parochial school before entering the seminary. He graduated from Ramapo College in Mahwah, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology. 

He said he would encourage young men considering the priesthood to “pray, read and ask a lot of questions.”

“Our prayer should be informed by scripture, but also integrated with spiritual reading that teaches us about other people who lived holy lives, which often have a lot to teach us about ourselves,” said Lanza. “Reading about spirituality and the lives of the saints is a really good way to see if we are on the right path.”

Gilbert Starcher, 26, is studying at Immaculate Conception Seminary at Seton Hall University in South Orange. Starcher, who was born in Hackettstown, was homeschooled through high school. He then attended Ave Maria University in Ave Maria, Fla., where he earned a bachelor’s degree in philosophy. His home parish is St. Ann in Hampton. 

He said he would “advise any man discerning priesthood to try find ways to deepen your relationship with the Lord, so as to be better able to hear and respond to the call.” 

“This might include finding time for more frequent attendance at Mass, Holy Hour, and service to those in need,” said Starcher. “Also, stay close to Mary and don’t let your imperfections stand in the way of your ‘yes,’ as Jesus calls imperfect men.”  

Gustavo Rodríguez-Perez, 34, is studying at Saint Vincent Seminary in Latrobe, Pa. Rodríguez-Perez, who was born in Jamundí, Colombia, graduated from the Instituto Comercial Arquidiocesano, and earned a licentiate in philosophy from Universidad Minuto de Dios, Bogota.

He said he would encourage young men considering the priesthood to “go forth! Pray a lot and listen to Jesus, because He is the one Who is going to answer you.” 

He cited the words of Pope Francis, who in his apostolic exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium or Joy of the Gospel, wrote, “The joy of the Gospel is something that should be experienced.” 

“What are you waiting for?” Rodríguez-Perez asked.

The following men will be ordained to the permanent diaconate:

Anthony Cozzi, 51, is a parishioner of St. Magdalen de Pazzi in Flemington, where he and his wife, Linda, have been parishioners for the last 21 years. Born in Brooklyn, Cozzi said he remembers the Lord calling him several times throughout the years, each time through a different person, to become a deacon. Cozzi is currently serving in the parish as a lector, extraordinary minister of Holy Communion, Knights of the Holy Altar Ministry Leader, assistant advocate at the diocesan Tribunal and as the parish ministry chair. He is a Fourth Degree member of the Knights of Columbus, Knights of Columbus NJ State Squires Regional Coordinator (Knights Youth Program) and a youth baseball and football coach. He has a degree in computer science and business management and is currently employed as a program manager at SHI International. He and his wife have been married for 27 years and have three children, Christopher, 21, Jason, 18, and Alex, 13. After his ordination, Cozzi said he is looking forward to serving God, the people of his parish and all those in need in any way that he is called.

Steven Fortier, 58, is a parishioner of St. Joseph in High Bridge. Born in Montclair, Fortier said it was only after reluctantly attending a Cornerstone Retreat at his parish that his faith truly began to flourish and the thought of becoming a deacon crossed his mind. A master plumber by trade, Fortier has worked in the field since he was 15 years old and, for the past 30 years, has worked at Weltman Home Services, where he is currently the general manager. He is involved in faith formation – confirmation prep at his parish and serves as a parish lector and extraordinary minister of Holy Communion. In addition, Fortier also visits the homebound and hospitalized. He and his wife, Michele, have been married for 31 years and have three children, Rachele, 30, Stephanie, 26, and Zachary, 22. Fortier said it is a gift to have been called, accepted and able to make it through the diaconate process, a gift, he says, that was only possible through prayer and the power of the Holy Spirit. 

Kevin O’Brien, 60, is a parishioner of Corpus Christi in South River. O’Brien, who was born in Newark and raised in Middlesex, earned a bachelor’s degree in communications from Seton Hall University in South Orange, where he first felt the call to ordained ministry. While discerning a call to the priesthood, he earned a master’s degree in divinity and theology from Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, Md. He went on to receive a master’s degree in social work from Columbia University in New York City. From there, he began to work with the poor and marginalized as a social work supervisor with the Legal Aid Society in New York City. O’Brien said he sees his career as an extension of the Gospel and an opportunity to serve in a Christ-like way. After leaving the Legal Aid Society, he continued in social work, working for Aetna in behavioral health clinical management, where he has been employed since 2017. O’Brien and his wife, Humbelina, who will celebrate their 26th wedding anniversary this year, have one daughter and one granddaughter. The couple has volunteered for years as religious education instructors at their parish, where he also teaches RCIA classes. 

Patrick O’Boyle, 48, is a parishioner of Our Lady of Victories in Baptistown. O’Boyle was born in Scranton, Pa. and raised in Dunmore, Pa., a community where the Catholic faith had a strong presence. He earned a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from the University of Scranton in Scranton, Pa. He worked as a police officer with the Dunmore Police Department until 1994, when he began his career at Unifirst Corporation, where he is currently a district service supervisor. O’Boyle, who was born on the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel and said he always felt close to her, credits the Blessed Virgin Mary and his devotion to the rosary for his decision to enter diaconate formation. He said he prays a daily rosary and he and his wife, Karen, frequently pray the rosary with their three children, Kara, Kaitlin and Patrick Jr. O’Boyle currently serves as an extraordinary minister of Holy Communion and as a lector. 

William Weber Jr., 61, is a parishioner of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton in Three Bridges. Born in Somers Point, Weber majored in mathematics and computer science at Drexel University in Philadelphia, and went on to earn a master’s degree in computer science from Brown University in Providence, R.I. He also holds a certification as a project management professional from the executive program at Stanford University in Stanford, Calif., and a master’s degree in theology, which he earned in Dec. 2018 for his diaconal studies. He is currently pursuing certification from the National Association of Catholic Chaplains in order to be a hospital chaplain. Weber said he became more involved in parish life in 2012, about a year after marrying his second wife, Lisa, whose first spouse had also died at a young age. When Lisa and her children went through the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults formation, he learned more about the Catholic faith alongside her. Weber has received the prestigious Seton Hall University Servant Leader award twice in recognition of his volunteer work as a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA), advocating for children in the New Jersey foster care system, a work he does together with his wife, Lisa. He also received the Pope Francis Medal for Academic Excellence earlier this year from Immaculate Conception Seminary School of Theology at Seton Hall University, South Orange. Together, he and Lisa became extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion and he also became a lector, a ministry he had previously been involved with as a high school student.

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