The three men lie prostrate before the altar as the litany of the saints is prayed. (Rick Keating/Catholic Sentinel)
The three men lie prostrate before the altar as the litany of the saints is prayed. (Rick Keating/Catholic Sentinel)

As he collects his young family, David Mayer smiles and reflects on having just witnessed his brother-in-law being ordained a permanent deacon.

“I view James as a role model,” he says, recounting how the now Deacon James Thurman began his vocational journey as a monk before getting married.

Mayer enjoyed watching his brother-in-law continue his education and enter the diaconate program.

“It’s been really incredible and really encouraging to see someone so passionate about his faith,” said Mayer.

“To be able to see him up there on the altar, serving the community and congregation is really a proud moment for the family,” he added.

Thurman was one of three men ordained to the diaconate Oct. 26 at St. Mary Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Portland. The others, Deacon Gregory Pashley and Deacon Rolando Perez, also had numerous friends and family members present for the event.

“I’ve known Greg for quite a few years,” said Jake Jensen, a friend of Pashley. “He’s always been very service-minded and very giving. “This is just another way for him to express his nature.”

“We found it very rewarding to see the three of them go through what they did and finish it,” said Jim Delos Reyes, a friend of Perez. “It’s something you need to help celebrate as a Catholic. I was honored to be invited.”

Each man completed a formation process that lasts, on average, five years.

“Because men are ordained to the diaconate, not for the parish, but for the local church, this is a day of celebration and joy for the whole church,” Archbishop Alexander Sample said during his homily.

“We all rejoice with you today.”

The archbishop went on to speak of the men’s new ministry.

“A man is ordained into the diaconate for service — for the service of the word of God, for the service of the altar and for the service of charity,” he said.

The archbishop pointed out that the men’s position on the altar is not meant to be a privileged place for them to stand but that their presence is really an icon in the liturgy of service, both on and off the altar.

“Your only motivation must be charity. It’s not about you, it’s about Jesus Christ and your service to him,” said the archbishop. “Charity, service is the heart of all ordained ministry.”

sarahw@catholicsentinel.org