Tony Galati lies on the floor as those present pray the litany of the saints June 13 at St. Mary Cathedral in Portland. (Claudette Jerez/Archdiocese of Portland)
Tony Galati lies on the floor as those present pray the litany of the saints June 13 at St. Mary Cathedral in Portland. (Claudette Jerez/Archdiocese of Portland)
" This is what happens when you entrust your life to the Blessed Mother and thank her: She gives you more to do. " Deacon Tony Galati

UPDATED WITH NEW PHOTOS JUNE 15, 12:16 PM

A Portland native who gave up a lucrative career in international shipping was ordained a transitional deacon June 13 and hopes to become a priest next year.

Deacon Tony Galati, 63, was long a member of St. Cecilia Parish in Beaverton, where he would go to perpetual adoration and often pray for more vocations in the church. “I had no idea,” he said, “that part of what I was praying for was myself.”

There could be only a few handfuls of people in the pews at the ordination.

Multnomah County, where St. Mary Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception is located, is still in the baseline of the COVID-19 social distancing rules, with only 25 people allowed in a gathering. The priests, deacons and musicians made up at least half that number at the 11 a.m. Mass.

Archbishop Sample noted how different — and historic — the feeling was, without the cathedral filled with the faithful, supporting Deacon Galati and the three others who would all have been ordained together.

Now each man must be ordained separately.

The difference had a positive element to it: Archbishop Sample said the day was also marked by an additional intimacy.

As such, the archbishop’s homily seemed uniquely focused on the one ordinand.

“I remember well that day some years ago, we sat together in my office and I gave you that final interroga-tion before I would accept you as a seminarian,” Archbishop Sample said, addressing Deacon Galati. “How struck I was by your sincerity, your spirituality, and your sense of vocation and call from the Lord to taking this path in life now. And I’ve only seen that grow in you. So it’s with confidence today that I help you take this step through the laying on of hands toward the priesthood but with this stop along the way as a deacon.”

Archbishop Sample also spoke to his entire flock. He explained how service to others and to God’s church is at the heart of being a Christian — and that the diaconate, from the Greek word diaconia, the ministry of ser-vice, is the icon of that service.

Archbishop Sample said a deacon is a servant in three notable ways: He is a servant of the Word, a servant of the altar and the servant of charity.

As an ordained deacon, Deacon Galati now has the authority to preach the Gospel at Mass; he now can confer baptism and witness marriages, sharing in the ministry of priests and bishops; and he knows his primary fo-cus should be on the poor and hungry, abandoned and homebound.

“Thank you,” Archbishop Sample said to Deacon Galati.

The Rite of Ordination includes dramatic moments, including the presentation of the candidate, and the elec-tion by the bishop and consent of the people, when the archbishop asks the people, “Do you know him to be worthy?”

Other elements are the promises, the litany of supplication as the ordinand lies prostrate before the altar, the laying on of hands (the actual moment of ordination), the prayer of ordination and the investiture with stole and dalmatic, and the handing on of the Gospels.

“May God who has called you to the service of others in his church give you great zeal for all, especially the afflicted and the poor,” Archbishop Sample prayed.

Deacon Galati traces his vocation to the 1994 death of his grandmother Fannie Galati. Asked to give her eulogy, he focused on her relationship with the Blessed Mother. A devout woman and a member of St. Philip Neri Parish in Portland, she kept a statue of Mary in her kitchen, and young Tony often had gazed up at it as a boy.

Evidently, he said, the Blessed Mother liked his eulogy.

“All of a sudden my life started moving in a religious direction,” he explained. He joined a Marian prayer group and became a lay Dominican, eventually being elected president of the organization in the west.

In 2001, he consecrated himself to Mary. The following year he was invited to join the board of Portland’s Catholic radio station, which has long had a strong Marian mission. The station had hit financial trouble, and the board wanted Galati to step in as executive director.

It took some discernment, since his shipping business was successful. But through prayer he sensed he should make the leap, despite a big pay cut. He helped get the station on its feet and even expanded the broadcast to Eugene. He has never regretted the move.

His marriage had ended, and he found comfort in his faith. He realized he had never thanked Mary for bring-ing the good changes to his life and so he did so in a deep time of prayer.

A couple weeks later, he was chatting with Father Jonathan Decker of St. Sharbel Parish at a gathering and the pastor told him he should be a priest. Galati thought it was a jest. But the idea stuck and he started to journal and prayed. It became clear that he should pursue the priestly calling.

“This is what happens when you entrust your life to the Blessed Mother and thank her: She gives you more to do,” Deacon Galati said.

To affirm his sense, he asked friends. They saw the vocation in him, too. As for his big close-knit family — including his father, uncles, siblings and his two grown sons — they came around after a while and now are key supporters.

“Once it became clear, I have never had a second thought,” Deacon Galati said.

He was happy to downsize, though kept a hefty collection of books. An avid cook, he misses his stove.

He has found joy in simplicity. Assisting at St. Paul Parish in Eugene, he lives in a simple bedroom.

“It seems I was supposed to do this all the time,” he said, adding that he knows he still has plenty to learn about priesthood.

To see more photos, go to the Catholic Sentinel Facebook Page