Anne-Marie Welsh

ERIE — “I testify that they have been found worthy.”
            These eight words, spoken by Father Scott Jabo, vice rector of St. Mark Seminary in Erie, were the culmination of many years of study for Benjamin Daghir, Nicholas Fratus and Christopher Wheeler. The three men were ordained to the diaconate on Saturday, May 1, receiving 

Erie Bishop Lawrence Persico offers the homily during the Rite
of Ordination of Deacons in the chapel at St. Mark Seminary on
May 1.    Photo/Anne-Marie Welsh

holy orders in the seminary chapel, surrounded by family, clergy and men and women religious. They will serve as transitional deacons during this final year as they prepare for the priesthood.
           COVID protocols meant limiting those who were able to be present, but thanks to new permanent equipment in the chapel, livestreaming allowed many who are close to the new deacons to participate from afar.
          “Having my brothers, my parents and grandparents five feet away was just beautiful,” Deacon Daghir, a native of St. Mary Parish in St. Marys, said after the ceremony. “I heard my call to the priesthood through my mom and dad, just in the way they live their life. I felt like I was surrounded by many people God has used to help me hear his voice.” Deacon Daghir was especially moved to have his twin brother Luke, who also is studying for the priesthood, on the altar as a server during the rite.
          “We were even able to say a few words to one another during the Mass,” he said. “It was just really fitting; he’s played a huge role in my discernment.”
          For Deacon Wheeler, a native of St. Lawrence Parish, Albion, the bishop’s words about service to the ill and the poor stood out during the rite.
          “You are called to be the living and working expression of the charity of the church,” Bishop Lawrence Persico said in his homily, offered directly to the deacons who were seated in front of him. “As Pope Francis has reminded us, you are to go to the margins of our world where you will find the poor and broken. Be generous in your service, imitating the Lord who washed the feet of the Apostles at the Last Supper.”
          Deacon Nicholas Fratus, a native of Blessed Sacrament Parish in Erie, invited Father Michael Kesicki, rector of St. Mark Seminary, to vest him during the ordination Mass.
          “Nick is steady, he has persevered, he has a lot of courage,” Father Kesicki told

Bishop Lawrence Persico with (left to right): Deacon Nicholas Fratus, Deacon
Benjamin Daghir and Deacon Christopher Wheeler. The ordination took place
on the feast of St. Joseph the Worker during the Year of St. Joseph.
Photo/Anne-Marie Welsh

the Diocese of EriE-News, noting he also has a great wit. “I know he has a sense of gratitude to people who have been there to support him. He initiated the idea to ask Sister Mary Andrew (Himes, RSM, who accompanied generations of seminarians through her work prior to retirement) to do one of the readings at Mass.”
          After completing their studies this semester — at St. Mary’s Seminary & University in Baltimore for Deacon Daghir, and St. Vincent Seminary in Latrobe for Deacons Fratus and Wheeler — each will return for a second summer to work in a parish to which they have been assigned. Before driving back to Latrobe on Sunday, Deacon Wheeler served two Masses at Our Lady of Peace, Erie.
          “It was quite an experience, an entirely different perspective,” he said, thinking back on the day. “It was a fuller participation in the liturgy.”
          As for the people?
          “They received me very warmly, very favorably,” the new deacon said. “There are many, many good people at OLP. They have been a strong support to me in this journey.”

          A link of the livestreamed ceremony is available on YouTube.