Anne-Marie Welsh

“My vocation is a product of so many prayers, so many generous hours of people helping me, nudging and revealing my call throughout my years of my discernment. The fact that they’ll be here just makes it that much more special,” Kevin Holland said in an interview of the eve of his ordination to the

Deacon Kevin Holland, a native of Our Lady of Peace Parish, Erie,
left, and Deacon Joseph Petrone, a native of St. Joseph/Bread of
Life Community Parish,Erie.         Photos by Anne-Marie Welsh

diaconate. His classmate, Joe Petrone, had a similar reflection.

“The community aspect is a very big part of it,” Petrone said. “We’re not being ordained for ourselves, but we’re receiving this to share with the church. That the church is going to be here to share this moment with us really makes it special.”

The church was present indeed, as the chapel at St. Mark Seminary in Erie was standing room only on Saturday, April 27. In his homily, the Most Rev. Lawrence Persico, bishop of Erie, welcomed Bishop Emeritus Donald Trautman; representatives from St. Vincent Seminary in Latrobe and St. Mary’s Seminary in Baltimore — where Petrone and Holland have been studying, respectively; and the ordinands’ pastors, Father Larry Richards of St. Joseph/Bread of Life Community in Erie for Deacon Petrone and Father Rich Toohey of Our Lady of Peace in Erie, for Deacon Holland.

In addition, priests, deacons, religious and lay family and friends filled the pews.

In his homily prior to celebrating the ordination rite, Bishop Persico said it would be a mistake to view ordination to the diaconate of a man preparing for priesthood as being less important than what will happen at his priesthood ordination.

“While it is true that this may not be the final destination of their journey of formation,” he noted, “it is nevertheless an extremely important day in the life of Kevin and Joe personally, and in the life of the church.”
The bishop went on to say that “with their ordination to the order of deacon, Kevin’s and Joe’s lives will be changed forever.”

Both men were keenly aware of the significance of the moment.

“This is the time we make all our promises,” Deacon Petrone told the Diocese of EriE-news the day before the event. “We promise celibacy, we promise to pray the office, we promise obedience to the bishop.” He said he had spent a good deal of time in prayer and preparation, making sure not only that God was calling him to this vocation, but also that he could give himself to the call fully.
He said his commitment has grown in recent years as he’s seen in friends getting married. It was at his best friend’s wedding last year that he experienced a moment of deep clarity.
“I knew I was being called to become a priest,” Deacon Petrone said.

For Deacon Holland, the arrival at certainty was more of an evolution. As each year of seminary study went by, he says the sense of his journey to the priesthood became more real.
“I believe that the shift between minor and major seminary created a sense of ownership of my vocation,” he said. He became willing to move out of his comfort zone, going wherever the bishop wanted to send him to study.
“That was a big defining moment for me and for my family,” Deacon Holland said, observing that they all began to recognize that his call to the priesthood was authentic.

Bishop Lawrence Persico lays hands on Joseph
Petrone, a key moment of the Rite of Ordination.

Bishop Persico urged Holland and Petrone not to view their time as deacons as merely a time of transition.
“Even though you know there is another step to take, do not miss the opportunity to let your foot be firmly placed on this important step, now,” he said in his homily. “Your fidelity in the coming year to the ministry of the diaconate is the best way to prepare for the priesthood.”

Deacon Kevin Holland receives the book of the
Gospels from Bishop Lawrence Persico.  
"Believe what you read, teach what you believe,
and practice what you teach," the rite says.

The bishop also said that through ordination to the diaconate, the Lord was about to insert Holland and Petrone more deeply into the mystery of his work of salvation.
“As a result,” he said, “you are invited to deepen your commitment to prayer and the sacraments through which your life is more united with Christ in whose name you will minister.” The bishop assured them they also would have the graces they need to fulfill all to which they are called.
Each deacon will be assigned to minister with a parish over the summer. But their immediate responsibilities are to return to major seminary for one more week of study, followed by a week of finals.

No doubt they will appreciate prayers for those more pressing demands as well as their new ministry as deacons.