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Rev. Mr. Matt Kuczora, C.S.C., ordained a deacon just four weeks ago at Moreau Seminary, filed this post on the ordination of Rev. Mr. Carlos Augusto Jacobo de los Santos, C.S.C., at our parish in Monterrey, Mexico. Matt is spending his diaconate year with our Holy Cross community in Mexico, serving at our parish and working in formation for our seminarians there. Check out his first reflections on life as a deacon …
In Holy Cross it’s not unusual for us to have an ordination class of four, five or even more men. It is unusual to be in a class all by yourself, which is how I got ordained a deacon at the end of August. Over the years in formation most of my classmates have discerned God’s call to other paths in life, and while I still have one classmate continuing in formation and discernment, he’ll make his final vows and be ordained next year. That’s left me as a member of a rare club – the ordination class of one. My four little sisters have accused me of manipulating and shuffling the system so I can claim all the attention. They’ve even started referring to me as “priest-zilla.”
I keep reminding myself that no one chooses this vocation, that both it and the strength for it are purely gifts from God. I think maybe the Lord wants to reinforce that idea. Case in point: The only thing more unusual than being ordained by yourself, is having two deacons together at the same assignment.
During my diaconate, I’m living and working in Guadalupe, Mexico, part of the Monterrey, Mexico metropolitan area – the third largest city in the country boasting over 4 million people. Our parish alone serves 30,000 people with 16 Masses on a weekend. Lest I relish the praise and love of all these parishioners alone, last week we celebrated the tremendous occasion of welcoming another deacon in Holy Cross. On September 16, Rev. Mr. Carlos Augusto Jacobo de los Santos, C.S.C., was ordained a deacon by Bishop Jorge Alberto Cavazos Arizpe with great pride and fanfare.
Deacon Carlos grew up in our humble parish, Nuestra Señora Santísima de la Luz, and is a dedicated, smart man who, as a native son, is the pride of this very devout part of the world. I’ve been blessed to have known him throughout my time in formation and I couldn’t be happier to share the spotlight with him here in Mexico – if for no other reason than he can help me eat all the delicious food the little old ladies keep giving us!
I’ve never been one for the finer points of liturgy and, frankly, major celebrations still require me to muster all the focus and concentration I can gather just to get through them. Fortunately, people here are very forgiving. In the end though, Carlos’ ordination was a very beautiful liturgy and everything went well: the church was packed and spilling out into the street, the bishop gave a powerful and inspiring homily, and Carlos beamed as the gift and responsibility of service was laid upon him with the hands of this successor of the Apostles.
For me personally, it was a very powerful experience. I’ve only been ordained a deacon for three weeks, so in a lot of ways I’m still on the high of ordination myself. The grind of work in the messiness of the world hasn’t yet worn me down, but it still took me aback to see Carlos being ordained. The litany asking for the prayers of so many holy women and men; lying prostrate on the floor; the exhortation to service at the altar, the Word and needs of all people; then the imposition of bishop’s hands on the new deacon’s head (just like in Acts 6) – so many powerful symbols that somehow filled me right back up again.
Here in our parish, our bustling, urban, impoverished parish, Holy Cross men and women (we’re blessed to have a house of Sisters of the Holy Cross ministering here too) are a sign of hope and comfort. We have young religious (four of us under thirty) who show people that Faith is very much alive and well (and joyful!). We also have many experienced religious, some of whom have served for over 20 years here and all of whom bring the light and love of God, especially in this time in Mexico’s history when violence affects every one of us.
After Mass this weekend, parishioners gathered in the sacristy to tearfully tell me of a murder just a block from our neighborhood chapel. A young man had been shot and bled to death in the street as terrified neighbors were too afraid to call the police in fear of what vengeance the cartels might take in response – a fear that has proven to be justified over and over again.
In the midst of this gut-wrenching and complex situation, we keep going. We try to bring hope and comfort. As deacons, Carlos and I will be called upon to visit those injured in the drug violence and their traumatized families. We’ll also serve the mourning and bury the dead at the funerals that seem to increase in number each week. But not all of what we do is passive and in reaction to what has passed.
Carlos and I will also work with teenage and young adult groups working for peace in our parish. We’ll build networks of support for victims of violence in counseling programs and we’ll give kids alternatives to drugs and gangs through initiatives to help them afford supplies they need to go to school and get the grades and safe places to study that they’ll need to stay there. Our homilies will be full of God’s love of those who are beaten down, but also challenging … challenging both to turn away from violence and evil, and to struggle to forgive those who trespass against us.
I may joke about being a class of my own, but I’m very happy and very grateful to walk this path with the support of my brother Carlos, our local community and all of the Holy Cross family. If you’re reading this blog, that means you too. You’re a part of that family.
I guess I don’t mind sharing the spotlight after all. As we heard in the Sunday Gospel recently, “Where two or more are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (Matthew 18:20). It’s good to do this work together.