Cardinal Dolan told the 12 men he was ordaining to serve as permanent deacons in the parishes of the archdiocese that their call to Holy Orders had been at “God’s initiative,” and after the June 17 Mass of Ordination the new deacons agreed wholeheartedly with the cardinal’s assessment.
“To serve the people, whatever needs to be done to serve the people—nothing more, nothing less,” said newly ordained Deacon Adhur Lekovic.
As he greeted family and friends from St. Columbanus parish in Cortlandt Manor, Deacon Lekovic recounted many blessings, including the love and guidance of his wife, Elsa, who helped to put him on the path to Catholicism from Islam. He entered the Church at the Easter Vigil in 2002 and drew closer to his parish over time and now leads its RCIA program.
“The Lord has blessed me ever since. It’s all God’s providence,” he said as he stood near the side altar of Our Lady of Czestochowa in St. Patrick’s Cathedral posing for photos and sharing hugs and blessings.
One of those he embraced was Gianna DiPaolo, a godfather to one of his children and friend since their childhood in the Bronx, where DiPaolo was a parishioner of Holy Rosary. DiPaolo, who completed his second year of study in the archdiocese’s Diaconate Formation program, said the new deacon told him, “You’re going to be here soon.”
DiPaolo said Deacon Lekovic has offered him “a lot of encouragement” through the years, saying that he felt the call to the diaconate for some time but shied away from it and needed a push in the right direction.
“He prayed for me, and we prayed for each other,” said DiPaolo, a parishioner of Sacred Heart in Yonkers.
Cardinal Dolan, in his homily, said the Mass of Ordination was a perfect time for him “to praise God for the deacons we have in the Archdiocese of New York.”
The cardinal said a recent Wall Street Journal article about this spring’s commencement speakers at universities across the United States identified a common theme in their addresses. “The speakers all addressed the dramatic need that our culture and society has for service,” Cardinal Dolan said.
By their ordination, the new deacons have “become official icons, sacramentals, of that call to service,” the cardinal explained.
“This is not about you. This is about Jesus and His Church,” the cardinal told them.
The cardinal added words of appreciation for Deacon Frank Orlando, who was serving as Deacon of the Word, and Deacon James Bello, who direct the archdiocese’s Diaconate Office.
“It’s an awesome feeling seeing so many people coming to the service of God and the Church,” Deacon Bello said on the cathedral steps after the Mass as he recalled his own ordination by Cardinal Edward Egan 17 years earlier.
The path of another newly ordained deacon also began with a conversion story. Deacon Bernard ‘Barney’ Kahn was a Jewish man who years ago was identified by Msgr. James Cox, then pastor of St. Mary’s parish in Washingtonville, as the “rabbi in the first pew.” Msgr. Cox first gave him construction projects around the parish, said Rory Kahn, the deacon’s wife of nearly 39 years, and Deacon Kahn entered the Church in 2001.
“This is pure joy—jubilation and the fulfillment of a dream,” Mrs. Kahn told CNY after Mass, as they gathered with family members, including their two adult children.
She said her husband was able to complete the diaconate formation program despite working three jobs in addition to his studies. “God made time for it,” she said. “I’m very proud of him.”
Deacon Kahn is a “gentle, loving man” who is people-centered and especially enjoys visiting the sick in the hospital and at home, his wife said.
Many parishioners of the Orange County parish traveled to the cathedral by bus.
Helene Shepard, a parishioner of St. Mary’s, said Deacon Kahn has been “a man of service wherever he was needed.”
Her late husband, John Shepard, served as a deacon at St. Mary’s. She said his service in the diaconate inspired her own service to the Catholic Daughters of the Americas, where she is now national regent.
Deacon Kahn gave a shout-out to his boss, whom he identified as a good Catholic present at the Ordination Mass, who rearranged his work schedule so he would be able to attend his formation classes. In his own words, Deacon Kahn said he figured he would continue attending the formation classes until someone told him to stop. “Nobody did,” he said.
He views his ordination to the diaconate as the fulfillment of a calling. “It’s what I had to do,” he said.