"The Church needs you as it needed those first deacons,” Cardinal Dolan told 14 men of the archdiocese before ordaining them to the permanent diaconate at a Mass June 15 at St. Patrick’s Cathedral.
“Once again, the needs of the Church are abundant,” the cardinal said in his homily. “And those of God’s people who are searching, who are hurting, who are hungry, sick, homeless, alone— they can never be ignored.
“We thank God for the prospect of seeing you in the Ministry of the Word. Please God, we will see you as well as a minister at the altar at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, at the baptismal font, the weddings and funerals, bringing the Most Holy Eucharist to those homebound or sick.
“But most especially, please God, we will see you in the ministry of charity—in hospitals, at funeral parlors, at gravesides, in soup kitchens, food pantries, home visitations, family tables—bringing the solace and the tenderness that only the Sacred Heart of Christ can give.”
The new deacons are Deacon Rudy Babor, 52, of Blessed Sacrament, New Rochelle; Deacon Edward Benvenga, 60, of St. Patrick, Yorktown Heights; Deacon Shaun Boyce, 50, of Holy Trinity, Poughkeepsie; Deacon Charles Carroll, 35, of SS. Peter and Paul and Assumption, Staten Island; Deacon Joseph Crothers, 61, of St. Augustine, New City; Deacon Gianni DiPaolo, 47, of Sacred Heart, Yonkers; Deacon Richard Ellison, 66, of St. Mark the Evangelist, Harlem; Deacon Nelson Falcon, 56, of Ascension in Manhattan; Deacon Angel Filpo, 65, of St. Philip Neri, the Bronx; Deacon Peter Genares, 54, of St. Clare of Assisi and St. Francis Xavier, the Bronx; Deacon Edmund Lazzari, 61, of Holy Cross, Middletown; Deacon Michael McCabe, 55, of St. Paul, Bullville; Deacon Christopher Merenda, 55, of St. Columba, Hopewell Junction; and Deacon Albert Messana, 53, of Annunciation and Our Lady of Fatima, Crestwood.
Deacon of the Word was Deacon Francis Orlando, director of diaconate formation in the archdiocesan Diaconate Office. Deacon of the Eucharist was the newly ordained Deacon Charles Carroll, who was selected to serve in that capacity by his diaconal classmates.
After the ordination, Deacon Carroll, who is also an NYPD officer, told CNY it was an “honor and a blessing to be up there to represent my class.”
“It’s a vocation of service—being a cop and now being a deacon,” he said. “My old pastor, God rest his soul, Msgr. (James) Dorney—I have his name engraved on my alb—asked me many times, ‘Well, I think you’d be a great deacon,’ and with his prayer, here I am.
“Unfortunately, he passed my first year in the (diaconate) program but I know he’s been watching down on me in heaven. I wouldn’t have gotten this far without his intercession.”
“Everything seems to be like I’m in heaven,” said a jubilant Deacon Babor.
A highlight of the rite for him was “when the cardinal put his hands onto my head,” he said, explaining that when the cardinal “was calling the Holy Spirit, I felt it.”
Laying prostrate alongside his classmates on the floor of the cathedral sanctuary for the Litany of Supplication was a defining moment for Deacon Ellison, as “the people are praying for you, behind you. It felt like I wasn’t there. I guess I was in the hands of God.”
Invoking the intercession of the saints is “very powerful, because it’s the people together, with the saints, that we’re praying to God to help us—to help me and to help all of us.”
“Thanks be to God, that’s all I can say,” Deacon Ellison said.
Among his family assembled was his mother, Cynthia Ellison, 91, of St. Mark the Evangelist parish in Harlem. “God bless him, it’s beautiful, I’m proud,” she said. “The whole thing was gorgeous.” She planned to “ask God to keep him going in the direction he’s going, and be happy.”
A delighted Deacon McCabe, clutching his newly issued Book of Gospels after the liturgy, said, “It’s such a comfort, and I can feel the Holy Spirit working through it. And I hope it works through me through my many years, God willing, of service.
“One of my favorite quotes from the Bible is, ‘I must decrease so He can increase,’” Deacon McCabe said. “That’s what every deacon’s supposed to do, and that’s what I’m going to try to do. That means I have to get rid of myself and let Christ inside of me and increase my spirituality and my goodwill.”
Deacon Benvenga, basking in being a deacon as he and family members were en route to a side altar, his assigned station to administer blessings after the Mass, said of his ordination, “what a blessing.”
“I wouldn’t be here without them,” he added of his family. “They supported me.”
That night, he planned to pray “that God fills me with the Holy Spirit, that I could serve His people and bring His love to all.”
Deacon Benvenga’s wife, Barbara, reflected on “how good God is.”
Describing her husband’s diaconal qualities, Mrs. Benvenga said, “He’s just a genuinely warm and loving man who seeks to bring the joy of the Gospel wherever he goes. He lives that joy.”
Wives play an integral role in the ministry of the diaconate, which Mrs. Benvenga describes as “just a beautiful journey. It’s his vocation, and I support him in that in whatever way I can. In God’s plan, just being faithful to whatever God calls, then it works perfectly.”
In addition to Deacon Orlando, the Diaconate Office is also led by Deacon James Bello, director of diaconate ministry and life.