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Nineteen to be ordained permanent deacons June 27

Archbishop Gregory M. Aymond will ordain 19 men to the permanent diaconate for the Archdiocese of New Orleans at a Mass of Ordination June 27 at 10 a.m. at St. Louis Cathedral.

The diaconate class of 2015 includes men from virtually every corner of the archdiocese, which currently enjoys the services of 224 permanent deacons.

“They have undertaken the rigors of formation and embraced a sense of servant leadership,” said Deacon Ray Duplechain, director of the Office of the Permanent Diaconate, about the Class of 2015. “It has been challenging along the way, but they are ready to say ‘yes’ to God.”

Another 26 men are in the 2018 formation class, with 21 men being trained for the Archdiocese of New Orleans and five for the Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux.

The archdiocese will host the 2018 National Congress of Catholic Deacons, which will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the restoration of the diaconate in the United States. The theme of that congress will be “Christ the Servant: Yesterday, Today and Forever.”

The deacon candidates spend many years in formation and training. After a one-year period of inquiry and discernment, the men undergo one year as “aspirants,” deepening their human, spiritual, intellectual and pastoral formation for ministry, followed by three years of candidacy, which is designed to confirm the presence of a vocation.

That process leads to a petition to the archbishop to be ordained to the order of deacons of the Catholic Church.

The permanent diaconate as an ordained ministry was restored by the Second Vatican Council with the 1964 promulgation of “Lumen Gentium,” the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church. In 1967, Pope Paul VI implemented the council’s intention by promulgating the apostolic letter “Sacrum Diaconatus Ordinem,” and the U.S. bishops petitioned the Vatican in 1968 to restore the diaconate in this country.

In 1972, Archbishop Philip M. Hannan authorized a formation program for permanent deacons in the archdiocese, and the first class was ordained in 1974.

Formation for diaconal ministry requires a lifelong commitment to deepening one’s relationships and acceptance of God’s will for a life of ministry.

Permanent deacons, most of them married, offer service in parishes, hospitals, prisons, social service programs and many other Catholic institutions in the Archdiocese of New Orleans.

Their sacramental ministry includes proclaiming the Gospel, preaching, presiding at Communion services, witnessing marriages, presiding at funerals and conferring baptism.

The following men make up the permanent diaconate Class of 2015; their parish assignments are at the end of this listing:

, a native of White Castle, Louisiana, and his wife Ursula have been married for 43 years and have three children – Charles II, Courtni Edna and Corey Ellis. Allen is a member of St. Joseph the Worker Parish in Marrero, where he became a convert to Catholicism in 1979. He is assigned to serve at St. Joseph the Worker Church. Allen attended Fourth Ward Elementary School and graduated from Lincoln High School. He attended Southern University New Orleans for two years before entering the military, retiring as a master sergeant from the Louisiana Air National Guard after serving for 21 years. He also retired as a senior field meter mechanic from Entergy Louisiana. “I have a better understanding of God’s call to discipleship, as this journey has taught me what it truly means to be of service to others,” Allen said.

MAURICE V.  CASADABAN, a native of Metairie, and his wife of 29 years, Andree Vath Casadaban, have five children – Blythe Cullom (Chris), Jessie Rettinger (David), Joanna, Dominic and Mary Ann. Casadaban and his family are members of St. Joan of Arc Parish in LaPlace, where he has been serving as an acolyte. Casadaban attended St. Angela Merici School, Brother Martin High School and the University of New Orleans, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering and a master’s in business administration. He works for Entergy. His interest in the diaconate grew after returning to the church following 15 years as a Protestant. “Life is learning to love,” Casadaban said. “With the help of Christ and our mother Mary, we will always continue learning.”

DANIEL L. DASHNER, a native of Grand Haven, Michigan, served as a Marine in Vietnam and was transferred to New Orleans as ordnance chief, Fourth Marine Aircraft Wing, in 1989. He also served as a reserve deputy sheriff for the St. Tammany Parish Special Operations Unit. Dashner retired as a master gunnery sergeant (E9) from the Marine Corps in 1999. He received two Meritorious Service Medals, two Marine Corps Commendation Medals and the Navy Achievement Medal. Dashner was awarded the Order of St. Louis Medal in May 2005 and was recently transferred from St. Genevieve Parish in Slidell to St. John of the Cross Parish in Lacombe. “I know that God has called me to this holy ministry of servitude by the love and peace I experience ministering to his people,” Dashner said.

RONALD J. DREZ JR. of Metairie and his wife Allison have been married for 24 years. They have two children – Ronald Joseph III and Kathleen Staples. Drez is a member of St. Angela Merici Parish in Metairie and will be assigned to Our Lady of the Rosary Parish in New Orleans following ordination. Drez is the son of Ronald and Judith Drez. He attended Resurrection of Our Lord School and graduated from Jesuit High School in 1983. He holds bachelor’s and MBA degrees from the University of New Orleans. He is a real estate appraiser. “God called me to serve his church, and the Blessed Mother continues to lead me to her son to be a man for others,” Drez said. “I am grateful for her intercession and for the prayers of so many that continue to lift me spiritually in this diaconal vocation.”

LEN ENGER lives in Gretna with his wife Kim and their two children, Lucy and Liam. A native New Orleanian, Enger attended Resurrection of Our Lord Elementary School and Jesuit High School. He earned a bachelor’s degree in philosophy from St. Joseph Seminary College and a master’s in theology from Notre Dame Seminary. He has dedicated his professional life to Catholic education, teaching at Holy Cross, Jesuit, De La Salle, Our Lady of Holy Cross College and at Christian Brothers School. He also has served as associate director of the Office of Religious Education and principal of Holy Rosary High School. He was named Outstanding Male Graduate for the Archdiocese of New Orleans in 2005. He was granted a mandatum to teach theology in 2001. “God has always been faithful to me and my family, and I am thankful to God for his being present to us each day,” Enger said.

MICHAEL A. FABRE, a native of Livonia, Louisiana, and his wife Charlotte have been married for 44 years and have two children, Michael Jr. and Leslie Cooper, and five grandchildren. Fabre has been a member of St. Anthony of Padua Church in Luling for 40 years, and he has been assigned there as an acolyte. He graduated from Livonia High, served four years in the Navy and after discharge moved to Luling. He is now retired after working 36 years for Occidental Chemical. “I feel that each moment of each day is guided by God’s love, leading me toward service to his people,” Fabre said.

JODY J. FORTUNATO of Metairie and his wife Christine Simons Fortunato have been married for 10 years and have four children – Gianna Lynn, Lucia Ann, Luke Karol and Joseph Claude. Fortunato is the son of Frank P. Fortunato III and Tara L. Hartman. He is a member of St. Dominic Parish in New Orleans, where he will be assigned following ordination. He attended Jesuit High School, Villanova University and Loyola University New Orleans College of Law. He is a prosecutor in the Jefferson Parish District Attorney’s Office. “I am grateful to the Lord for this vocation, and I thank our family, friends and pastor for their prayerful support of Christine and me throughout formation,” Fortunato said. “We ask for your continued prayers as I begin this ministry. Saints Stephen, Lawrence and Dominic – pray for us.”

STEPHEN J. GORDON and his wife Susan have been married for 35 years. They have four children – Stephen, Michelle, Sarah and Matthew – and three grandchildren. Gordon and his wife grew up in the Carrollton area and have been parishioners of St. Benilde Church in Metairie for the last 35 years. Gordon has been an acolyte at St. Benilde for the past year. He attended Mater Dolorosa School and graduated from De La Salle High School and Loyola University New Orleans with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice. He retired from the New Orleans Police Department in 2008 with the rank of captain. For the past seven years, he has been executive director of the Orleans Parish Communication District, which operates the 911 center.  He also has been involved in scouting for the past 35 years at St. Benilde. “I am becoming ever more aware of God’s presence, strengthening my desire to help others,” Gordon said.

DENNIS J. HICKEY, a native of Fall River, Massachusetts, and his wife Betty-Ann have been married for 15 years and have one child, James Patrick. He is a member of St. Angela Merici Parish in Metairie and will be assigned to St. Philip Neri Parish in Metairie. Hickey’s formation for the diaconate began in 2008 in the Diocese of Fall River. After he and his family moved to Louisiana in 2011, he entered diaconal formation for the Archdiocese of New Orleans. Hickey worked for 18 years in law enforcement and for 10 years in real estate. He is currently employed by St. Tammany Parish. “When I entered formation, I committed to discerning God’s will for me,” Hickey said. “Over these years, my relationship with God has deepened, and I am confident that he will guide me so that I can best serve his people.”

THOMAS M. KRATOCHVIL and his wife Diane have been married for 35 years and have five children – Emily, Nicholas, Megan, Michael and Natalie – and seven grandchildren. Kratochvil is a member of St. Angela Merici Parish in Metairie and will be assigned to St. Francis Assisi in New Orleans. He is from a farming community and attended Griffin Catholic High School in Springfield, Illinois. He has master’s degrees in physics from the University of Illinois and in geology from the University of New Orleans and a law degree from Loyola University New Orleans. He has been employed by Shell Oil Company in New Orleans as a petroleum geophysicist for 34 years. “I have learned that the mercy of God does continue day by day,” Kratochvil said. “When facing our shortcomings and trials, the Holy Spirit builds grace in us.”

JAMES “CHUCK” LEBLANC, a native of New Orleans, and his wife Aline have been married for 35 years and have three daughters – Katie, Emily and Abby. He is a lifelong member of St. Mary Magdalen Parish in Metairie and was in the first group of children baptized there. LeBlanc will be assigned to St. Mary Magdalen. LeBlanc graduated from St. John Vianney Prep High School in 1974 – he serves as alumni president – and from Nicholls State University in 1978 with a bachelor’s degree in communications. He has been in the office products industry for 37 years and is a business development manager for the HON Company, an international manufacturer of office furniture. “For many years I continued to hear the call to diakonia, always questioning my worthiness,” LeBlanc said. “Like the prophet Samuel, I finally answered, ‘Here I am.’”

PHILIP G. MCMANAMON, a native of Chicago, and his wife Barbara have been married for 30 years and have three children – Bonnie, James and Sara. He is a member of Divine Mercy Parish in Kenner and has been assigned to St. Christopher the Martyr Parish in Metairie. McManamon attended high school in Aurora, Illinois. As a Benedictine novice, he attended St. Joseph Seminary College in Covington for a year. He completed his undergraduate studies at the University of New Orleans with a bachelor’s degree in marketing. He is pursuing a master’s in theology from Notre Dame Seminary. He is an expert in data/voice networking and communications and has been employed at AT&T for more than 16 years. “My desire to serve has increased during my formation, and I pray that the Holy Spirit will continue to lead and direct my actions to build up the kingdom of heaven on earth,” McManamon said.

ED MERRITT JR. of New Orleans and his wife CC (Cecilia Bischof) have been married for 32 years and have six children – Ed III (Jenn), Frances (Sean Harrison), Christopher (Annie), Patrick, Sam and Veronica – and three grandchildren. Merritt attended St. Frances Cabrini and St. Andrew the Apostle elementary schools. He graduated magna cum laude from Jesuit High School in 1977 and cum laude from Loyola University New Orleans in 1981. Merritt is a director for WWL-TV and also a freelance voice artist for radio, television and various media productions. Merritt is a member of St. Andrew the Apostle Parish, where he led the parish Scripture study and sang in the choir. He is assigned to Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish in Belle Chasse. “When I first started the diaconal discernment process, I had no burning desire to be a deacon,” Merritt said. “I simply felt a call to present myself for the process. Now I look forward eagerly to serving my church and my God by serving his people.”

ROBERT PENDZIMAZ of Metairie and his wife Pam have been married for 12 years. Pendzimaz was a longtime parishioner of St. Angela Merici and for several years was a parishioner of St. Thomas the Apostle in Long Beach, Mississippi. He will be assigned to St. Clement of Rome Parish in Metairie, where he began serving as an acolyte. Pendzimaz attended St. Angela Merici School, Brother Martin High School and Nicholls State University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in computer science and a master’s degree in mathematics. Pendzimaz is a fourth-degree knight with the Bienville Assembly and a past grand knight with Bishop Abel Caillouet Council. He is a senior computer systems analyst for Jefferson Parish. “I feel that God has empowered me with an abundance of grace, and as I approach ordination, I believe I have moved closer and developed a more intimate relationship with him,” Pendzimaz said. “I look forward to the continued development of that relationship through serving his people and the church.”

BRIAN P. SOILEAU SR., a native of Harahan, and his wife Sharon have been married for 39 years and have three children – Christina, Brian Jr. and Nicole – and six grandchildren. Soileau has been a member of St. Martha Church in Harvey for 20 years and will be assigned to St. Martha and Infant Jesus of Prague Mission as a deacon. He is the son of Herb and Frances Soileau. He attended St. Rita School in Harahan and Redemptorist High School in New Orleans, where he graduated in 1975. He is a videographer for a court reporting firm in New Orleans. “I feel called to continually search for and to do God’s will knowing that he is at my side, and I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,” Soileau said.

JEFFREY J. STEIN and his wife Jeanelle have been married for 20 years and have three children – Emily, Ashley and Brandon. Stein and his family live in Folsom and are parishioners of St. John the Baptist Church, where he will be assigned after ordination. Stein attended St. Paul’s High School. He served in the U.S. Marine Corps, including service in Operation Desert Shield/Storm. He received his bachelor’s degree in nursing from Southeastern Louisiana University and a master’s degree in nursing from the University of South Alabama. He works as an acute care nurse practitioner in northshore hospitals. His favorite quote is from Romans 10:17: “Thus faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the word of Christ.”

VINH TRAN, a native of Vietnam, and his wife Hanh have been married for 25 years and have two children – Thien-Nhi and Thien-Han. Tran is a member of and will be assigned to Mary Queen of Vietnam Parish in New Orleans. Tran came to the U.S. from Vietnam in 1975 and settled in New Orleans East. He attended Abramson High School and received a bachelor’s degree in information technology from the University of Phoenix. He is employed by Atmos Energy Corporation as an information technology professional. “I know that I will be faced with many challenges when working in my ministries in the days ahead, but I will hold on to God’s hand and let him lead the way,” Tran said.

KENNETH J. UHLICH JR., a native of Metairie, and his wife Christina have been married for 12 years and live in Covington with their four children – Claire, Gregory, Isaac and Gemma. Uhlich attended St. Edward the Confessor School and Archbishop Rummel High School and graduated from Mandeville High School. He is a graduate of the pre-theologate program at the Franciscan University of Steubenville. After college, he taught religion at Our Lady of the Lake in Mandeville and at Archbishop Rummel and Jesuit high schools. He is managing director for Guardian Life in Metairie. Prior to entering diaconate formation, he served in RCIA and the Knights of Columbus at St. Jane de Chantal Parish in Abita Springs and helped establish the Louisiana Right to Life golf tournament. He will be assigned to Most Holy Trinity in Covington. “As the day of ordination draws near, I find myself experiencing a deeper desire to further conform my heart and will to Christ the Servant, who came to serve, not to be served,” Uhlich said.

HENRY P. WELLMEYER, a native of New Orleans, and his wife Kelly have been married for 17 years and have two children – Gaston Michael and Lauren Marie. Wellmeyer and his family are members of St. Anselm Parish in Madisonville. He graduated from Brother Martin High School and earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Upper Iowa University. Wellmeyer served for 26 years in the Army and is a veteran of Operation Desert Shield/Storm.  “As our class motto says, ‘Do whatever he tells you,’” Wellmeyer said. “I know that through the intercession of the Blessed Mother, under the guidance of Jesus Christ, and with the power of the Holy Spirit in my heart and mind I can go forth and take care of his people.”

Assignments announced for new permanent deacons

• Charles E. Allen, St. Joseph the Worker Parish, Marrero

• Maurice V. Casadaban, St. Joan of Arc Parish, LaPlace

• Daniel L. Dashner, St. John of the Cross Parish, Lacombe

Ronald J. Drez Jr., Our Lady of the Rosary Parish, New Orleans

Leonard E. Enger II, St. Joseph Parish, Gretna/St. Anthony Mission, Gretna

Michael A. Fabre Sr., St. Anthony of Padua Parish, Luling

Jody J. Fortunato, St. Dominic Parish, New Orleans

Stephen J. Gordon, St. Benilde Parish, Metairie     
Dennis J. Hickey, St. Philip Neri Parish, Metairie

Thomas M. Kratochvil, St. Francis of Assisi Parish, New Orleans

James C. LeBlanc, St. Mary Magdalen Parish, Metairie

Philip G. McManamon, St. Christopher the Martyr Parish, Metairie

George E. Merritt Jr., Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish, Belle Chasse

Robert E. Pendzimaz, St. Clement of Rome, Metairie

Brian P. Soileau Sr., St. Martha Parish/Infant Jesus of Prague Mission, Harvey    

Jeffrey J. Stein, St. John the Baptist Parish, Folsom

Vinh V. Tran, Mary Queen of Vietnam Parish, New Orleans /Our Lady of La Vang Mission, New Orleans
Kenneth J. Uhlich Jr., Most Holy Trinity Parish, Covington

Henry P. Wellmeyer, St. Anselm Parish, Madisonville

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