Priests, deacons reflect on ordination anniversaries
The Clarion Herald asked priests and deacons celebrating their 25th, 40th or 50th anniversary of ordination to reflect on what their ordained ministry has meant to them over the years.
We are privileged to share the responses of five priests and 15 deacons:
50 years a priest
Vincentian Father Louis Arceneaux
Fifty years ago on May 28, 1966, I was ordained a priest in St. Louis Cathedral by Archbishop Hannan. As I prepare to celebrate my golden jubilee of ordination, I am very grateful for all the people who have guided, supported and loved me as mentors and as friends.
My religious community, the Congregation of the Mission of St. Vincent de Paul, has given me so many wonderful opportunities to minister as a priest, from training young men for the priesthood, serving in parish ministry, preaching retreats, parish missions and promoting Catholic social teaching as an advocate for peace and justice in our church and society.
What I am pleased with is the realization that so many people over the years have trusted and shared with me the significant issues in their lives. Some of the most joyful moments in my priestly ministry have been celebrating Eucharist, whether in large church gatherings or in a home with family or friends. It has also been a joy for me to listen as individuals share with me in the sacrament of reconciliation and then proclaim to each that “God loves you and forgives you all your sins. Go in peace.”
Msgr. R. Cary Hill
I am a retired priest of the Archdiocese of Washington, now residing in the Archdiocese of New Orleans and filling in for priests here as needed. I was born in New Orleans, where I attended St. Rita and St. Catherine of Siena schools and, ultimately, graduated from St. Agnes School. I then attended St. Joseph Seminary in St. Benedict for six years.
At that time, my mother had moved to Washington, D.C., and insisted that I move with her. The Archdiocese of Washington then picked me up.
The joy of my priesthood has been in hearing confessions, preaching and sharing the Eucharist with God’s people. A priest once told me that it was a blessing for him to hear my confession. I had entered his confessional, not sinless, but feeling burdened by my sins, and he lifted that burden from me in the name of Jesus. It has been my joy to try and extend that same blessing to others and to give them a similar experience of God’s grace. In the Eucharist, I am feeding those recovering sinners who are incorporating the living and saving Jesus into their lives, a great privilege for anyone. In preaching I get to build on those experiences by giving words that speak to those experiences and proclaiming them to everyone.
Msgr. Robert Massett
Everyone’s priesthood is unique! Here’s mine!
My parents were married on June 24, 1936 – the Feast of the Birth of St. John the Baptist.
My mother carried me in her womb to the Eucharistic Congress in the summer of 1938, and I was born that year on Dec. 6, the Feast of St. Nicholas and baptized on Christmas Day.
I was nurtured in great surroundings at home in St. Cecilia Parish and Holy Cross High School. In 1958, the Lord led me to St. Ben’s and saved the world from a terrible Tulane engineer.
During my seminary years I discovered Abbot Mormion’s maxim – “Joy is the echo of God’s love in us” – and Archbishop Hannan ordained me on June 11, 1966, the Feast of St. Barnabas, whose name means “son of encouragement.”
For 50 years I have tried to share this love and encouragement with everyone. It has been and continues to be rewarding and fulfilling!
40 years a priest
Redemptorist Father Richard Thibodeau
Over the last 40 years I have learned that priesthood is best lived when one is available to people who are searching for the presence of God in their lives. While a priest is called to fill many different roles in the community, all roles are meaningless to God’s people unless he is available and present to encourage, inspire, walk with, cry with and celebrate with people in their real life moments. People can be hired to administer; priesthood calls us to image as well as to allow others to image Jesus, our Redeemer.
To borrow from a recent commercial, that is “priceless.” Thanks be to God!
Benedictine Father Scott Underwood
Whatever form my ministry of service takes, I feel Jesus’ presence in my life most when he is present with me and a person as we celebrate a sacrament, such as reconciliation or Eucharist, or engage in spiritual direction. A true moment of Jesus living in us is when that person is moved to embrace the Lord as a real person in his or her life, and finds the courage to embody Jesus’ new commandment to love one another as he has loved us. I am most aware of hindering Jesus’ presence when my own failing, lack of compassion or attention, or impatience enters into a moment of service. My comfort is that we can always begin again to embody God’s presence.
40 years a deacon
Deacon Barry G. Campeaux
For most of my ministry I was blessed to be involved with the religious education of young people along with my wife Nancy, who was DRE at Our Lady of Divine Providence. One of the highlights for me was to join the group of children with special needs each week for their class. Just walking in and getting a big smile, a handshake or a high-five always lifted my spirits. However, I was often told that I could not sit at the girls’ table because “you are a boy.” They would all laugh.
Another highlight of my ministry was being able to baptize all 12 of our grandchildren.
When we moved to Ponchatoula, just three weeks before Hurricane Katrina, we had no idea what God had planned for us as deacon and wife. Soon we were asked to coordinate the RCIA process at St. Albert Chapel on the Southeastern Louisiana University campus. I also celebrate Communion services and the sacraments at the chapel and enjoy the relationship with the college students.
One highlight of the year is a blessing of the pets on the feast of St. Francis.
A special moment for me was the first Sunday my youngest grandson Austin served Mass with me. He came out with his alb and cincture just like “Paw-Paw’s” and a huge grin across his face. I was so proud.
I am very humbled and grateful that God has allowed me to minister to his people. I thank my wife and my family and all who have helped me on this journey filled with blessings.
Deacon Lloyd St. Clair Glapion
My life as a deacon has been an inspiration to my family and me. I enjoyed giving a homily once a month, visiting the sick, the prisoners and bringing Communion to the elderly. I enjoyed all the phases of my visits to the elderly, especially the bringing of holy Communion to the elderly. They and I enjoyed the conversation about “old times.”
Deacon Dwight Johnson
Ordination was overwhelming, but it was leading to one of the most important events as a deacon. Upon leaving the cathedral, my whole family went straight to our parish church, where I baptized my first grandchild. What a great beginning to my ministry. With joy also comes sadness, as I buried our youngest son eight years ago.
It is quite a challenge to bring our domestic church – my family – together with our parish church. Much care must be given to this aspect, and with that you will truly have a faith-filled ministry. Just being there to assist our clergy and parishioners with baptisms, marriages, funerals, novenas and with other services when needed was a joy. Lean on Jesus; let him guide you!
Deacon Raymond E. Heap
The best way to describe what the diaconate has meant to me is to use an analogy comparing it to my marriage. When I was courting my wife Marilyn, I had a very romantic image of what married life would be. My image of marriage truly was only a very weak shadow of the reality. That image was fulfilled, but marriage has been so much more than I could have ever dreamed.
I entered into diaconate formation after 20 years of marriage in order to serve God’s people. It, like my marriage, has become so much more. As I have gone about baptizing babies, witnessing couples exchanging their vows in marriage, visiting the sick, comforting the dying and bereaved, preparing homilies and assisting priests at Mass, God has been at work transforming me. In serving others as I have been called to do, my love for him has grown increasingly greater and his joy has filled my life with deep satisfaction and happiness beyond my wildest imagination.
Deacon Gerald J. “Jerry” Martinez, J.D., M.Th.
I did not know what to expect when Archbishop Philip Hannan ordained me. With the guidance of the Holy Spirit, the support of my family, the help of my brother deacons and the gradual acceptance of the people of God, I learned I was called to serve – my family, friends, fellow Catholics and all people. I also learned that ordination did not make me special but compelled me to help others be aware that they are special in God’s eyes. That requires love that is sometimes gentle, sometimes tough. After 40 years, I am still learning to be a deacon.
Deacon Don M. Richard
My vocation as a permanent deacon is so intertwined with my life as a husband, father, grandfather and attorney it is difficult for me to think of my life without the diaconate. As parents of five married children and grandfather of 12, my wife and I have experienced both joy and sorrow. The support of my wife of 50 years and my whole family is what makes the time and effort freely given, truly blessed and every moment worthwhile.
Since my ordination, I have served as deacon at St. Catherine of Siena, a truly loving, caring and welcoming parish. My diaconate has helped me balance my time between God, family, work and service to others.
Deacon Charles J. Smith
From 1986 until that ugly lady Katrina reached New Orleans, I was one of the Catholic chaplains at Children’s Hospital. Each and every time I entered a room, I realized that the parents were suffering as much as their beautiful little children. I was honored to be able to bring them the Eucharist and to bless their little ones. Until this day, I pray for all of them, knowing that many of them have since returned to our heavenly Father.
I remember one Christmas morning while I was celebrating a Communion service at Children’s, Santa came to attend. Giving Santa Claus holy Communion was a memory that I will never forget.
25 years a deacon
Deacon Edward G. Beckendorf
As a child, I often watched my grandfather, who suffered with Parkinson’s disease, serve Neapolitan ice cream to my two sisters and myself. At our request, he meticulously maneuvered the ice cream scoop through the container to precisely deliver flavors separately in bowls of strawberry, chocolate and vanilla. I watched as he struggled to maintain control, fighting to overcome the disease as the melting ice cream often fell from the scoop before landing in the bowls. In diaconate ministry, I have recalled my grandfather’s humility serving us at table. I pray in ministry I have served our Lord’s people humbly and with charity.
Deacon Roland J. Bienvenu
My 25 years as a deacon have been a God-given gift. He has allowed me to bring him to others in many ways: to baptize infants, to bring Communion to the sick, to witness marriages, especially of my children and grandchildren, to validate marriages. Working for 16 years with the RCIA has humbled me and excited me at the same time.
To witness the faith and understanding of the faithful grow and see the commitment so many make in the church inspires me. I thank God every day as I pray the Divine Office for the church and the gifts he has given me, especially my family and faith.
Deacon Daniel Flynn
It is hard to believe it has already been 25 years since my ordination in 1991. My journey, like all members of the clergy, is a mixed bag of blessings and challenges. I am humbled that God would have called me to serve, and I have tried very hard to be a messenger of hope to all of the people I have had the opportunity to work with.
I have been extremely blessed to be able to baptize countless infants, witness beautiful marriages, be the church’s presence with families in times of great distress or just be there to help someone hold on to their faith and return to the church.
I love being present on the altar during the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and had the privilege of being the deacon in both the ordinary and extraordinary forms. To be able to break open the Scriptures and share that insight when preaching homilies during Mass is truly an honor.
My prayer is that God will allow me to continue in my ministry for many years to come.
Deacon Norbert B. Gubert
In 2016, I not only celebrate 25 years serving as a deacon within the Archdiocese of New Orleans but also celebrate 40 years of marriage with my wife Renee. It is through her support that I have had the honor of participating in an extraordinary way in many events, among which were notable events for our family: participating in a special way in the funerals of my parents, officiating at the weddings of our children, baptizing all six of our grandchildren and participating in their first Communions. Now, my ministry is being shared with our grandchildren in a distinct way as they are now developing a tradition of earning service hours and supporting the mission of the archdiocese.
Deacon Ronald J. Guidry
I have been privileged to be at St. Louis Cathedral for 20 years now, and my ministry at liturgy, in preaching the Gospel and living it with many people, has been a great blessing.
Perhaps the best part is to be present to people: most poignantly at the death of a loved one, even personally when my dear wife died nine years ago. Working with St. Vincent de Paul in aiding God’s poor and, sometimes, lost children is to bring Christ alive in the hearts of these unfortunate ones.
Conversations with strangers or friends present opportunities to help make the Gospel and kingdom known. The opportunity to bless God’s children by presence or words and prayers is the greatest part of being a deacon. Blessings are returned a hundredfold.
Deacon Wilbur (Marty) Martinez
Just when you think your life is fulfilling because of your relationship with Jesus Christ, your marriage, your family, your job and even the church you attend, you are suddenly blessed with the calling to be a deacon.
And when you respond in obedience to that calling, you are suddenly and profoundly flooded with fulfillment at a level too deep for words. To be of service to the priest of my parish, to share in times of joy and great sadness of my fellow parishioners and to minister the sacraments has humbled me and elevated my devotion to my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Deacon Paul D. Mumme
Throughout my 25 years of serving the archdiocese, my wife Elizabeth has been at my side. We will be married 59 years this November, and she is my life. Together we raised nine children, and our close and loving family includes 22 grandchildren and soon-to-be 12 great-grandchildren. We are truly blessed.
Being able to serve at God’s altar and preach the Gospel have given me great joy as well as performing weddings, baptisms and funerals. Being able to bring God into difficult situations – i.e., the loss of a friend or loved one or when someone experiences serious illness – is also an important part of my ministry.
I cannot imagine what our lives would be like without our close relationship with the Lord.
Deacon Harold A. Vincent
From the time I was a child, I have wanted to help people. As a deacon, I have approached life in the same way.
In ministering to God’s people my intent has been to render service that results in their experiencing the love of God. I have simply been an instrument or a channel with which or through which God extended his favor to others. And that is my fulfillment.
The greatness of this God of surprise is that he makes his love for me real through the persons whom I serve. I receive more than I give. God has drawn me closer to him each moment of my diaconal life. I am grateful.