A 30-year-old accountant. A 60-year-old dairy farmer/chiropractor/family man/widower. A 49-year-old former gang member/paraplegic/religious brother/hospital chaplain.
Their stories could not be more different, and yet their common destination will bring them together on Saturday, May 28, when these men and five others are ordained transitional deacons for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles by Auxiliary Bishop Robert Barron at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels.
The eight men will begin a year of service in LA parishes as deacons, while completing their theological studies at St. John’s Seminary in Camarillo. Recently, several of them spoke with Angelus about the experiences that have prepared them for a life of ministry.
‘It’s about surrendering to God’
There are challenges to living in a wheelchair — like steps.
“Yeah, the steps are not my friend,” chuckles Brother Cesar John Paul Galan, a wheelchair user since he was shot and left paralyzed 21 years ago in a gang-related incident that took the life of his brother. “I have to remind myself not to give up, to push past steps or whatever obstacle there might be so I can serve the Lord as he wants me to.”
It was a lesson Brother Galan learned the hard way. Born in Torrance and raised in Artesia, he fell into gang life as a teen, which ended when he was shot by a rival gang member. While recovering at St. Francis Medical Center in Lynwood, he found his way out of bitterness and despair with the help of Brother Richard Hirbe, minister general of the Friars of the Sick Poor and a St. Francis chaplain.
Brother Galan eventually forgave the man who shot him, became a hospital chaplain, and in 2015 professed his vows as a religious brother with the Friars. “But the idea of being a priest had been knocking at my door,” he said. “I said, ‘Hey, God, I’m already serving you as a chaplain.’ The thing is, it’s not about you; it’s about surrendering to God.”
A doctor of souls
In all likelihood, few dairy farmers in the village of Sainte-Croix, Switzerland, can imagine themselves as priests. Nor can many race-walkers on the Swiss national team, nor many chiropractors in the Mid-Wilshire area. And certainly not many husbands or fathers, wherever they live.
Rene Haarpaintner, though, fits all of the above descriptions. And a year from now, when he is 61, he will be a father in more ways than one. Surprising? Yes, and no.
“I never expected the call to priesthood,” he said with a wry smile. “But God calls us in different ways and at different times, right? Because nothing is impossible with God.”
Haarpaintner remembers first hearing that “call” at age 18, when he was living close to a monastery, and was attracted to “the peaceful lifestyle and spirit’ of the religious who lived there.
While competing for the Swiss race walking team, he met Lauren Feder, a primary-care doctor and founder of the Center for Natural Family Medicine in Los Angeles. They became friends and then sweethearts, were married in 1991, and raised two sons, now adults.
Haarpaintner also graduated from UCLA with a degree in art history, and in 2002 became a chiropractor, joining his wife in her practice and becoming active at St. Brendan Church. Then in 2014, she was diagnosed with cancer and died that November.
Before that, however, Lauren — aware of her husband’s deep faith and desire to serve God — asked him, “Are you going to become a priest?”
Where they’re going next
Here are the new transitional deacons’ parish assignments for the next year (their home parishes, except where noted):
Michael DiPietro — St. Philip the Apostle Church, Pasadena
Brother Cesar Galan, FSP — St. Mary Magdalen Church, Camarillo (home parish: Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels)
Rene Haarpaintner — St. Brendan Church, Hancock Park
Hieu Nguyen — Incarnation Church, Glendale
Enrique Piceno — St. Pius X Church, Santa Fe Springs
Luis Gerardo Peña — St. Martin of Tours Church, Brentwood
Emmanuel Sanchez — St. Kateri Tekakwitha Church, Santa Clarita
Sergio Sandoval — St. Joseph the Worker Church, Winnetka
Full story at Angelus News.
No such order as ‘transitional’ deacon.
For the traditional, pre-Vatican II-era Priesthood, there are four Minor Orders: Porter, Exorcist, Lector and Acolyte. Next, three Major Orders: Subdeacon, Deacon, and Priest. A candidate for Priesthood is still ordained to each of these seven orders, in the pre-Vatican II rite, in seminaries of religious groups that specialize in the Latin Tridentine Mass, such as the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter, and the Institute of Christ the King, Sovereign Priest. After Vatican II, the path to priestly ordination was simplified, with just two steps– ordination as a Deacon, and finally, ordination to the Priesthood. The Catholic Church decided to create a permanent Diaconate, with no further step to final Ordination to the Priesthood, in the Vatican II era. Thus, the Church today, has two forms of the Diaconate: the traditional Ordination as a Deacon, for a candidate for the Priesthood– now referred to as a “Transitional Deacon”– and the “Permanent Deacon,” ordained permanently as a Deacon, assisting the priest permanently in that role.
Interesting. A clarification: you may want to note that the Latin Church restored the non-transitional diaconate, rather than “The Catholic Church decided to create a permanent diaconate.” Saints Stephen, Philip and others from Acts of the Apostles and others after them, including St. Lawrence and St. Francis, would be examples of such deacons. And, the Eastern Catholic Churches have always had (non-transitional) deacons, even though it fell into disuse at times. And, where do bishops fit into your schema? The sacrament of Holy Order has three degrees: bishop, priest and deacon. And, your note about deacons “assisting the priest” raises a question. Aren’t Latin Church deacons also ordained to serve the bishop (and diocese/eparchy) primarily? Thanks. As you can see, I’m personally “vested” in this. :)
Yes, that is correct! Thank you, Deacon Anderson!
Thank you, Deacon Anderson. I understand that the role of the “Permanent Deacon” extends historically back to the early Apostles, as you mentioned. I know that Pope St. Paul VI “shortened” the Holy Orders to just three, in 1972: Bishop, Priest, and Deacon, in descending order. Are Deacons who are “permanent,” referred to as such, in Eastern Rite Catholic churches? I know that the Permanent Deacon serves the Bishop and the Diocese/Eparchy. They assist the priest at Mass, but may preach, baptize, and assist at weddings, on-their-own. What other duties might you have, in the Eastern Rite, that Permanent Deacons of the Latin Rite Church may not have? Also, I know that St. Lawrence was a martyr, together with seven permanent Deacons of the city of Rome, who served under Pope Sixtus II, in the 3rd century, A.D. Was he married, or celibate? But I had thought the permanent diaconate had fallen into disuse in the Latin Rite Church, long before the era of St. Francis of Asssisi. Please explain. Thanks!
Good questions. In Eastern Catholic Churches we’re simply deacons, no need to say “permanent deacon” any more than there is to say “permanent priest,” since most deacons and priests, West and East, will never be elevated to the fullness of Holy Order(s), the episcopacy. And, since our Churches ordain married and celibate men to the priesthood, some men are deacons for many years before being called to the priesthood. The diaconate evolved differently in the West and East. A couple of examples may help. Our role at the altar involves much more than in the Latin Church and ministry of the Word is more primary for us (from what I understand). We do not baptize as our children receive Baptism, Chrismation/Confirmation and Holy Eucharist as babies, all at one time. And, we don’t witness marriages (with rare exceptions for Roman Catholics), since we have a different theology (in part) of marriage. And, in most Eastern Churches, we’re addressed as Father Deecon or in some simply Father. Father wasn’t always a title for priests in the West and was given to abbots and non-priest founders of religious orders, like Saint Francis. As far as Saint Francis goes, he was a Brother (technically a lay person) for most of his life. I don’t know if he was deacon as a stable, “permanent” office or on his way to priesthood when he died. Some cynics say he was ordained when clergy realized he was going to be a Saint shortly after his death and thought he should be made a cleric! I don’t know the history of all the deacon Saints, but clearly, the ones who were elevated to the papacy were celibate men. (Saint Peter never was a deacon.) All bishops in Catholic and Orthodox Churches come from the celibate clergy. I hope that helps.
“The Catholic Church decided to create a permanent Diaconate, with no further step to final Ordination to the Priesthood, in the Vatican II era. Thus, the Church today, has two forms of the Diaconate: the traditional Ordination as a Deacon, for a candidate for the Priesthood– now referred to as a “Transitional Deacon”– and the “Permanent Deacon,” ordained permanently as a Deacon, assisting the priest permanently in that role.”
This is not a true statement. There is one rite for ordination to the order of deacon, not two. There are not ‘two forms’ of the diaconate. There are the intentions of the men (and their bishops) to either remain a deacon without continuing on to the order of presbyter. So a deacon who is ordained with the intention of not entering a higher order could one day decide to pursue the priesthood and would not need to be ‘re-ordained’ in some other order of deacon. Furthermore ordination to the diaconate expire once ordained a priest anymore than the priesthood when a man is ordained a bishop. The pope is still an ordained deacon.
asdf– Yes, a man in Holy Orders permanently retains all of his previous ordinations. I never said anything contrary to
this fact at all! A Permanent Deacon who is unmarried or widowed may request permission from the Bishop to be ordained as a priest– and of course, both forms of the Diaconate, permanent and transitional, are the same– the Transitional Deacon has the intention to become a priest, and the Permanent Deacon does not. Married men may apply to become a Permanent Deacon, but single and widowed men must remain celibate, after ordination to the diaconate. Furthermore, a priest has an indelible mark on his soul– he is a priest forever and ever. Even if he leaves the priesthood, or is defrocked, or even commits a crime– even if he ends up in Hell — the indelible mark of his priesthood remains forever.
The indelible mark of baptism, ordination of deacons, bishops and confirmation remain forever too. The point is that the terms ‘permanent’ and ‘transitional’ are terms of convenience and are not in any way at all canonical. Organizations like the USCCB use those terms for expediency, but all that ends up doing is to give the impression (and confuse the laity) that they are two different orders. But if one insists on using one term or another, there are only ‘permanent’ deacons. Hope that helps.
asdf– Of course. Most of us older Catholics know that these are just modern, useful terms, for today’s post-Conciliar era. I miss the days, now getting too long ago, when there was more respect for the Holy Eucharist– and it was once a privilege for a new Deacon to now be able to assist the priest, helping him give Holy Communion, at Mass. No layman’s hands ever
touched the Eucharist.
Congratulations to these men for hearing the call and answering it well. May their journey toward priesthood be fulfilling and complete with prayerful insights, challenges and growth!
If diversity was a strength, Yugoslavia would have been a world power. – some guy
Too many permanent deacons see themselves as junior priests. And their preaching is terrible.
bad preaching, thankfully we never hear any from priests.
what if they WERE’NT diverse?
would that make them lesser priests???