At St. Joseph the Worker Church in Berkeley, Bishop Michael C. Barber, SJ, ordained four men to the transitional deaconate on Aug. 4.

Bishop Barber wasted little time in putting Peter Lawongkerd, John Pietruszka, Javier Ramirez and Mark Ruiz to work.

“Before mounting the pulpit tomorrow, to proclaim the Gospel or preach the Word of God or offer your first sermon. Before baptizing a baby or yourself witnessing the sacrament of matrimony, I’m asking you to join me in serving the poor tomorrow morning, a few blocks away from here in People’s Park,” the bishop said in his homily.

“We are returning to the New Testament roots of the diaconate,” the bishop said. The apostles, overwhelmed by serving the needs of the poor, needed more time for their priestly obligations.

“They chose helpers, called deacons, whose express ministry was to serve the poor,” he said.

The deacons, robed in the new vestments they received during the rites, assisted at the altar. Rev. Mr. Lawongkerd prepared the altar for the consecration; the deacons offered the Blood of Christ to those receiving Communion, and Rev. Mr. Pietruszka bid everyone at the end of Mass, “Go in peace.”

About 12 hours later, the four freshly minted deacons — still becoming accustomed to hearing the word “Deacon” before their first names — gathered at 7 a.m. in Berkeley’s People’s Park, on a strip of University of California property that has seen turmoil, violence and unrest over the last four decades.

It has become a place of respite for those who live on the margins. It is a place, too, where organizations such as Night on the Streets-Catholic Worker provide food and a moment of friendly conversation.

The four deacons — who have come to this place from Thailand; Mexico; Fall,River, Massachusetts; and Oakland — helped haul the breakfast from the van driven by J.C. Orton. For 20 years Orton, once a seminarian himself, has been feeding people, in the spirit of Dorothy Day, in the park and other places in Berkeley the poor gather.

It may have looked a world apart from the altar of the ordination, with its white lace, tall candlesticks and priests and deacons in white vestments trimmed with gold fabric, but the Gospel message to “Feed my sheep” from the night before did not go unheeded in morning light.

Bishop Barber told his new deacons that he hoped the memory of this morning’s ministry would last throughout their priesthood. “Long after I’m buried, you’ll remember this,” he told the four.

Full story at The Catholic Voice Oakland.