By Marty Denzer
Catholic Key Reporter
KANSAS CITY — As the morning sun streamed approvingly through the stained glass windows of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception on May 21, Jonathon Davis and Olvin Giron-Melia were ordained to the Diaconate by Bishop James V. Johnston, Jr.
Jonathon grew up in the Parkville area, attending St. Therese School through fifth grade. He then was enrolled at Lakeview Middle School, where he began playing the French horn in the school band. He continued with his music at Park Hill South High School, ran cross country and also did pole vaulting on the track and field team, “which just about made my mom faint whenever she saw me flying through the air at a track meet.”
At UMKC, he declared a double major in music and geography, taking classes in both. His life-long dream was to be a meteorologist or a storm chaser. But the Holy Spirit had different plans for Jonathon. During his sophomore year, while praying for guidance in front of a picture of the Blessed Mother, he “felt a call to the priesthood.”
He graduated in 2011 with degrees in geography and music. He took a contract job with GE Oil and Gas, remotely monitoring disturbances on international pipe lines while at the same time taking a music composition class, and applying to join the diocese as a seminarian and enter formation for the priesthood. Accepted in 2011, he began seminary studies at Holy Apostles Seminary in Cromwell, Conn., in January, 2012. When Father Rocha told him he would be attending Holy Apostles Seminary, he asked, “Where’s that?” Looking back on the past four years, Jonathon said, “The formation I received at Holy Apostles has truly been an outstanding gift from God for me.”
Olvin grew up in Honduras, more than 1,600 miles from this diocese. When he entered Conception Seminary College in mid-2012, he left behind his family and friends, coming to an unfamiliar place, with an unfamiliar language and culture. He recalled those early months: “I knew some challenges would come with this new adventure I was about to begin … I did not know any English when I arrived. It was really frustrating in the first three months because the English did not want to get into my mind. With the language came the culture … the environment was totally different from the environment where I grew up. But God is always there to help us overcome difficulties and there are always people ready to help. They made me feel at home.”
He began thinking about the priesthood when he was 9 years old. He entered a minor seminary in San Pedro Sula, Honduras at the age of 11, and after five years of study was sent to Guatemala to study philosophy. When he came to the United States, he began at Conception to learn English as a Second Language and has spent the last two years at Holy Apostles Seminary.
And on May 21, the two men received Holy Orders to the Diaconate. Re-enacting the words of Act 6:1-7b, Bishop Johnston prayed over them and laid his hands on their heads, conferring the Order of Deacon on them.
In his homily before the Rite of Ordination, the bishop commented that it was a day of great joy for the diocese. In baseball, he said, when you get to see two games for the price of one ticket, it’s called a double header. Similarly, the Mass that morning treated the assembled parents, families, friends, priests, seminarians, religious sisters, the men and women of the Order of Malta and of the Holy Sepulcher, and the Knights of Columbus, to a double header ordination.
Bishop Johnston explained that Jonathon and Olvin were to be ordained to the diaconate with the intention and hope that sometime next year they will be ordained as priests. For this reason, we refer to these deacons as transitional deacons, distinguishing them from permanent deacons, who are not anticipated to be ordained as priests. The ordination to the transitional diaconate is no less significant because the deacon is to be a priest, he said. In reality, a man ordained a deacon is a permanent deacon; it is an order that carries with it continuing grace. In the same way a man ordained a bishop retains the order of priest and deacon.
Deacons are ordained to help the bishop and his priests in the ministry of the word, of the altar, and of charity in a spirit of humble service. As a minister of the altar, the deacon proclaims the Gospel, prepares the sacrifice and distributes the Body and Blood of Christ in Communion to the faithful.
Following the directions of the bishops, the deacon will instruct people in holy doctrine, preside over public prayer, administer Baptism, assist and bless Marriages, bring Viaticum to the dying and conduct funeral rites.
Deacons perform works of charity in the bishop or pastor’s name, just as Jesus came, not to be served, but to serve. His life is to be “a grain of wheat” that involves a continual dying to oneself to the produce the abundance of fruit that come comes from God’s power and grace, the bishop said.
Addressing Olvin and Jonathon, he reminded them, “Christ himself is the source of the diaconate … the model for all deacons. Christ was poor, celibate and obedient; he came to serve, no be served. He reveals the love and mercy of the Father; may your ministry do the same.”
Following the ancient ritual of the laying on the Bishop’s hands and the Prayer of Ordination, Deacons Jonathon and Olvin were vested in the stole (worn over the left shoulder) and the dalmatic. Deacon Doug Warner vested Jonathon and Father Jorge Mejia vested Olvin. The new deacons then knelt before Bishop Johnston who placed the Book of the Gospels in their hands. Lastly the bishop and all deacons present gave the newly ordained a fraternal kiss. Deacons Olvin and Jonathon then assisted at the Mass.
A reception at the Catholic Center honored the new deacons.
Several days later, Deacon Olvin said, “After years of study, I am so happy to receive this great gift from God. My mom came to my ordination, which made my happiness even bigger! The first three days I would forget I am now a deacon. It took some sacrifices and many nights of study to get here. The final step is priesthood, but for now, I want to enjoy my diaconate and use it as much as I can for the glory of God. Personally I want to baptize many babies and visit the sick in hospitals and nursing homes.
Deacon Olvin is assigned to assist the pastor at St. Therese North parish, as his studies allow.
Deacon Jonathon looks forward to growing into a fuller realization of what it means to be to be a pastor of souls; serving the people of this diocese this summer. In the coming year, he hopes to improve his Spanish-speaking skills. “I wish this could come as quickly as the gift of tongues came to the Apostles on Pentecost.” He has been assigned to assist the pastor at Holy Cross and Our Lady of Peace parishes as his studies allow.
It took perseverance and prayer to reach this point, he added, and the support and love of his parents, John and Brenda. “We need two things in every step of our lives —we need to stay close to Mary and Our Lord, Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament in order to follow God’s will for us and to be open to the promptings of the Holy Spirit. “
Deacon Jonathon plans to keep playing the French horn and being involved in liturgical music in some way. He enjoys composing and helping conduct the choir at Holy Apostles. “Sacred music is a gift from God;” cultivating it brings souls closer to heaven, he said.
And meteorology? Deacon Jonathon has been trained as a certified storm spotter for the National Weather Service and has its number on speed dial on his phone so he can quickly report if he sees something. But, “I think God is calling me to be a spiritual storm chaser instead of getting in a truck to chase down a tornado!”