Deacon Michael McDonald joked that he will forever be known as “the corona deacon.” It is a term his formation director fondly assigned to him after realizing that Deacon McDonald would be the solitary man ordained for the permanent deacon Sept. 12, 2020 at the Cathedral of St. Ignatius Loyola in Palm Beach Gardens.
Deacon McDonald was eager to walk into the Cathedral that day to fulfill his vocation calling and achieve a dream 30 years in the making.
“After having my three daughters, I felt a deep draw back to the Church—to strengthen my faith in a way that I never had before,” he said. “I was living in Jacksonville at the time and the pastor of my church, who served as the chaplain in the Army National Guard at the same time I had served, encouraged me to enter into the diaconate.”
He eventually moved to south Florida and the idea of becoming a deacon stayed with him throughout the years, a seed planted and watered by various priests who guided him through the discernment process. However, the person who played a crucial part in Deacon McDonald’s determination and achievements was his wife, Coleen. After he went through personal and spiritual struggles in his first marriage, the couple married in 2004 and began a new life renewed in the spirit.
“When Coleen and I were first dating, I confided in her that I wanted to be a deacon. Her face lit up and she said that her father had been a deacon and that she loved having had that spiritual influence in her life growing up. Knowing that she supported me in this life calling was a tremendous encouragement,” Deacon McDonald said.
In speaking with The Florida Catholic, Collen remarked how the diaconate “changes your life.”
“I witnessed how my own mother was transformed through her marriage to my father, a deacon. Mike and I have grown spiritually from this formation process and we are embarking on this ministry together. We hope to mentor couples with similar stories to ours as part of our ministry, guiding them spiritually to a fuller marriage in Christ.”
The Mass and Rite of Ordination was celebrated by Bishop Gerald M. Barbarito, who reflected in his homily, how like so many recent events the ordination celebration was different because of “limitations imposed by safety measures for the coronavirus.” Although the attendance was limited, Bishop Barbarito said “the Church is fully present with us as we celebrate this happy day for the life of the Diocese of Palm Beach.”
The bishop continued, “My brother, Michael, as you are ordained today, perhaps the limitations remind us of a significant aspect of the Order of Deacon which is to be a servant and one who identifies with the people he serves who are often bound by limitations. We certainly all can embrace each other at this time in the limitations imposed upon us but also rise above them through the reality of Jesus Christ who is present among us.”
Deacon McDonald is quite familiar with challenges and limitations, which he encountered while studying for the diaconate. His intention was to be ordained with the previous year’s diaconate class but, needed another year to strengthen his academics. Also, his formation directors encouraged him to take additional time to discern if this vocation was what he truly felt called to do.
“Taking a second year of discernment was difficult but, a blessing,” he said. “I had time to reflect, build on the lessons I had learned at the seminary and determine what my path would be after ordination.”
Deacon McDonald shared that he hopes to become a teacher in Catholic education, a desire inspired by his wife’s own career as a teacher and catechist in their parish’s religious education programs.
“Coleen and I both have children from our previous marriages and living in a blended family has had its challenges but, we wouldn’t trade it for the world. We stived to lay a spiritual foundation for all our children so that they could overcome the obstacles and rejoice in the joys of their lives always in the Lord.”
To learn more about the Diaconate Office for the Diocese of Palm Beach, contact Lina Salcedo, diaconate administrative assistant, at 561-775-9540 or email email@example.com. Follow the Office of Vocations on Facebook @PBVocations or visit diocesepb.org/vocations for more information. Watch the previously livestreamed Mass and ordination on Facebook @DiocesePB.