BOCA RATON | As the clock ticked closer to the start of his deacon ordination Mass April 22, 2023, at St. Joan of Arc Church in Boca Raton, Joshua Martin stood at the main church entrance with other seminarians, greeting friends and family members as they arrived. Asked by the Florida Catholic about his mood as he advanced a step closer to the priesthood for the Diocese of Palm Beach, he admitted to a feeling of exhilaration.
“I feel excited to be here to finally get ordained after eight years to the diaconate,” Martin said. “I’m also feeling at peace. I’m not nervous at all. At the present moment, I’m not thinking about the future or any of that. It’s like God has given me the grace to be here.”
Bishop Erik Pohlmeier of the Diocese of St. Augustine presided at the liturgy, which was his first opportunity to celebrate an ordination since becoming a bishop exactly nine months earlier. He prayed at the start: “O, God, who have taught the ministers of your church to seek not to be served but to serve their brothers and sisters. Grant we pray that these your servants whom you graciously choose today for the office of deacon may be effective in action, gentle in ministry and constant in prayer.”
Martin and 10 other men — three from the Archdiocese of Miami, two from St. Augustine, two from Orlando, two from Venice and one from the Diocese of St. Thomas, Virgin Islands — were ordained deacons at the Mass. All except one (from the Venice Diocese) are students at St. Vincent de Paul Regional Seminary in Boynton Beach. Four of their classmates were to be ordained deacons soon in their home dioceses.
Bishop Jerome Feudjio of the Diocese of St. Thomas was in attendance at the Boca Raton ordination to see his seminarian become a deacon.
Addressing the deacon candidates in his homily, Bishop Pohlmeier spoke of the role deacons play and the need for them to follow the model of Jesus.
“Remember that your approaching the altar today is not simply a matter of now having permission,” he said. “It goes much deeper than just permission to come before the altar. What is happening is that you are being ordained to come nearer to the Holy of Holies, to recognize that we realize the Holy of Holies is the Lord Jesus himself, and it is he who, through my laying on of hands, will conform you to himself so that you are not just people with permission to serve at the altar, but you are bound to Christ, and the work that you do is an extension of his work for his people.”
In order to maintain that connection to Jesus, frequent prayer is essential for deacons, Bishop Pohlmeier said. Prayer in the quiet moments and prayer in the middle of the messiness of life, he said. “The goal is for your life to point to Jesus,” he said.
“Your ministry is not just about what you do. It is who you are,” the bishop said. “And that conformity to Christ is what the world desperately needs. You are not a functionary. Today, you are a new creation in Christ.”
During the ordination rite, the men accepted the promises inherent in service as deacons, such as obedience to their bishop, celibacy and selfless service to the church. While the faithful sang a litany to the saints, the deacon candidates lay prostrate on the floor as a sign of humility and deep prayer.
At the end of the liturgy, Father Alfredo Hernández, president and rector of the seminary and a priest of the Diocese of Palm Beach, congratulated the new deacons and thanked everyone who planned and participated in the Mass, including St. Joan of Arc Parish, which is the venue for the diaconate ordination every year.
Deacon Martin’s mother, Lupe Martin, spoke after the celebration about how happy she was to witness this monumental step for her son. Many of their family members in Ecuador had to watch the Mass via livestream.
“I am blessed. The mercy of the Lord came upon our family,” she said, adding that “the Virgin Mary and St. Padre Pio embraced him since he started seminary.”
Father Daniel Daza-Jaller, director of the diocesan Office of Vocations and Seminarians, said, “Deacon Josh has worked hard to get to this moment. I look forward to seeing how the Lord will continue to work in him to make His divine presence known to all in need.”
To view the videorecording of the entire ordination liturgy, courtesy of the seminary, visit www.svdp.edu/live. To learn more about priestly formation in the Diocese of Palm Beach, go to https://palmbeachvocations.com or follow the Office of Vocations and Seminarians on Facebook @pbvocations or Instagram @pbvocations.