Over two ordination ceremonies on May 9 and 17, 15 men were ordained as permanent deacons to serve the Archdiocese of Chicago. The newly ordained deacons completed a comprehensive four-year program through the Institute for Diaconal Studies at the University of St. Mary of the Lake/ Mundelein Seminary that included the human, spiritual, intellectual and pastoral dimensions of formation, field education experiences in service to charity and evangelization and a year-long parish pastoral ministry internship. Typically, newly ordained deacons are assigned to their home parishes. More than 98 percent of deacons are married with families and most are also employed in outside occupations. They are clergy, along with priests and bishops. The ministries that deacons perform include the teaching mission of the church, caring for the poor, performing baptisms and marriages, conducting funeral liturgies, presiding at wake services and assisting the priest at Mass by proclaiming the Gospel, preaching, leading intercessions, preparing the altar and intoning the dismissal. The Archdiocese of Chicago has the largest diaconate in the entire Catholic Church with more than 500 active deacons. This year’s deacons shared some of their experiences with the Catholic New World: A domestic relations court clerk, Ray Arroyo, 43, lives in Chicago with his wife, Daisy. They have two children aged 8 and 10. Following ordination he plans to focus on spiritual growth formation. “I know God had been guiding my family and me through the last four years of formation,” Arroyo said. “He has been with us every step of this journey.” Randy Belice, 55, is a photographer and has been married to his wife, Paula Jo, for 25 years. Belice said he wants to serve the St. Mary community in Riverside as it needs him. “Further, I hope to lead others to the joy of service as a resource and by example as a regular volunteer for Catholic Charities-West Regional Services,” he said. “It is through our own sacrifice of time, treasure and talent that we build up the kingdom of God here on earth a little more each day.” “I hope to complete the additional course work needed to fulfill the requirements for a master’s of divinity degree as I feel the gentle tug of the Holy Spirit toward serving those in a hospital setting or in palliative care.” Patrick Casey, 56, is an attorney and lives in Chicago with his wife, Judith Lauth Casey. John Donahue, 57, is director of the IBEW-NECA Technical Institute and lives in Orland Park with his wife, Eileen. The couple has four children: Maggie, 29; Mary Rose, 28; Jack, 26; and Nolan, 19. His first area of focus following ordination will be ministering to the men of the community through Christ Renews His Parish. “I was blessed to participate in such an excellent educational program and deep spiritual formation provided by the Institute for Diaconal Studies,” he said. James Even, 43, is an automotive service advisor who lives in Lake Villa with his wife, Sabrina. They have two children: Dana, 18, and Thomas, 15. Following ordination he planned to work with the parish’s eucharistic adoration committee and baptismal preparation program. What was the highlight of formation? “The blessing of growing in the faith on this path with the group I was with and the growth in the faith through the education were primary highlights for me,” he said. “I am looking forward to serving the archdiocese for many years to come.” Sabrina Even called the formation time an “amazing opportunity” to grow in faith. “The last four years have been full of blessings from the least expected places and experiences. Our family, as a result of this experience, has too grown in faith — from James and I as a married couple to our children and to our extended family members.” Ramon De Los Reyes Ferrer, 55, and his wife, Marisol, are the parents of: Ramon Jr., 31; Daniel, 27; Gabriel, 24; Michael, 19; and Elizabeth, 17 A sergeant in the Chicago Police Department, De Los Reyes Ferrer said he planned to “become the servant of the cups by participating in the three-fold ministries: word, liturgy and charity. His formation experience was transformational. “The proud, self-confident Christian has seen a St. Francis of Assisi on the cross of Christ,” he said. “This experience is only the beginning.” During that time “the Holy Spirit descended upon us with the gifts of charisms,” he said and charged each one to go out and proclaim the Good News of Christ. “I feel very blessed and proud to be able to share this faith journey with my husband,” Marisol De Los Reyes Ferrer said. “We look forward to our lives together as deacon and wife and be able to share this experience with family and friends.” William Frere Jr., 64, serves as a pastoral associate at St. Robert Bellarmine Parish and lives in Chicago with his wife, Virginia. They have one daughter, Jaime (Rohde). The ministry to the liturgy internship was a highlight of Frere’s formation. “It was an opportunity to apply my academic and formation experiences in a practical manner to the various liturgical ministries in a parish,” he said. “It also allowed me to network and to collaborate with other ordained ministers in the archdiocese.” Frere said he is excited to start his ministry as a deacon. “This four-year process has allowed me to grow closer to my wife, my family, my church and my God,” he said. A machine assembly operator, Pavel Jurkulak, 41, lives in Glenview with his wife, Wioletta. The couple has one son, Patrick, 13. Jurkulak is a native of Czechoslovakia who came to the United States when he was 19. Following ordination Jurkulak plans to celebrate baptisms and help families prepare for the sacrament. He also plans to serve the poor and sick in the community. “I am open to where the Holy Spirit leads me,” he said. Howard Lanctot Jr., 62, is retired and lives in Hanover Park with his wife, Margaret (Peg). They are the parents of Paul, 38; Erin (Gilleran), 36; Mark, 33; and Scott, 30. “Diaconate formation though challenging, was life changing,” Lanctot said. It was a time when he grew in faith and that strengthened his marriage. “I am grateful to my wife, Peg, who supported me and walked along side me,” he said. “It would not have been possible without her support and the support of my children.” Ivan “John” Mikan, 37, and his wife, Lillian, live in Glenview and have three children: Damian, 6; Matthew, 5; and Alena, 2. A maintenance man and artist, Mikan said he plans to work with first communicants and young adults following ordination. He enjoyed the retreats during formation. “I humbly submit myself to God’s Holy will, and I look forward to the path ahead,” he said. Lillian Mikan offered congratulations to the cohort. “It has been a wonderful journey and I feel blessed for all the friendships we have made along the way,” she said. Miguel Negron, 52, is an information technology manager and lives in Elmwood Park with his wife, Marites. The couple has three children: Tiffany, 23; Michael, 21; and Brittany, 20. Following ordination he plans to service in hospice and hospital ministry. Lawrence Oskielunas, 61, is an information technology senior program manager and lives in Lemont with his wife, Roseanne Garavan-Oskielunas. The couple has three children: Michael, 33; Maureen, 31; and Sarah, 23. Following ordination he plans to establish a post-Cana ministry for recently married couples. “I look forward to serving God and God’s people as a deacon,” Oskielunas said. Keith Strohm, 45, and his wife, Deborah, have a daughter, Siena Marie. Strohm is the director of evangelization and faith formation at Queen of the Rosary. Following ordination he plans to continue helping others encounter the risen Christ. During formation he enjoyed, “journeying with my cohort and watching the Lord change and transform us.” Deborah Strohm said she is looking forward to supporting her husband in his diaconate service. Joseph Thuan Van Than, 58, is a software engineer and lives in Chicago with his wife, Lan Thi. They have three children: Josephine, 30; Christopher, 27; and Dominique, 24. Following ordination Van Than plans to work in adult and youth faith formation. The service to the liturgy internship was the highlight of formation, he said. “It was like a marathon. The route to the finish line, the completion of the internship, brought me to a dozen parishes in the Archdiocese of Chicago; from Prince of Peace near the Wisconsin border in the north to St. Stephen Deacon and Martyr near the Indiana border in the south; from St. Mary of Celle on the West Side to St. Henry, my parish, and its neighbor parishes in the heart of Chicago,” Van Than said. He observed how people from diverse groups and backgrounds express their faith through the celebration of the sacraments. “The experience deepened my understanding of the universality of the church, increased my appreciation of the richness of the Catholic tradition, grew my understanding of the diaconal ministry and strengthened my resolve to serve,” he said. Robert Thomas, 60, is CEO of Rainbows for All Children, a organization that serves children, from preschool age to young adults in college, who are experiencing a painful or stressful change in family structure. He lives in Lake Forest with his wife, Marietta. They have five children: Christopher, 32; Kyle, 29; Colin, 26; Meghan, 27; and Chris, 24. During formation, Thomas said he enjoyed volunteering at Most Blessed Trinity Parish in Waukegan, where he helped Mexicans living in the United States become documented. Marietta said she enjoyed accompanying her husband during the formation process.