Meet the 2018 deacon class

By Chicago Catholic staff
Saturday, May 12, 2018

19 men ordained permanent deacons

Cardinal Cupich ordained 19 men to the permanent diaconate during Mass at Holy Name Cathedral May 12, 2018. The newly ordained English and Spanish-speaking deacons will be assigned to their home parishes, which this year includes parishes in: Arlington Heights, Berwyn, Brookfield, Chicago, Cicero, Des Plaines, Glenview, Grayslake, Ingleside, Oak Forest and Orland Park. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Cardinal Cupich incenses the altar during Mass. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
The deacons stand as their names were read during the "Election of Candidates" before the cardinal. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Deacon Bob Puhala, director of the Institute for Diaconal Studies at the University of St. Mary of the Lake, processes with the Gospel. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Deacon Bob Puhala, director of the Institute for Diaconal Studies at the University of St. Mary of the Lake, processes with the Gospel. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
The deacon-elect stand before Cardinal Cupich during the "Promise of Elect" in which the cardinal questions them and asks if they are willing to practice several promises for their new vocation. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Priests from local parishes in the archdiocese pray. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Cardinal Cupich blesses the hands of Deacon Ronald Stricker. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
The deacon-elect lay prostrate in front of Cardinal Cupich during the Litany of Supplication. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Cardinal Cupich lays hands on Deacon Juan Rosales. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Cardinal Cupich lays hands on Deacon Christopher Weiland. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Deacon Christopher Weiland receives his vestment from his wife P.J. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Deacon David Pham receives the book of the Gospels. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Newly-ordained Deacon Mark Buckley receives the Kiss of Peace from permanent deacons of the Archdiocese of Chicago during the ordination. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Deacon Ramon Cazales receives a congratulatory hug from a fellow deacon during the Kiss of Peace. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Cardinal Cupich and Father Thomas Baima, vice rector for Academic Affairs, University of St. Mary of the Lake, Mundelein, bless the gifts during the Mass. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic
The new deacons exchange the sign of peace during the liturgy. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Deacon Kurt Davis distributes the Blood of Christ during Communion. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
A eucharistic minister distributes communion to permanent deacons attending the ordination. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Cardinal Cupich poses with the deacons and their wives after Mass. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)

Cardinal Cupich will ordain 19 new deacons for the Archdiocese of Chicago on May 12.

Deacons assist in ministries that include proclaiming the Gospel, celebrating baptisms, witnessing marriages and conducting wake and funeral services. Deacons also identify the needs of poor and underserved people, and shepherd the church's resources to meet those needs.

Diaconate formation requires completion of a four- to six-year program through the Institute for Diaconal Studies or the Instituto de Liderazgo Pastoral, both located at the University of St. Mary of the Lake in Mundelein.

The Archdiocese of Chicago has the largest Catholic diaconate in the world with more than 530 active deacons involved in 260 parishes and agencies. Since 1972, the archdiocese has ordained more than 1,400 men as permanent deacons. The archdiocese counts 745 active, retired and inactive deacons, including 77 deacons active in dioceses around the country – from Florida to Arizona – who remain incardinated in Chicago.

The new deacons are:

Deacon Thomas Biegel, St Gilbert, Grayslake

Thomas Biegel, 41, and his wife, Virginia, have three children: Natalie, 15; P.J., 12; and Addie, 10. They live in Mundelein and he is director of technology at Cristo Rey St. Martin College Prep in Waukegan.

The holy friendships he developed with fellow classmates were a highlight of his formation, Biegel said, as was witnessing their soulful transformation. Following ordination, he plans to serve the poor and “those most in need of hope.”

Deacon Patrick Brenner, St. Monica, 5136 N. Nottingham Ave.

Patrick Brenner, 53, and his wife, Julie, have one daughter, Rebecca, 15.

Journeying with the other couples was the highlight of formation for Brenner.

“The men of my cohort and their wives have enriched my life. They gave me the courage and love to accept that God has called me to the diaconate,” Brenner said. “My wife and my daughter are my rocks. Their support, courage and love continues to guide my path and fill my life with joy. I am truly blessed.”

He plans to work in youth ministry following ordination.

Deacon Mark Buckley, St. Bede, Ingleside

Mark Buckley, 64, and his wife, Regina, live in Round Lake Beach and have four children: Megan, 37; Brendan, 36’; Bridgid, 32; and Patrick, 30.

Buckley is director of religious education and a lay ecclesial minister at St. Bede. He has also worked at St. Joseph in Libertyville, St. Patrick in Lake Forest, St. Thomas Becket in Mount Prospect and Church of the Holy Spirit in Schaumburg.

“I always like to learn more about the church,” Buckley said of his time in formation. “I enjoyed the camaraderie, meeting the other candidates during our class time and theological reflection group.”

Deacon William Burns, St. Viator, 4170 W. Addison St.

William Burns, 58, and his wife, Paula, live in Chicago, where he is a retired Chicago police officer.

Following ordination, he plans to work in bereavement ministry.

“I would like to thank former St. Viator pastor Father Charles Bolser for saying yes when I asked him six years ago if I could enter the diaconate program. I also want to thank the current St. Viator pastor, Father Patrick Render, for his expert mentorship,” Burns said. “Lastly, I want to thank the Holy Spirit and my lovely wife, Paula, who were my helpers, my advocates and my guides on the diaconal journey and beyond.”

Deacon Thomas Carlson, St. Barbara, Brookfield

Thomas Carlson, 61, and his wife, Pam, have four children: Steven, 22; Christine, 21; Casey, 20; and Julianna, 15.

For Carlson, the highlight of formation was “the awesome feelings I have experienced learning so many family, friends and parishioners were praying for me on the wonderful journey towards ordination.”

He looks forward to serving the parish in whatever way it needs him most.

Deacon Ramón Cazales, St. Mark, 1048 N. Campbell Ave.

Ramón Cazales, 45, and his wife, Reyna, live in Berwyn and have two children: Citlalli, 17, and Claribel, 8.

Cazales plans to work in family ministry at the parish.

“I think the most important point during my formation was when I had to leave many things in my life, which I thought were more important than God, to know God more, and to make God the center of my life,” Cazales said. “When that happened, my life changed completely -- first for the good of me and the good of my whole family. That is an experience that I give thanks to God every day for putting in my life.”

Deacon Kurt Davis, St. Thomas the Apostle, 5472 S. Kimbark Ave.

Kurt Davis, 62, and his wife, Jennifer, live in Chicago.

“I have been challenged at every turn to be the best version of myself, ‘holy,’ thus formation has enabled me to see myself and my life from a different perspective spiritually,” Davis said. “That is something I could not have understood on my own or without the Holy Spirit dwelling within me.”

Following ordination, he will continue to minister in the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults with his wife.

“Also, I will continue to build up the welcome ministry which is an intrinsic part of the church, putting on Christ,” he said. “At the core of my mission is to prepare God’s people for works of service so that the body of Christ is built up. Then we all reach unity in the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.”

Deacon Jesús Garcia, Mary Queen of Heaven, Cicero

Jesús Garcia, 56, and his wife, Silvia, live in Stickney and have three children: Vanessa, 30; Hector, 28; and Pablo, 22.

“The most remarkable part of my training was a set of experiences obtained from visits to the hospital and the prison where the word of the Lord was taken, as well as the work done in the food pantry, where one gives some hot dish to those who need it,” Garcia said.

After ordination he will continue to work in catechesis and with altar servers. He hopes to form an accompaniment group for families that have lost loved ones.

Colin Huie, St. Michael, Orland Park

Colin Huie, 41, and his wife, Sarah, have six children: Madeline, 14; Rebekah, 11; Leah, 10; Nicholas, 7; Theresa, 5; and Stephen, 1.

“The highlight of my formation is the blessing that has been sharing this journey with the amazing men who, at ordination, I will call brother deacons -- and their amazing wives,” Huie said. “My family is blessed to have come to know them and I will cherish their friendship in the many years to come.”

He plans to focus on ministering to families following ordination.

“The support and prayers of my family and my parish community have nourished this incredible journey,” Huie said. “It will be my great blessing and privilege to serve God and his church in ordained ministry.”

Deacon Richard Korepanow, St. Damian, Oak Forest

Richard Korepanow, 58, and his wife, Laura, have three children: Richard, 35; Allison, 31; and Kathryn, 30.

Following ordination, he hopes to work with married couples and those who are homeless or living in poverty.

His deacon formation helped him better understand what it means to serve, among other things, he said.

“The formation experience has strengthened our marriage and has given me and Laura a chance to share our faith in a greater way,” Korepanow said. “My wife, Laura, was my biggest advocate throughout this process, and I couldn’t have done it without her.”

Deacon Peter LeTourneau, Our Lady of the Wayside, Arlington Heights

Peter LeTourneau, 57, and his wife, Jan, have two children: Emily, 26, and Andrew, 23.

For LeTourneau, a highlight of his formation was volunteering at Emmaus Ministries, an outreach to men seeking to escape prostitution.

“For seven consecutive Wednesday evenings, from 10:30 p.m. to 2:30 a.m., I walked the streets of Chicago on the North Side ministering to men involved in survival prostitution,” LeTourneau said. “This was a humbling and powerful experience that gave me great insight into the importance of a ministry of presence and that all individuals are to be treated with dignity.”

Following ordination, he hopes to become a hospital or hospice chaplain.

Deacon Paul Onischuk, Our Lady of the Wayside, Arlington Heights

Paul Onischuk, 47, and his wife, Lisa, have two children: Matthew, 14, and Noelle, 12.

The highlight of his formation was participating in spiritual retreats, which gave him opportunities to grow closer to the Lord, he said.

Following ordination, he plans to minister to youth.

Deacon David Pham, St. Henry, 6335 N. Hoyne Ave.

David Pham, 51, and his wife, Le-Lieu, live in Chicago, where he works in information technology.

“The highlight of formation for me was learning to be attentive and to discern what God is calling me to do. I have learned much about myself and what I am able to do with God’s grace,” Pham said. “My marriage has received so many blessings as well.”

He plans to work in whatever ministry the Holy Spirit guides him to.

Deacon Juan Rosales, Blessed Sacrament, 3528 S. Hermitage Ave.

Juan Rosales, 58, and his wife, Rosa, have four children: Juan, 27; Luis, 23; Angela, 21; and Emmanuel, 16.

Following ordination, he plans to minister to families.

“The human skills class (Habilidades Humanas), as a principle of my formation, caught my attention because it helped me to recognize the leadership that I was developing in my community,” Rosales said. “As I continued with my training, this base helped me to recognize the direction my life should take.”

Deacon Manuel Salgado, St. Simon, 5157 S. California Ave.

Manuel Salgado, 54, and his wife, Luz María, have four children, ages 22, 25, 30 and 31.

Following ordination, he wants to help form others in their faith.

“I consider myself privileged to have been chosen, first, by God, and then sent by my community to receive this diaconal formation,” he said. “I am very grateful and I encourage the Instituto de Liderazgo Pastoral to continue their noble work of training leaders and deacons for the Archdiocese of Chicago.”

Deacon Ronald Stricker, St. Ita, 1220 W. Catalpa Ave.

Ronald Stricker, 56, said he is grateful for the support his family, friends and coworkers gave him during the formation process.

Following formation, he will continue his work with the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, baptism preparation and ministry of care.


Deacon Christopher Weiland, Our Lady of Perpetual Help, Glenview

Christopher Weiland, 49, and his wife, P.J., have two children: Kirby, 19, and Murphy, 18.

“The formation process to the diaconate has developed a passion within me to help those in our church and our community find God’s call and vocation in their own lives,” Weiland said. “I look forward to serving both my parish and the broader community.”

Deacon Conrad Wojnar, St. Stephen Protomartyr, Des Plaines

Conrad Wojnar, 65, and his wife, Linda, have seven children: Christopher, 38; Nicholas, 36; Teresa Hyde, 35; Timothy, 33; Judy Varela, 29; Michael, 27; and Anthony, 24. They also have seven grandchildren.

Wojnar said the highlight of his formation was serving as an acolyte and in close proximity to the priest and deacon.

Following ordination, he plans to continue serving in parish ministries and at Pope Francis Global Academy, where he teaches.

Deacon Kevin Zajdel, Assumption, 323 W. Illinois St.

Kevin Zajdel, 65, teaches at Augustus Tolton Catholic Academy, 7120 S. Calumet Ave.

Servite Father Michael Doyle, pastor emeritus of Assumption, invited Zajdel to discern a call to become a deacon.

“Recognizing this as a possible call from God to serve his church, I said yes. The subsequent prayers and support of the Assumption community have helped me to become the first deacon in the over 100-year history of the parish,” Zajdel said. “I am truly grateful for this honor to serve God and his church as a deacon.” 

Following ordination, he will conduct baptism and marriage preparation classes and continue working in the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults.


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