Welcome our new deacons

By Chicago Catholic
Wednesday, June 2, 2021

Welcome our new deacons

Twenty-two permanent and transitional Catholic deacons were ordained on May 8, 2021 at Holy Name Cathedral, 735 N. State St., Chicago. Cardinal Cupich was the main celebrant at the morning ordination. Bishop Robert Casey, vicar general of the Archdiocese of Chicago, presided over the afternoon Mass. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Deacon candidate Rafael Romani and his wife, Hipólita, walk together in the opening procession. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Deacon candidate Jake Vercimak walks with his wife, Christina, and son in the opening procession. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Stephanie McIntyre leads the procession to the ambo for the proclamation of the Gospel. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Deacon Bob Puhala, director of the Institute for Diaconal Studies, receives a blessing from Cardinal Cupich before proclaiming the Gospel. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
John Murray kneels before Cardinal Cupich and promises respect and obedience during the rite of ordination. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Pedro Benitez kneels before Bishop Robert Casey and promises respect and obedience during the rite of ordination. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
During the Litany of Supplication, Bishop Robert Casey asks the congregation to pray for the deacons while they lie prostrate in front of the altar. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Cardinal Cupich lays his hands on Canon Regular Brother Joseph Brom during the laying on of hands and prayer of ordination during the ordination rite. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Bishop Casey lays his hands on Rafael Romani during the laying on of hands and prayer of ordination during the ordination rite. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Bishop Casey shares the kiss of peace with the newly ordained deacons during the Ordination Rite. COVID-19 restrictions changed the kiss of peace from an embrace to a bow. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Father Bill Gubbins, resident priest at St. Elizabeth Seton Church in Orland Hills, vests Deacon Robert Velcich. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Father Luis Valerio-Romano vests newly ordained Deacon Philip Wroblewski. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Bishop Robert Casey presents the Book of the Gospels to newly ordained Deacon John Burnett. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Cardinal Cupich presents the Book of the Gospels to newly ordained Deacon José Osmín Oporto. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Cardinal Cupich raises the Blood of Christ during the eucharistic prayer. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Father Mike Meany, pastor of St. John Brebeuf in Niles, join other priests in celebrating the Eucharistic prayer from the pews. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
The newly ordained deacons share the sign of peace. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)

Twenty-two permanent and transitional deacons were ordained during two Masses on May 8 at Holy Name Cathedral, 735 N. State St., Chicago. Cardinal Cupich celebrated the morning ordination and Bishop Robert Casey, vicar general of the Archdiocese of Chicago, presided over the afternoon Mass.

The newly ordained deacons are assigned to parishes in Arlington Heights, Calumet City, Chicago, Des Plaines, Hanover Park, Mount Prospect, Mundelein, Orland Hills, Palatine, Streamwood, Waukegan and Winnetka.

The newly ordained deacons will assist the bishop and his priests in ministries of the word, liturgy and charity. This includes proclaiming the Gospel, leading intercessions, preaching, preparing the altar, celebrating baptisms, leading the faithful in prayer, distributing holy Communion, witnessing marriages and conducting wake and funeral services. Deacons also identify the needs of poor and underserved, and shepherd the church’s resources to meet those needs. 

Diaconate formation for permanent deacons requires completion of a comprehensive, four-year program through the Institute for Diaconal Studies or the Instituto de Liderazgo Pastoral for Spanish speakers, both located at the University of St. Mary of the Lake in Mundelein. The programs include human, spiritual, intellectual and pastoral dimensions of formation and a year-long parish pastoral ministry internship. The new deacons are:

Deacon Alfredo Alviar, St. Gall Parish, Chicago

Deacon Alfredo Alviar was born in Acapulco, Mexico. After high school, he served in the U.S. Marine Corps.

He and his wife, Andrea, have been married for 28 years and they have two children, a son and a daughter.

Alviar understands the permanent diaconate as generous and selfless service in the Catholic Church, preferably with those most in need in the community. He is well appreciated by the parishioners and staff at St. Gall Parish. He is part of the charismatic movement, a catechist, a lector and a member of the parish liturgy committee.

Deacon Simón Pedro Anguiano, St. John Bosco Parish, Chicago

Deacon Simón Pedro Anguiano was born in Villamorelos, Michoacán, Mexico. He and his wife, Alma, have been married for 19 years. They have three children, one in college and the others in high school.

For the past 18 years, Anguiano has worked as a custodian at an elementary school within the Chicago Public Schools.

Anguiano likes to overcome challenges. He has been involved in St. John Bosco, his home parish, for many years in a prayer group and he is the coordinator of the Saturday English Mass. For many years, the family has been involved in the charismatic renewal ministry. They attribute their closeness to Jesus to their experience with this group.

Deacon José Bernabé, St. Elizabeth of the Trinity Parish, Chicago

Deacon José Bernabé was born in Chiautla, Puebla, Mexico. He and his wife, Marcela, have four children, all boys.

The Bernabé family started the Hispanic ministry in St. Cornelius Parish, one of the parishes that united to become St. Elizabeth of the Trinity.

Bernabé has been involved in the charismatic movement for many years. He and his wife said this involvement has helped them appreciate the value of a community of faith.

Deacon Pedro Benítez, St. Ansgar Parish, Hanover Park

Deacon Pedro Benítez was born in Las Latas, Mexico. He moved to the United States when he was 16 years old.

He and his wife, Araceli, have been married for more than 22 years and they have four children. Benítez has worked for Pepsi for the past 24 years.

Benítez said the permanent diaconate is a call to do the will of God in a more conscious way in the church, trying to be a light for people who are seeking the love of God. He and his wife are very involved on the liturgy committee.

Deacon Johnny Burnett, St. James Parish, Arlington Heights

Deacon Johnny Burnett, 57, and his wife, Susan, live in Mount Prospect.

Burnett, a musician and entertainer, said he wishes every Catholic could be exposed to the scope and the richness of the church that he learned about in diaconate formation.

“In some cases, they can!” Burnett said. “Simply reading the Catechism of the Catholic Church or reading some of the documents from the Second Vatican Council will open the reader’s eyes to the beauty of the church’s doctrine.”

Burnett serves as co-animator of the Human Concerns Commission at St. James with Deacon James Bannon, and he and his wife plan to become involved in marriage preparation in the near future.

Deacon Timothy Davidson, St. John the Evangelist Parish, Streamwood

Deacon Timothy Davidson, 52, and his wife, Jennifer, live in Streamwood and they have two young adult children, Thomas and Katelyn.

Davidson, an account manager, said formation has taught him that everyone is formed in unique ways so that they can fill specific needs. The highlight of formation was the bonds that developed among the members of the cohort, he said.

He plans to continue his involvement with parish youth ministry and to work with lector training, RCIA and baptismal preparation.

Deacon José Joaquín Figueroa, St. Mary Parish, Des Plaines

Deacon José Joaquín Figueroa was born in Fresno, California, to Mexican parents.

He and his wife, Cristina, have been married for more than 26 years, and they have five children: Sandy, Gerry, Charlene, Lindsey and Christian.

Figueroa understands the permanent diaconate as a generous commitment to God, serving others in the community, through the proclamation of the word, the celebration of the liturgy and the actions of charity. He helps at his parish with eucharistic adoration and as a lector and extraordinary minister of holy Communion.

Deacon Kevin M. Kucik, St. Hedwig Parish, Chicago

Deacon Kevin M. Kucik, 66, lives in Chicago and is retired from Illinois Bell Telephone/AT&T.

He said formation taught him to “strive to pray first and ask for God’s help before taking on new tasks; rely on God’s grace and trust in the Holy Spirit; and work together with the gifts offered by others.”

He enjoyed learning about Scripture, he said, as well as the camaraderie that developed between members of the cohort.

He plans to serve as a catechist, facilitate Bible study and support marriage preparation in his parish.

Deacon John Joseph Murray, Sts. Faith, Hope and Charity Parish, Winnetka

Deacon John Joseph Murray, 65, and his wife, Eileen, live in Kenilworth and they have four adult children: Kathleen, Matthew, Rachel and Kelly.

Murray, a retired manager of a consumer products business, said diaconate formation has provided personal, spiritual, intellectual and pastoral dimensions of development.

He plans to continue serving as a teacher for sacramental preparation in religious education as well as taking on new responsibilities.

Deacon Derek Oliver, St. Thomas of Villanova Parish, Palatine

Deacon Derek Oliver, 56, and his wife, Jolanta, live in Palatine and have two children: Sofia, 18, and Justin, 16.

Oliver, a recruiter and school bus driver, said formation taught him that “all things are possible with Christ!”

He enjoyed working with the diaconate formation staff and teachers, and is still discerning in which areas to focus his ministry.

Deacon José Osmín Oporto, Jesus, Shepherd of Souls Parish, Calumet City

Deacon José Osmín Oporto was born and raised in San Pedro Perulapan, El Salvador. He immigrated to United States in 1980 because of the political situation in his home country.

He and his wife, Ena Marisol, have two children: Eric and Ivan. He has a master’s degree in social work from the University of Chicago.

Oporto has been a parishioner of St. Victor Parish, now part of Jesus, Shepherd of Souls. He has been a lector and was very involved in the Renew My Church team. His experience of the war in El Salvador has helped him to embrace God as his savior, he said. 

Deacon Miguel Ángel Ramos, Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Des Plaines

Deacon Miguel Ángel Ramos was born and raised in Zacatecas, Mexico. He and his wife, Norma, have been married for 31 years and they have two children.

The whole family is committed to volunteer work for the homeless, and the children are part of the choir at the Shrine of Guadalupe.

Ramos intends to minister in pastoral care of homeless people, where he has worked and continues working to be a good missionary disciple. 

Deacon Gustavo Rebolledo, Sts. Genevieve and Stanislaus, Bishop and Martyr Parish, Chicago

Deacon Gustavo Rebolledo was born and raised in the state of Guerrero, Mexico. He and his wife, Guadalupe, have been married for more than 30 years and they have three children.

Rebolledo studied agronomy and completed an associate’s degree in accounting, and he works for Concord Supplies as an accountant.

Rebolledo has been a parishioner of St. Genevieve for more than 15 years. He is very collaborative and committed to the parish community, where he is a catechist, lector and coordinator of the liturgy committee.

Deacon Rafael Romaní, Santa Maria del Popolo Parish, Mundelein

Deacon Rafael Romaní was born in Mexico. He and his wife, Hipólita, have been married for 17 years. They have three daughters: Jacqueline, Kristine and Vanessa.

Romaní is very involved as a group leader with the young adults in the parish. He understands that the permanent diaconate is an opportunity to serve God and offer more commitment to the community. He and his brother own a landscaping company.

Deacon David Schuster, St. Emily Parish, Mount Prospect

Deacon David Schuster, 62, and his wife, Lori, live in Des Plaines. They have three adult children: Scott Schuster, Kristen Kresca and Jeanna Keller.

Schuster, an elevator constructor, said his formation experience deepened his relationship with God.

“Throughout my life I have been growing closer to our Lord and my relationship with him has continually deepened as the years have gone by,” Schuster said. “Formation has enhanced this relationship at an incredible rate. Spending four years learning, pondering and meditating on God and his church brought me to a new level in my spiritual journey.”

Deacon Jorge Soto, Most Blessed Trinity Parish, Waukegan

Deacon Jorge Soto was born in Zitácuaro, Michoacán, Mexico.

He and his wife, Otilia Salazar, have been married for more than 30 years and they have five children. Soto is an assistant teacher in the Waukegan public schools, teaching social studies to seventh graders in a bilingual program.

He is very involved in the couples’ ministry at Most Blessed Trinity Parish, where he has been a parishioner for more than 20 years.

Deacon Ramón Velázquez, Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Des Plaines

Deacon Ramón Velázquez was born and raised in Michoacán, Mexico. He and his wife, Emelia, have been married for over 27 years. They have five children. 

Velázquez has owned his construction company for more than 15 years.

He and his wife have been involved as lectors and extraordinary ministers of holy Communion at the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe for the past eight years. In his leadership role, Velázquez is open to seeking guidance and assistance from others.

Deacon Robert J. Velcich, St. Elizabeth Seton Parish, Orland Hills

Deacon Robert J. Velcich, 60, and his wife, Catherine Marich Velcich, live in Tinley Park and have an adult daughter, Francesca.

Velcich, director of plan operations for the Cook County Department of Public Health, said diaconate formation has taught him to be more aware of the Holy Spirit working in his life and the lives of others.

He learned much from his internships in the areas of charity, the word and liturgy, he said.

“I also found working with my pastor and the parish staff during the lockdown and reopening of the parish during the pandemic to be an excellent learning experience, but one I am eager to leave behind,” Velcich said.

He plans to focus his ministry on catechesis, formation of adults and children and work with the parish’s social concerns ministries.

Deacon Jake Vercimak, St. Mary of Perpetual Help All Saints-St. Anthony Parish, Chicago

Deacon Jake Vercimak, 36, and his wife, Christina, live in Chicago and have one son.

Vercimak, a software engineer, said his formation taught him that people never finish growing in faith.

“We are never done deepening our relationship with God, learning the truths of the faith as taught by his church, or how to proclaim the Gospel to the world in innovative and effective ways,” he said.

The formation program brought him closer to his wife and son, and he looks forward to serving the pastoral, charitable and liturgical needs of his parish as its first-ever permanent deacon.

Deacon Philip Wroblewski, Jesus, Shepherd of Souls Parish, Calumet City

Deacon Philip Wroblewski, 59, and his wife, Deborah, live in Calumet City and are members of Jesus, Shepherd of Souls Parish, after belonging to St. Andrew the Apostle Parish. They have two children, Jason and Kristin, and four grandchildren.

Wroblewski, an electrical engineer, plans to assist in the adult faith formation program, RCIA, baptismal preparation and marriage preparation.

“This has been a humbling journey of formation that I would have never imagined could happen to me,” he said. “The Lord is truly amazing, and I am still in awe of this calling.”

Transitional deacons

The following deacons are preparing for ordination to the priesthood. They and their summer parish assignments are:

Deacon Michael Klatt, St. John Brebeuf, Niles

Deacon Joseph Brom, Canons Regular of St. John Cantius, St. Peter, Volo





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