Diocese makes history with its first ordination of primarily Spanish-speaking deacons
BY ELIZABETH WONG BARNSTEAD, THE WESTERN KENTUCKY CATHOLIC
Several years ago, Bishop William F. Medley received what he called a “daring request” – to ordain to the permanent diaconate a group of men exclusively from the Hispanic community.
The bishop acknowledged the importance of this request, due to the growing population of Catholics in the Diocese of Owensboro who are Spanish-speaking, and whom urgently need pastoral care from someone who understands their language.
According to research by Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Owensboro, nine counties in the diocese have over 2% in their population who are foreign-born, and the foreign-born population is “heavily Catholic, coming from Guatemala and other majority Catholic countries in Central America.”
But, “I said I can’t teach them, I can’t form them – who will? I can love them, but that’s not enough,” said the bishop.
Bishop Medley shared this story while standing before a congregation of Spanish-speaking and non-Spanish-speaking people gathered in St. Stephen Cathedral on Sept. 14, 2019.
The reason for this gathering?
Bishop Medley had just ordained the diocese’s first-ever group of permanent deacons who were primarily Spanish-speaking, and whose ordination was specifically for the purpose of ministering to Latino Catholics in western Kentucky.
These men were Deacon Rene Amaya of St. Joseph Parish in Bowling Green; Deacon José Blanco of St. Joseph Parish in Mayfield, Deacon Baltazar Rafael of St. Michael Parish in Sebree, Deacon Edwin Pacheco of St. Francis of Assisi in Guthrie, and Deacon Trinidad Soriano of Sts. Peter and Paul Parish in Hopkinsville.
The bishop expressed gratitude to Fr. Julio E. Barrera, Deacon Heriberto Rodriguez, Fr. Ken Mikulcik and Deacon Chris Gutiérrez, who had taken on the formation of the five new permanent deacons.
In his homily earlier in the liturgy, Bishop Medley had told the men that “too many times have I and others stood before assemblies to speak with shame of how you and others have been treated.”
“The Catholic Church is always a place of welcome, a place where all of God’s children will be treated with dignity, respect and kindness,” said the bishop. “Let this affirm we are all God’s children; we are all God’s family.”
After the Mass Deacon Edwin Pacheco told The Western Kentucky Catholic that he felt “very blessed with all the prayers” from his parish community of St. Francis of Assisi, which supported him throughout his formation process.
“I feel very full with the Holy Spirit and the love God has for us,” said Deacon Pacheco. “He’s showing me how much love and mercy he has for us.”
Deacon Pacheco said that as he stood before the assembly and assisted the bishop during the liturgy, he looked out at the congregation and realized how hungry they all were for the Word of God.
“I don’t know why God chose me, but I know he has a plan for me to answer my calling and to do my ministry the best that I can,” said Deacon Edwin.
Deacon Paul Bachi, an English-speaking permanent deacon who participated in the ordination liturgy, said he finds it “always a blessing to be at the ordination of fellow deacons, understanding all they went through to get to this point.”
“And, the beauty that lies ahead,” he added.
Fr. Barrera told the WKC that this ordination signifies “a great sense of accomplishment.”
“I have witnessed their growth, their devotion,” he said of the new deacons, adding that the five men have “a great heart for service.”
“They are humble and eager to serve,” said Fr. Barrera.
Fr. Barrera extended an invitation on behalf of Bishop Medley for other Spanish-speaking men to contact him if they are discerning a call to the permanent diaconate vocation.
The diocese’s first group of permanent deacons was ordained in 2012, followed by a second group in 2017. This group of Latino men ordained on Sept. 14 is the diocese’s third group of deacons to be ordained, but the first group in which all of the candidates primarily speak Spanish.
Originally printed in the October 2019 issue of The Western Kentucky Catholic.
Copyright © 2019 Diocese of Owensboro/The Western Kentucky Catholic