Deacon closer to priesthood as Bishop Stika leads ordination Mass at St. Mary Church in Johnson City
Arthur Torres Barona is an important step closer to the priesthood following his ordination into the transitional diaconate Dec. 1 at St. Mary Church in Johnson City.
Bishop Richard F. Stika welcomed the seminarian into the diaconate during an ordination Mass attended by priests and deacons from across the Diocese of Knoxville.
“I wish to thank Arthur for responding to the call of Jesus to be a true missionary of the Gospel—traveling from the mountains of Colombia to the mountains of East Tennessee,” Bishop Stika said. “And so with this missionary zeal, I will ask you to commit yourself to the people of God as a transitional deacon.”
Deacon Barona, the son of Duvan Torres Gil and Ana Julia Barona of Cali, Colombia, is attending seminary at Sacred Heart School of Theology in Hales Corners, Wis., and is among 19 young men in the diocese currently studying for the priesthood. He is the second seminarian ordained into the transitional diaconate this year.
“What a great day it is for the Diocese of Knoxville this day to welcome this, our brother, to holy orders,” Bishop Stika said. “A man who has come a long way from Colombia to join with men and women of this diocese and this local church to give praise and thanks to almighty God, especially with the gift of his life. In these next months as he prepares for the holy priesthood, that as he proclaims the word of God and preaches that word, he might be a true instrument of Jesus Christ.”
In August, Christopher Manning, a student at Mundelein Seminary in Illinois, was ordained a deacon. Dustin Collins was ordained into the priesthood at Sacred Heart Cathedral in June. Father Collins now is a parochial vicar at St. Mary Church in Oak Ridge.
As he prepared to lay hands on Deacon Barona during the ordination Mass, Bishop Stika prayed that the seminarian will be given the wisdom of the office that he will hold and will be able to preach the Gospel effectively.
Informing the young deacon that he has been found worthy to advance into the diaconate, Bishop Stika, in his homily, advised Deacon Barona of the many duties he will perform in his vocation—from proclaiming the Gospel, preparing the Eucharistic sacrifice, performing baptisms and providing viaticum to the dying to teaching the faith from the pulpit, in parishioners’ homes, at the soccer field or at a parish festival while sitting in a dunking booth.
“Relying on the help of the Lord God and our savior, Jesus Christ, we choose this man, our brother, for the Order of the Deacon. These words are pretty powerful, the concept may be a bit mystifying and the task enormous, and yet here we are with our dear brother Arthur, celebrating a moment that will have an immense effect on his life, and in reality on all of us and those we represent—of course relying on the help of God,” Bishop Stika said.
Bishop Stika encouraged Deacon Barona to follow the example of St. Francis of Assisi, “who challenged his friars to preach the Gospel always, and to, at times, even use words.”
“You, by the virtue of the office that you will hold, I pray will be a gift to the people you are assigned to serve and to the people that you will share faith with, whether at Sacred Heart, at St. Mary’s here, or in your assignments to come,” the bishop added.
The call to be a deacon is the same one that “calls you from the community of faith to be a minister of the Gospel and, God willing, a minister of the sacraments in the future,” Bishop Stika said. “Just think of what it involves. You will proclaim the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, a Gospel that is so important that we even stand in the liturgy when we hear those words spoken. You will prepare the Eucharistic sacrifice. You will set the table of the Lord for Mass.
“You will be privileged to bring the body and blood of Jesus Christ to those who are in need of healing, to those who are in the journey of life, especially in those last moments of their lives. Also, you’ll be challenged, especially in a world this day that so often rejects people of faith, to exhort believers and nonbelievers, the lukewarm believers, and sometimes those cafeteria Catholics and people who are searching for truth in their lives.”
Deacon Barona’s formal education will continue at Sacred Heart School of Theology for a time, “when in reality, your formation continues for the rest of your life,” Bishop Stika said. “I can tell you that as you progress from this moment to the priesthood, your professors will be the people you are called to serve in parishes and institutions and wherever the bishop might choose to send you.”
The bishop invited the assembly to pray for Deacon Barona and “all those who live in holy orders, for the priests and the bishops and the deacons who at one moment in their lives responded to the Lord, maybe a bit mystified, but responded to the Lord to be of service to you the people of God.”
Bishop Stika said “it is a privilege to be able to once again celebrate this ordination of a deacon.
“This is one of those days that we celebrate the fullness of priesthood. For as a priest and as a bishop, I still am a deacon, and under this vestment I wear the deacon’s dalmatic reminding me of my unique relationship with our priests and deacons.
“So, Arthur, thank you for your willingness and desire to travel, as I said, from the mountains of Colombia to the mountains of Tennessee. I pray that you might always see in this eastern part of Tennessee your family and your home, for we all welcome you with open arms and we pray that what the Lord has begun in you this day might be brought to fulfillment.”
Principal concelebrants at the Mass were Father David Boettner, a diocesan vicar general and moderator of the curia; Father Thomas Knoeble of Sacred Heart School of Theology; Father Michael Cummins, diocesan director of vocations; and Father Peter Iorio, pastor of St. Mary Church. Father Randy Stice, diocesan director of worship and liturgy, and Deacon Gary Brinkworth served as masters of ceremonies. Deacon George Fredericks of St. Mary Church served as deacon of the Word.
The St. Mary Church choir, directed by Dolores Fredericks, led the music.
Deacon Barona, who is in his fourth year in the United States and in his second year at St. Mary Church, addressed St. Mary parishioners as the Mass concluded. He said he is excited to reach this point in his vocation.
“It’s what I’ve been waiting for. It’s a great opportunity to configure myself with Christ in the service with his people and the parishioners of St. Mary,” he said.
He also thanked everyone who supported him in his vocation.
“Last night, Father Manuel [Pérez] said to me, ‘Your time has come.’ And the time has come to preach and do God’s work, and this is the time for me to say thanks, Bishop Stika, for having me in the diocese—thanks to the diocese, thanks to priest brothers here and deacons, and also thanks to those who have supported me with your prayers and with your love also, but especially to this parish. It has adopted me as its son, and I thank you for that because I feel at home, and I told Father Peter, this is home.”