SALT LAKE CITY – Jan. 24, 2004 was a red-letter day for 25 men in the Diocese of Salt Lake City. On that day in the Cathedral of the Madeleine they started their journey of service as permanent deacons in the Catholic Church, ordained by the Most Reverend George H. Niederauer, the eighth Bishop of Salt Lake City.
Of that class of deacons, 21 continue serving all over the state in the different parishes and missions. Others have taken administrative roles in the diocese. They are joined by another permanent deacon who moved from California to Utah but also was ordained in 2004.
Ordained 10 years ago were Deacons Ricardo Arias, John Bash, Willis Bassett, Jack Clark, Scott Dodge, Dan Essary, Eugene Farrell, Willie Folkes, Paul Graham, Forrest Gray, Herschel Hester, John Keyser, John Kranz, Billy Martin, James Miller (transferred from California), Steven Neveraski, David Osman, George Reade, Marcel Soklaski, Thomas Tosti, Manuel Trujillo and Manuel Velez.
"It has been a very rich spiritual experience," said Deacon Dave Osman, who spent almost a decade serving full time at Saint Vincent de Paul Parish but now serves part time.
"For nine years [I was] doing pretty much everything, but then I had heart trouble. … I miss being full time, and enjoyed working real close with all the parishioners," said Deacon Osman, who assists at one Mass a week, offers prenuptial counseling, and helps with the grieving support ministry.
"I still keep myself busy," said the deacon with a smile.
"One of the most memorable experiences is probably having gone through watching the school kids grow from the time around 3rd or 4th grade and seeing them at the university," said Deacon Osman, recalling an occasion when he visited one of his grandsons at the University of Utah in his fraternity, and another of the students said "Hey, Deacon Osman! How are you?"
"Hearing a 19-year-old that used to serve Mass with me as a kid calling me and remembering me was great," said Deacon Osman.
Other deacons serve not only in their parishes but also at the diocesan Pastoral Center.
That is the case of Deacon Ricardo Arias, who serves at Saints Peter and Paul Parish in West Valley City and also is the diocesan Director of Vocations.
For him the diaconate has had a very deep meaning in his life.
"Throughout these years of service for God and the community I have had the opportunity of serving my brothers, helping them to discover the love of God and the meaning of being a faithful baptized person. Celebrating and sharing the Eucharist and Communion with the community have been very special moments in my life," said Deacon Arias, who also shared that the diaconate had been a blessing for all his family. "Every day the diaconate has been a big part for the sanctification of my marriage and my family."
Deacon Forrest Gray also serves at the Pastoral Center, coordinating the Continuing Deacon Formation office. The last 10 years have been an opportunity to serve Jesus "and the church I love," said Deacon Gray. "One of the most precious moments for me was assisting a person whose best friend had just passed away. I talked about Saint Rose of Lima and, as it turned out, that was just what the person wanted to hear," said Deacon Gray, adding that, as a deacon, "now I take time for serious prayer morning and evening. Some of my family has said I seem to be easier to get along with."
"These 10 years of service have been a life-changing experience," said Deacon George Reade, Diocesan Real Estate & Property Manager. "We always get so much more back than we can ever possibly give. Through grace, our Lord has been allowing me to become much more transparent by showing me who I am (and who I am not); with this knowledge, I pray daily that He will put me where I can help Him the most."
One of Deacon Reade’s fondest memories is when an 8-year-old patient at Primary Children’s Hospital reminded him about the importance of being there and visiting the children.
"One day he reminded me of how lucky I was to get to come to the hospital all the time to be with kids and tell them about God. There are not too many days that go by when that recollection doesn’t pop into my head. ... The Lord speaks to me the loudest through other people," said Deacon Reade, adding that, for him, his family has been the icing on the cake in celebrating this ordination.
"Our youngest grandkids think that whenever I happen to be nice it is probably because I am a deacon. … while our daughters like to give the diaconate credit for any peace that comes my way, and they are correct. And I am just grateful for any example of love, respect and faith that Jesus Christ elects to share through me," said Deacon Reade.
"Deacons touch our lives very deeply," said Dr. Galey Colosimo, principal of Juan Diego Catholic High School on Jan. 30 during a Mass that included recognition of Deacon Paul Graham, who serves the school and Saint John the Baptist Parish. "We are just very grateful to have you here," Colosimo told Deacon Graham.