Future deacons reflect on their call to ministry

Bishop McKnight has summoned five to holy orders on Oct. 13


Bishop W. Shawn McKnight has summoned five men of the Jefferson City diocese to become permanent deacons.

He plans to ordain them during Mass at 2 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 13, in the Cathedral of St. Joseph in Jefferson City.

Four of the men and their wives have been preparing for the diaconate since 2015. Another entered formation more recently.

Summoned to service

 “I’m a servant who is working for the Kingdom of God to flourish.”

That’s how Pedro de Jesus Almazan sees his calling to the diaconate.

He grew up in El Salvador and has been Catholic all his life. He now works at ConAgra at Marshall.

He and his wife Norma are members of St. Peter parish in Marshall.

He first began thinking about being a deacon “to better serve my community.”

He said he’s eager to focus on evangelization — leading people to Christ through a personal encounter with Him.

One of the best ways he can think of to do that is to visit with families one-on-one and talk to them about the importance of the sacraments.

He asks for people to pray an “Our Father” and a “Hail Mary” for him and his fellow candidates as they prepare to begin their ordained ministry.

Leading people back

Having experienced a powerful conversion himself, Jeronimo Chinchilla Cordón believes the best way to lead others to Christ is to start with the people he already knows and spread out from there.

“The opportunity is that I know my community and that I know where the need for God is,” he said.

Baptized as a child in Honduras, he came to the United States in 1995 and experienced a spiritual conversion here in 2012.

He sought and received the other sacraments of initiation in 2013.

He and his wife Blanca have two children and are members of St. Mary parish in Milan.

He emphasized that he and his fellow deacon candidates from Latin America are being ordained “for service not only to Hispanics but for the whole community.”

He is convinced that there are numerous opportunities to lead people to Christ just by visiting those who don’t go to Mass or actively practice their faith.

“In other words, to evangelize the baptized,” he said.

He hopes that beginning there, God will bring about a change in people and lead them toward a better future.

Mr. Cordón said he began discerning his call to the diaconate “because I believe that is the call, and that there are many people who need to know about God.”

He asks for prayers for fortitude and for continued guidance from the Holy Spirit for him and his fellow deacon candidates.

“God is with me”

Edwin Omar Pacheco thanks God for allowing him to be born and raised in a Catholic family.

“I have been a Catholic all my life, although in my adolescence and youth I didn’t practice,” he noted. “But I had my encounter with God in the year 2000, through the Catholic Charismatic Renewal.

Mr. Pacheco was born and raised in El Salvador — specifically in Canton San José Capulín in the Jurisdiction of Santa Rosa Guachipilin, Municipality of Santa Ana.

He and his wife Clelia Guadalupe Gomez de Pacheco have five children.

He works in the Con-Agra meat-processing plant in Milan.

He first began thinking about being a deacon because it is a way to serve God and others.

He now hopes to be able to lead other people to a personal encounter with God.

He is convinced that with God’s help, he will do well in his ministry as a deacon.

I am a person with limitations and errors,” he acknowledged. “But I also consider myself a person of faith; and I believe that God is with me — and if He is with me who is against me?”

He plans on being of service to others in whatever ways the bishop has in mind for him.

He asked for prayers “not only for me, but for the other companions and their families.”

Knocking on doors

Santos Abel Rubio strives to be a humble servant of the Lord, seeking things of heaven and not of this earth.

“Where the need is, there I want to be,” said Mr. Rubo, who goes by Abel.

He grew up in El Salvador. He and his wife Maria have three children and are members of St. Peter parish in Marshall.

Mr. Rubio studied until ninth grade in El Salvador and completed his high-school equivalency in the United States.

He now works with his brother in lawn care.

His parents have been Catholic all their lives but he never accompanied them.

God caught up with him as an adult.

“I had my personal encounter with the Lord when I was 26 years old in a New Life Retreat in the Spirit of Charismatic Renewal in Marshall in June of 2006,” he said.

He first felt called to be a deacon because of a great need for ministry in Spanish-speaking communities in this diocese.

Active in evangelization since his conversion experience, “I have seen many Catholic families who do not approach the sacraments, and if they go, they go with fear that they will not be understood,” he said.

He hopes to serve as a bridge between people and the Church and to help as Catholic families who don’t go to the Church draw closer to the Lord.

His greatest hope is “that God may find that His people and the people grow closer to Him.”

He’s eager to continue evangelizing, specifically to “go knocking on doors of Catholic and non-Catholic families and proclaiming to them of the Word of God.”

He asks for people to pray an “Our Father” each day for him and his family.

“Something else in mind”

It came as a surprise to Juan Enrique Castro Palos when Bishop McKnight asked him to consider being a deacon.

“It’s something I never considered before,” said Mr. Castro, who goes by Enrique. “Then this call came forth and I began to discern.”

It took him some time to realize that this is what God is calling him to be.

“It’s something I know I don’t deserve,” he said. “I feel very humbled to be able to respond to it and continue to serve the Church in whatever ways God has planned for me.”

Mr. Castro is the diocesan director of intercultural and marriage ministries.

He coordinates the diocese’s outreach to Hispanic, Korean and Filipino Catholics, while serving as a resource for marriage preparation, marriage enrichment and natural family planning.

The oldest of seven siblings in his family, he grew up in Aguascalientes in Central Mexico.

“Since I was little, I’ve always felt God’s presence and been conscious of that presence,” he said. “He’s always filled me with a desire to serve people. I feel good when I’m with other people and trying to make a difference in their lives.”

Mr. Castro moved to the United States at age 18 to study music at the University of Arkansas in Little Rock, focusing on classical guitar and conducting.

Sensing a possible call to Priesthood, he enrolled in St. Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology in Indiana in order “to really discern what God wanted for me.”’

He completed master’s degrees in philosophy and theology.

It was a great experience, but after a few years, he realized that Priesthood was not what God wanted for him.

“But He did have something else in mind,” said Mr. Castro.

He came to the Jefferson City diocese in 2011 to coordinate ministry to the growing communities of Hispanic Catholics in central and northern Missouri.

A year later, he met his wife, Cristhia. They got married and now have two children. They are members of St. Peter parish in Jefferson City.

Mr. Castro is amazed at how God is already using him to draw people closer to Christ.

“Andrew brought Peter to Jesus so that he could be the leader that Jesus wanted him to be,” he said. “I believe that we are not called to be the protagonists, but to be Andrews who empower and bring others to Christ so that He can call them to be and share the best of them.” 

He’s eager to serve the people and help the bishop carry out his vision for the diocese.

“I just want to be part of spreading the Gospel,” he said. “I just want to be an instrument of the mission of the Church.”

He’s adamant that the call to the deaconate should not undermine or interfere with his primary vocation to be a husband and father.

“I believe that the diaconate is also a call to be a better husband, to be a man of the family, to be a better father,” he said. “It’s a way that God strengthens that first vocation.”

He believes the diaconate “is also a way that we as a family can respond together to God’s call to serve others.”

He noted how Jesus in Luke, Chapter 9, spoke of keeping the hand on the plow without looking back.

“The person with the hand on the plow doesn’t see anything but plain terrain ahead of him,” said Mr. Castro. “He doesn’t know what fruit is coming about.

“It’s the same with the diaconate. You cannot plan what’s ahead of you. But with God’s grace, you will produce good fruit. So you break the ground and know that God will do the rest.”

Mr. Castro believes young families present a great opportunity for leading people to Christ.

“We tend to see young families as a generation we stand a chance of losing,” he said. “But they actually offer us a great opportunity to look at new ways of evangelization, new forms of ministry.”

Locally, the Church is changing and becoming more diverse.

“With these young families, that gives us an opportunity to think about our catholicity, to be a really Catholic Church, a universal Church,” he said.

Mr. Castro asks for prayers for him and his fellow deacons and deacon candidates to remain open to God’s grace, “so that we are open to doing His will and open to serve the people of God.”