Ronaldo Mercado, Keith Hathaway, and Michael Greco ordained to transitional diaconate

By Joan Kurkowski-Gillen / Correspondent

Photos by Donna Rychaert and Joan Kurkowsk-Gilleni

North Texas Catholic

Deacon Keith Hathaway, Ronaldo Mercado, and Michael Greco emerge from St. Jude Parish following their ordination to the Diaconate on July 26

Deacons Keith Hathaway, Ronaldo Mercado, and Michael Greco emerge from St. Jude Church following their ordination to the transitional diaconate on July 26. (Photo by Joan Kurkowski-Gillen/NTC)

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Marking a critical step in their journey to the priesthood, three men were ordained to the transitional diaconate by Bishop Michael Olson during a morning Mass celebrated July 26 at St. Jude Parish Mansfield.

Family and friends gathered inside the new, spacious church to support Michael Greco, Keith Hathaway, and Ronaldo Mercado as they promised to “discharge the office of deacon with humble charity in order to assist the priestly order and benefit the Christian people.” God willing, the men will be ordained to the priesthood next spring after completing a final year of theological studies.

The word “deacon” comes from the Greek word “diakonos” meaning servant or minister, and Bishop Olson reminded the candidates of the new role they assume in the life of the Church.

“You are ministers of the Gospel. You are ministers of the sacraments. You are ministers of charity and love,” he said, addressing the seminarians.

Although becoming a deacon is a step toward priesthood, the deacon’s ministry to care for the poor, the marginalized, the overlooked, and the isolated is not transitional and does not go away.

“It is transitional in that it takes root and flowers in priesthood soon to come,” the bishop pointed out. “As Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI reminds us, every priest continues to be a deacon. Always be aware of this dimension.”

Jesus Christ acted as a teacher and deacon when He washed the feet of his apostles.

“He wants us to follow Him to be deacons and carry out his ministry for humanity to the point that He wants us to wash the dirty feet of people entrusted to our care,” Bishop Olson said. He then urged, “This dimension seems to be of paramount importance. Never forget that you are deacons.”

Before conferring the rite of diaconal ordination by the laying on of hands and prayer of ordination, the bishop told the candidates to remember Christ called them to this vocation.

“It is He who has chosen you. He offers you love on a daily basis through the grace of your ordination. Trust this grace,” he asserted. “Trust Him during times of fear, oppression, and loneliness.”

During the ceremony, each man received a stole and dalmatic — the outward signs of their new ministry. Father Kyle Walterscheid, pastor of St. John Paul II University Parish in Denton, had served as Vocations director when the deacons entered seminary and was one of the priests and deacons who assisted with the vesting of garments.

“It’s good to see the steady increase of vocations and seminarians in our diocese,” he said. “From 15 or 20 years ago when we had just one ordination a year, we’re having three a year. It’s a great joy for our local Church and allows us to expand and build up the kingdom of God.”

During the next year, the deacons will receive a pastoral assignment along with their seminary studies. They are also allowed to baptize and do marriage preparation.

“They’ll be putting what’s been theory into practice,” Fr. Walterscheid said. “I hope they learn from those experiences [and] become servants of Christ and expressions of God’s love in the world through charity work.”

A native of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Deacon Michael Greco moved to Fort Worth with his parents, Debra and John Greco, 20 years ago. The 33-year-old grew up in St. Michael Parish and has a brother, Matthew, and twin sister, Rachel. He is the first religious vocation to come from the Greco family and will complete his theological studies at the Catholic University of America.

“It’s taken a long time to get to this day — a long process,” Debra Greco said, remembering how her son attended a weekend vocation program and took time to think about his life before entering Holy Trinity seminary. “We’re so happy for Michael. It’s certainly the Lord’s calling.”

Deacon Ronaldo Mercado’s family was always close to the Church, according to his aunt, Josie Capulong, who traveled from Salinas, California, to attend the ordination liturgy. The deacon’s mother, Seny, lives in the Philippines, and his father, Jose, is deceased.

Capulong helped the former medical technician emigrate from the Philippines and obtain a U.S. visa so he could work in a hospital. After moving to Vernon, in the Northwest Deanery, he joined Holy Family of Nazareth Parish where members welcomed him and nurtured his vocation.

“My brother, Jose, would be very happy today,” Capulong said. “This is an exciting day for our family. Ever since he was a boy, Ronaldo looked up to the parish priests.”

Dcn. Mercado, 41, will continue his studies at Assumption Seminary in San Antonio.

“God has blessed our family incredibly,” said Debbie Hathaway, the mother of newly ordained Deacon Keith Hathaway, age 26.

The St. Jude parishioner and her husband, Rob, are also the parents of seminarian Kevin Hathaway. Both sons graduated from Mansfield High School and were Eagle Scouts. Their father was a scoutmaster.

“I’m so humbled by Keith’s faith and that God called him,” his mother added. “He entered the seminary when he was 18, but the years have gone by quickly.”

After the ordination ceremony, Dcn. Hathaway will return to the Theological College of Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.

Gary Marcucci admitted becoming a little teary eyed as he waited for the ordination Mass to begin. Keith Hathaway was a young member of his very first Bible study class.

“When I found out he was discerning a call to the priesthood, I was optimistic, but realized it’s a long process,” said the St. Jude parishioner.

To help support the seminarian spiritually and monetarily, he and other members of the Knights of Columbus Council 7736 send Dcn. Hathaway a monthly care package.

“We send whatever he needs,” Marcucci said of the parcels that often contain homemade cookies, gift cards, black socks, and other needed items. “Our sponsorship encourages seminarians because it can be a lonely road. We want them to know they have our support.”

Marking a critical step in their journey to the priesthood, three men were ordained to the transitional diaconate by Bishop Michael Olson during a morning Mass celebrated July 26 in St. Jude Parish.

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