Models in adversity: Ordination of three permanent deacons

North Texas Catholic
(Jun 25, 2024) Local

On June 21, Scott Alan Elder, Guillermo Muñoz Medina, and Alan Hung Vu were ordained to the Sacred Order of the Diaconate by Bishop Michael Olson at Vietnamese Martyrs Church in Arlington. (NTC/Juan Guajardo)

ARLINGTON — They come from different backgrounds, life experiences, and cultures. But the trio of faith-filled men, ordained by Bishop Michael Olson to the Sacred Order of the Diaconate on June 21 in Vietnamese Martyrs Church, share a common character trait — resiliency.

During their years-long formation, members of the permanent deacon class of 2024, Scott Alan Elder, Guillermo Muñoz Medina and Alan Hung Vu, persevered through the COVID pandemic, the death of a classmate, a family tragedy, and a loved one’s cancer treatment.

“They went through many hardships during their formation,” acknowledged Deacon Rodney Asebedo, director of diaconal formation, before explaining how some setbacks were caused by COVID distancing mandates. During the darkest days of the health crisis, in-person classes changed to online instruction and chaplaincy internships in hospitals and other institutions were delayed.

Despite the difficulties, the newly ordained permanent deacons are ready for ministry, the director assured.

“Although this is a small class, they are well-prepared,” Dcn. Asebedo continued. “You can tell the Holy Spirit is working in them for service in the Church.”

The history of the diaconate goes back to the early Church when the Apostles asked the community to elect seven men “of good reputation and filled with the Spirit” (Acts 6:1-3) to meet the needs of Greek-speaking widows in Jerusalem. Along with assisting the poor, there was a spiritual dimension to their service emphasized by the Apostles praying and laying hands on the chosen men. In fact, the word deacon comes the ancient Greek diakonos meaning servant or helper.

By the Middle Ages, for numerous reasons, the role of deacon nearly disappeared from the Church with the exception of transitional deacons who are men preparing for priesthood. The Second Vatican Council, under the leadership of Pope Paul VI, restored the diaconate for the same reason it was implemented by the Apostles 2,000 years ago — to serve the people of God more fully.

Deacons share in the sacrament of Holy Orders with bishops and priests. They may proclaim the Gospel, preach, baptize, preside at worship, witness marriages, and conduct wakes or funerals. As ministers of charity, deacons help identify the needs of others and use the Church’s resources to meet those needs. Their pastoral care serves to remind the Church and world that Christ came to serve and not be served.

On June 21, Scott Alan Elder, Guillermo Muñoz Medina, and Alan Hung Vu were ordained to the Sacred Order of the Diaconate by Bishop Michael Olson at Vietnamese Martyrs Church in Arlington. (NTC/Juan Guajardo)

In a homily delivered to the more than 500 people attending the Ordination Mass, Bishop Olson described how the sacred ministry of permanent deacons shines the light of the Gospel on the poor, marginalized, and others in the world considered not worthy of compassion.

“The diaconate is a ministry of charity more than anything else,” he explained. “As a minister of charity, the deacon recognizes human dignity in each person and witnesses they are dignified because each person has been imprinted with the image and likeness of God.”

The Order of Deacons recognizes and witnesses to Christ who is present and loves each of us without distinction and with complete and unconditional love.

“Tonight, by their ordination, these three men die to the contemporary ethic of the world fraught with narcissism and apathy,” the bishop said. “In their dying to self, they receive the Gospel and become its heralds by believing, teaching, remaining close to Jesus Christ, and being present to those most in need.”

The Rite of Ordination began with the ordinands voicing their willingness to undertake the responsibilities of the diaconate as well as obedience to the bishop and his successors. As the congregation prayed for guidance and grace during the Litany of Supplication, also known as the Litany of Saints, the candidates for ordination prostrated themselves in front of the altar in an act of humility before God.

During the most solemn moment of the ritual, each man knelt before the bishop to receive the gifts of the Holy Spirit during the imposition of hands and prayer of ordination.

Now dressed in the vestments of the diaconate, the stole and dalmatic, the newly ordained approached Bishop Olson again to receive the Book of the Gospel with the words, “Receive the Gospel of Christ whose herald you have become. Believe what you read. Teach what you believe and practice what you teach.”

The rite concluded with the new deacons being welcomed into the Order of the Diaconate by Bishop Olson and other deacons.

On June 21, Scott Alan Elder, Guillermo Muñoz Medina, and Alan Hung Vu were ordained to the Sacred Order of the Diaconate by Bishop Michael Olson at Vietnamese Martyrs Church in Arlington. (NTC/Juan Guajardo)

Deacon Guillermo Muñoz

As director of social outreach at St. Michael, Elizabeth Chanoine often consulted with Guillermo Muñoz, the parish’s coordinator of Hispanic ministry. The new deacon is an asset for the diocese, Chanoine told the North Texas Catholic.

“He loves people and loves helping them,” the co-worker observed. “When they come with problems, Guillermo is a wonderful listener. He can easily provide services to both the English- and Spanish-speaking communities.”

A native of Juarez Chihuahua, Mexico, Muñoz first became interested in the diaconate while serving in various ministries with his wife, Patty, at St. Francis of Assisi Church in Grapevine. Encouraged by Father James Flynn, he joined the formation program in 2015 and began discerning the call to serve the people of God. The rigorous schedule of classes and study did not come without personal challenges for the law school graduate. During the early weeks of the COVID pandemic, his son, Christian, was diagnosed with cancer and began treatment in Houston.

“I had to step down from formation,” explained Muñoz, who was allowed to rejoin the program and became classmates with Elder and Vu three years ago. “Handling a full-time job, family, and study hasn’t been easy but with God’s help, everything is possible.”

Assigned to Most Blessed Sacrament Parish in Arlington, the new deacon is looking forward to catechizing, evangelizing, and serving at Mass.

“I think my calling is to help all my brothers and sisters in need whether they are sick or in prison,” he said. “I want to be there for them.”

Deacon Scott Elder

Raised a Baptist, Scott Elder didn’t know much about the Catholic Church until he met his wife, Carol, in college. After joining the faith in 2005, the convert became actively involved in his home parish, Our Lady of Lourdes in Mineral Wells. Attending an ACTS retreat with two deacons kindled a desire to follow their example of service.

“Carol and I prayed and talked about it, and we agreed the diaconate was a good path to serve Christ for us and our family,” he said. “Both of my parents are Christian and love that I’m being called to serve.”

On June 21, Scott Alan Elder, Guillermo Muñoz Medina, and Alan Hung Vu were ordained to the Sacred Order of the Diaconate by Bishop Michael Olson at Vietnamese Martyrs Church in Arlington. (NTC/Juan Guajardo)

Preparing for the diaconate came at a time of immense grief for Elder, his wife, and two daughters. During the second year of formation, the couple’s 21-year-old son, Zach, a senior at Texas A&M University, was killed in a car accident.

“I was blessed to be in the program during that time because it gave me the tools to help my family and myself,” he explained.

Calling her husband a kind person who has a “heart for God and others,” Carol Elder said losing their son is an experience the new deacon is willing to share with other grieving parents.

“I know the compassion that was shown to us was important, and now he’ll be able to bring that to others,” she added.

Deacon Elder will serve at Our Lady of Lourdes Parish.

Deacon Alan Vu

A chance meeting with Bishop Olson marked the beginning of Alan Vu’s journey to the diaconate. The conversation only lasted a few minutes — just enough time for the bishop to offer encouraging words about entering the formation program.

“Diaconate formation truly formed and changed my life,” shared the longtime Vietnamese Martyrs parishioner. “It taught me to see God’s presence in everything and everyone I encounter.”

On June 21, Scott Alan Elder, Guillermo Muñoz Medina, and Alan Hung Vu were ordained to the Sacred Order of the Diaconate by Bishop Michael Olson at Vietnamese Martyrs Church in Arlington. (NTC/Juan Guajardo)

There were many challenges during the years of study and discernment, including the loss of a classmate from cancer midway through the process.

“We still remember Marc Dabal and pray for him,” Vu added. “There were difficulties, but with prayer and God’s providence, our formation was completed.”

A native of Vietnam where he served as an altar boy, Vu arrived in the United States in the early 1990s and earned an electrical engineering degree from Texas A&M University. He and his wife, Ching Hoang, have three children.

During the five years it took to prepare Vu for ministry, the former usher and Mass coordinator completed pastoral assignments at St. Jospeh and St. Vincent de Paul parishes in Arlington while taking courses in theology, liturgy, philosophy, Church history, and other subjects. His children observed his dedication to the required curriculum.

“Oftentimes, during the school year, I’d be going to sleep, and he’d still be up studying,” remarked Vu’s 16-year-old son, Kevin. “I really admired him for that. I think he’ll always be around the Church, working hard to follow God’s word.”

Deacon Vu is looking forward to assisting at Mass and other liturgies at St. Vincent de Paul Parish.

faith-filled men, Bishop Michael Olson, Sacred Order of the Diaconate, Vietnamese Martyrs Church, resiliency, diaconate ordination, permanent deacons, trending-english