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New deacons: Just say yes

Accepting 'invitations' leads nine married men to ordination, among them ‘first rafter’

MIAMI | Ismar Martinez was an atheist at 23. He was ordained a deacon at 47 — “the first rafter deacon” in the archdiocese, he says.

“I left Cuba an atheist and on a raft,” he explained after his ordination ceremony Dec. 14. (Click here for new deacons' assignments.)

Deacon Martinez was among more than 32,000 Cubans who boarded homemade rafts to escape the island in the summer of 1994. He turned 23 on the raft, then found God, embraced the faith, and received his sacraments at the naval base in Guantanamo — the tent city erected while the rafters waited to be admitted to the U.S. through what would later be known as the “wet foot, dry foot” policy.

Priests from the Archdiocese of Miami took turns spending weeks as chaplains at the base. The Sisters of Charity of Mother Teresa also were there.

“They lived there with us. That’s one of the testimonies that made me believe in Christ and his Church,” said Deacon Martinez, who received the sacrament of confirmation from Miami’s late auxiliary bishop Agustin Roman.

Responding "Present" to the call to ordination, from left: Jorge Alvarez, Stephen Pyle, Ernesto Sosa and Luis Verdecia.




Archbishop Thomas Wenski ordained nine more permanent deacons for the Archdiocese of Miami at St. Mary Cathedral, Dec. 14, 2019.

Photographer: ANA RODRIGUEZ-SOTO | FC

Responding "Present" to the call to ordination, from left: Jorge Alvarez, Stephen Pyle, Ernesto Sosa and Luis Verdecia. Archbishop Thomas Wenski ordained nine more permanent deacons for the Archdiocese of Miami at St. Mary Cathedral, Dec. 14, 2019.

Archbishop Thomas Wenski lays hands on Enrique Ferrer of Mother of Christ parish in Miami, the moment of ordination.



Archbishop Thomas Wenski ordained nine more permanent deacons for the Archdiocese of Miami at St. Mary Cathedral, Dec. 14, 2019.

Photographer: ANA RODRIGUEZ-SOTO | FC

Archbishop Thomas Wenski lays hands on Enrique Ferrer of Mother of Christ parish in Miami, the moment of ordination. Archbishop Thomas Wenski ordained nine more permanent deacons for the Archdiocese of Miami at St. Mary Cathedral, Dec. 14, 2019.

Newly ordained and vested, a visibly moved Deacon Ismer Martinez receives the Book of the Gospels from Archbishop Thomas Wenski, a sign of the deacon's role in proclaiming the word of God.




Archbishop Thomas Wenski ordained nine more permanent deacons for the Archdiocese of Miami at St. Mary Cathedral, Dec. 14, 2019.

Photographer: ANA RODRIGUEZ-SOTO | FC

Newly ordained and vested, a visibly moved Deacon Ismer Martinez receives the Book of the Gospels from Archbishop Thomas Wenski, a sign of the deacon's role in proclaiming the word of God. Archbishop Thomas Wenski ordained nine more permanent deacons for the Archdiocese of Miami at St. Mary Cathedral, Dec. 14, 2019.

At the conclusion of the ordination rite, Bishop Fernando Isern gives a "fraternal kiss" to his cousin, Deacon Jorge Matamala.




Archbishop Thomas Wenski ordained nine more permanent deacons for the Archdiocese of Miami at St. Mary Cathedral, Dec. 14, 2019.

Photographer: ANA RODRIGUEZ-SOTO | FC

At the conclusion of the ordination rite, Bishop Fernando Isern gives a "fraternal kiss" to his cousin, Deacon Jorge Matamala. Archbishop Thomas Wenski ordained nine more permanent deacons for the Archdiocese of Miami at St. Mary Cathedral, Dec. 14, 2019.

Deacon Jorge Matamala, of Our Lady of Lourdes parish in Miami, blesses his wife, Mariela, at the reception that followed his ordination. Archbishop Thomas Wenski ordained nine more permanent deacons for the Archdiocese of Miami at St. Mary Cathedral, Dec. 14, 2019.

Photographer: ANA RODRIGUEZ-SOTO | FC

Deacon Jorge Matamala, of Our Lady of Lourdes parish in Miami, blesses his wife, Mariela, at the reception that followed his ordination. Archbishop Thomas Wenski ordained nine more permanent deacons for the Archdiocese of Miami at St. Mary Cathedral, Dec. 14, 2019.

Deacon Martinez also remembers being struck while attending his first Mass, as the priest raised the host during the consecration: God present in the Eucharist. “I found Jesus and the Blessed Sacrament” at the camp, he said.

A year later he was in Miami and found his way to St. Raymond Church, where he met the Servants of the Pierced Hearts of Jesus and Mary. He began attending the Friday night cenacles led by the community’s foundress, Mother Adela Galindo. Then he attended their first Vigil of the Two Hearts, an overnight event that marks the feasts of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

At that first vigil he met Selines. A year later, at the second vigil, he asked her to marry him. During the fourth vigil they baptized their son, now 18, who was at Marine boot camp when his father was ordained.

“Between romance and prayer, we got a deacon,” said a joyous Sister Ana Margarita Lanzas, vocations director for the Pierced Hearts and vicar for religious in the archdiocese.

Deacon Martinez has been assigned to minister to the community of the Pierced Hearts as well as to serve at his parish, St. John XXIII in Miramar.

The journeys of the other men ordained last Saturday may not be as unique as Deacon Martinez’s but were certainly filled with unforeseen turns — and gratuitous invitations.

“I felt a call when I was young. But that call didn’t come to fruition until I was older,” said Deacon Ernesto Sosa, 56, of Blessed Trinity parish in Miami Springs. A lifelong Catholic and daily Mass-goer, he kept telling his wife, “I feel like I’m called to do something.”

That feeling, combined with an invitation from his pastor, Father Jose Alfaro, to consider the deaconate, was all it took. “I hope to bring the joy that I have inside of me to those that I encounter,” Deacon Sosa said.

Nobody who knew him was surprised.

“When I need prayer, that’s who I go to. That’s who Ernie is,” said Cecile Pelaez of Our Lady of the Lakes parish in Miami Lakes, whose family became close friends with the Sosas while the couples served as coordinators of Camino marriage preparation retreats.

“He loved Jesus from a very young child,” recalled Frank Todaro, who attended Manhattan College with Ernesto’s father. A few years ago, Deacon Sosa helped Todaro relocate to South Florida. He gave him work in his company and rented a condo for him. “Always a man of God,” Todaro said.

The deaconate also was a logical next step for Deacon Mesmin Augustin of Notre Dame d’Haiti parish in Miami. His wife, Erika, said he told her he had always thought about the priesthood.

“Ever since I met him and we got married,” she recalled. “He’s really happy he went through this journey,” she added. “God called him, and he can serve in this capacity.”

Mariela Matamala met her husband, Deacon Jorge Matamala, when his cousin invited him to join the youth group at St. Agatha Church in Miami. His cousin — who was then not even a priest — is Bishop Fernando Isern, emeritus of Pueblo, Colorado, and former pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes in Miami — the Matamalas’ current parish.

After their marriage, Mariela said, she was the one who “carried the faith” in the family. Jorge “would come with me” but that was it. She encouraged him to make an Emmaus retreat, but he told her he didn’t want to “spend a weekend with a bunch of men.”

He did attend Impactos, a retreat and movement begun in the Archdiocese of Miami and aimed at couples with children between the ages of 3 and 11. A friend from Impactos was the one who finally convinced Jorge to attend an Emmaus retreat.

A year later, while at Mass, he turned to his wife and said, “One day I will serve at the altar.” Eight years later he began the five-year program of study for the diaconate.

“You never know what God has prepared for the person you invite,” Mariela said. “It’s always inviting. Inviting other people to do what’s next.”

That’s exactly what brought Deacon Stephen Pyle to ordination: a series of invitations and subsequent “yeses.” First, he completed the two-year School of Ministry and began facilitating the Rite of Christian Initiation program at his parish, St. Bonaventure in Davie. The Kansas City, Missouri, native and his wife, Ruth, also received the One in Faith award from the archdiocese back in 2012.

“One thing opened, the next thing opened, just follow the Lord where the Lord says,” Deacon Pyle said. “I never said no. And here I am.”

Newly ordained deacons pose for the official photo in front of St. Mary Cathedral, from left: deacons Jose Martinez, Luis Verdecia, Ernesto Sosa, Stephen Pyle, and Mesmin Augustin; Archbishop Thomas Wenski; and deacons Jorge Alvarez, Ismar Martinez; Jorge Matamala and Enrique Ferrer. 



Archbishop Thomas Wenski ordained nine more permanent deacons for the Archdiocese of Miami at St. Mary Cathedral, Dec. 14, 2019.

Photographer: TOM TRACY | FC

Newly ordained deacons pose for the official photo in front of St. Mary Cathedral, from left: deacons Jose Martinez, Luis Verdecia, Ernesto Sosa, Stephen Pyle, and Mesmin Augustin; Archbishop Thomas Wenski; and deacons Jorge Alvarez, Ismar Martinez; Jorge Matamala and Enrique Ferrer. Archbishop Thomas Wenski ordained nine more permanent deacons for the Archdiocese of Miami at St. Mary Cathedral, Dec. 14, 2019.


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