By Colleen Boyle Sharp

Special to The CS&T

WYNNEWOOD – “I feel very confident that God has called me to the purpose He has meant for me from all eternity and I’m very thankful,” said Deacon Michael Pawelko after his ordination.

Pawelko was one of the six seminarians who were ordained to the transitional diaconate on Saturday, May 9. Auxiliary Bishop Robert P. Maginnis presided at the ordination, which took place at St. Martin of Tours Chapel at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary.

More than 60 archdiocesan priests joined Bishop McGinnis in celebrating what will mark the final year of the seminary for the men.

The transitional deacons, under the guidance of experienced parish pastors, will exercise the ministry of deacon and learn to serve in a parish setting as part of their final preparations for ordination to the priesthood. They will now be able to officiate at baptisms, assist at the altar at Mass, proclaim the Gospel and preach homilies.

Msgr. Joseph G. Prior, rector of the seminary, said the diaconate program is “indispensable to the seminarians’ final year of priestly formation. We really can’t do without it. This year truly helps the seminarian in that final stage to concentrate on where they are going. No one is called to be a seminarian for life, they are called to go somewhere from here and that somewhere is to our parishes.”

They will be serving at the following parishes: Deacon James DeGrassa at St. Robert Bellarmine, Warrington; Deacon Thomas Gardner at Mary, Mother of the Redeemer, North Wales; Deacon Stephen C. McCarthy at Mother of spanine Providence, King of Prussia; Deacon Harold B. McKale III at Our Lady of Fatima, Secane; Deacon Matthew J. Tralies at Immaculate Heart of Mary, Philadelphia; and Deacon Pawelko at St. Bede the Venerable, Holland.

The newly ordained deacons serve at their parish assignments part time on weekends while completing their studies at the seminary.

Deacon Gardner said he is looking forward to his time at Mary, Mother of the Redeemer Parish. “I’m very excited,” he said. “I have a lot to look forward to in the priesthood and have a lot to learn and experience in this next year.”

A graduate of Bishop McDevitt High School, he entered the seminary after high school, completing his undergraduate studies at St. Charles. His parents, Thomas and Christine, members of St. Luke the Evangelist Parish, in Glenside, said they are very proud of their son’s hard work.

“It’s just very awe-inspiring to sit there and watch your son and realize that he has just been ordained a deacon,” said Christine after the ordination.

During his homily, Bishop Maginnis reminded the seminarians of their new responsibilities as deacons and encouraged them to “express by your action the word of God.”

Deacon Pawelko, who entered the seminary at 35, said he was extremely moved by the singing of the Litany of Saints. “As we were laying there on the floor and everyone was singing ‘pray for us’ at the response of each saint, it reminded me of all the people who have prayed for me, those who have sacrificed for me over the past seven years to make this great day possible,” he said.

The deacons will report for their assignments June 6 and continue their work within those parishes until April 2010.

Colleen Boyle Sharp is a freelance writer and photographer, and a parishioner of St. Katherine of Siena in Philadelphia.