By Lou Baldwin
Special to The CS&T

This Saturday, May 14, Cardinal Rigali will ordain six men to the priesthood. Included among them is Deacon James DeGrassa of St. Madeline Parish, Ridley Park. On Saturday, June 5, Cardinal Rigali will ordain five men to the permanent diaconate. Included among them is Michael Alexander of St. Madeline Parish, Ridley Park. What are the odds that two out of 11 ordinations in an Archdiocese of 267 parishes would be from one relatively small parish?

It helps when the parish actively promotes and encourages religious vocations. {{more}}

“Growing up I was an altar server beginning in the fifth grade,” Deacon DeGrassa said. “That really gave me a love for the priesthood and the Mass. In my first year as an altar server Father Gary Kramer took us to St. Charles Seminary. That was the first time I saw the seminary and what it is like.”

Later when he was 17 and a junior at Cardinal O’Hara High School he began to seriously consider the priesthood. During his years at St. Charles “everybody in the parish supported me and prayed for me. Our parish is very good at encouraging vocations, and our priests are very good examples,” he said.

Alexander, 51, moved into St. Madeline Parish 18 years ago. Unmarried with a career in information science as a software tester for Pfizer Pharmaceuticals, he was active at St. Madeline as a cantor, but about eight years ago he began to re-evaluate his spiritual life. Perhaps he could study for the priesthood or become a religious brother or a permanent deacon.

Most permanent deacons are married men, but they were married before they began the program and may not remarry should their spouse die. Fully realizing becoming a deacon would mean continued celibacy for life, it was his ultimate choice.

“The parish was very supportive. Greg O’Brien, who is a deacon at the parish (was very helpful),” he noted. “Father Bellopede has been our pastor for the past two years and he is excited about this.”

As a deacon, he expects to be assigned to St. Madeline, although soon-to-be Father DeGrassa will be assigned elsewhere.

“The parish community is overjoyed for them. Both are well-loved by the community,” Father Bellopede said. “We pray every day for an increase in vocations to the priesthood and the consecrated life, and we have a weekly Holy Hour for it. The young people here are faith-filled. I can’t say anything but good about them. Their respect for the Church and the priesthood is genuine.”

Both Father DeGrassa and Deacon Alexander will be honored at liturgies and receptions by the parish after their ordinations, Father Bellopede said.

Lou Baldwin is a member of St. Leo Parish and a freelance writer.