The ordination of transitional and permanent deacons on June 13 was anything but ordinary.

It was the first large, in-person gathering at the Cathedral Basilica of SS. Peter and Paul since the coronavirus pandemic hit Philadelphia, and the first time Archbishop Nelson Perez celebrated the sacrament of holy orders in the archdiocese since his installation in February.

But most important, 13 men received the sacrament and are now deacons for the church.

(See a photo gallery of scenes from the Mass here.)


Six years of formation in the seminary and events before it all were “leading up to this moment,” said newly ordained Deacon Mark Tobin.

He and Deacon Kenneth Cavara were ordained transitional deacons for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. Transitional Deacon Prodip Phillp Mrong was ordained for the Diocese of Mymensingh, Bangladesh, as was transitional Deacon Erik R. Sanchez, C.M., for the Vincentians.

As transitional deacons, these men are preparing to become priests, with anticipated priestly ordination in 2021.

Nine men were ordained permanent deacons for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia including Gerald J. Cassidy, Henry C. Fila, Franz N. Fruehwald, Matthew A. Horvath, Gregg W. Hoyer, James V. Nash, Mark D. Nowakowski, Paul F. Stoyell-Mulholland and Thomas N. Verna.

They will be serving at various parishes throughout the archdiocese.

(See the new assignments of permanent deacons here.)

Archbishop Nelson Perez, followed by other bishops and priests, lays hands on Mark A. Tobin during the diaconate ordination ceremony June 13 at the Cathedral Basilica of SS. Peter and Paul. (Sarah Webb)

The ordination of transitional and permanent deacons took place in one ceremony this year at the cathedral. In years past, the transitional deacon ordination took place in St. Martin’s Chapel at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary, Wynnewood, while the ordination to the permanent diaconate took place a few weeks later at the basilica.

Because of the coronavirus pandemic, ordination for the transitional diaconate was pushed back from May 9 to June 13 and combined with the ordination of permanent deacons.

As he welcomed the congregation to the ceremony, Archbishop Perez joked, “I guess for this year’s ordinations … we would say better late than never.”

Social distancing measures were in place throughout the ceremony that was closed to the public, and attendees in the congregation wore masks. Every other pew was roped off , and hand sanitizer was provided at the entrance of the cathedral.

The ordination was livestreamed, and Archbishop Perez welcomed all those joining from “around the world,” including retired Archbishop Charles Chaput who could not attend in person, as well as viewers in Bangladesh in support of Deacon Mrong and the Vincentian community for Deacon Sanchez.

Although logistics looked different than years past, family and loved ones in attendance reported a beautiful experience.


The ordination was a “very extraordinary, humbling experience for me as a mom,” said Noreen Cavara, mother of transitional Deacon Kenneth Cavara and archdiocesan priest Father Mark Cavara, ordained in 2016.

Especially in light of the pandemic, she said having everyone together was “heavenly.”

“It’s God’s gift,” she added, saying the same thing of her son’s ordination. “(It’s) just an incredible gift of God. That’s the way we look at it. We’re not deserving of it.”

A parishioner of St. Agnes in West Chester, she was joined by fellow parishioners Jim and Janet Herlihey. They appreciated seeing so many priests who served at St. Agnes celebrating in one place, including Archbishop Perez and Bishop Edward Deliman.

After his ordination, Deacon Tobin was “pondering in his heart” all that had happened that day, and the moments leading up to it.

He was especially touched by the Litany of Saints, during which the diaconate candidates lay prostrate before the altar while the entire church sings and prays the names of numerous saints over them.

To know that the saints were praying for deacons while at the same time hearing the people of God praying for them out loud was very special for him.

Deacon Tobin was joined at his ordination by his friends of over a decade, Jeff and Marie Schaefer, along with their four young sons.

The Schaefers were pivotal in Deacon Tobin’s journey back to the church, who he says were witnesses to what it means to be “joyful Catholics.”

Now, all four of the Schaefer’s sons are his godchildren.

“Powerful” was the word John Cherneskie and Kirk Cherneskie used to describe the day. Parishioners of St. Teresa of Calcutta in Limerick, they attended in support of their good friend Deacon Jim Nash.

“You could see the power of God through everything that happened today,” said John.

Kirk added, “I really felt a part of it even though (I) was part of the assembly. It was powerful.”

Seminarian Andrew Lane also described the ordination as “powerful.” Now in third theology, Lane is “very excited” to be ordained a transitional deacon, Lord willing, next year.

“It’s been a long time coming” and God provides all the grace we need to do it, said Lane.

The 13 members of the diaconate class of 2020 — including both transitional and permanent deacons — pose after the Mass June 13 with Archbishop Nelson Perez. (Sarah Webb)