For a young alumnus of St. John’s University, the 10-year vocation journey of personal discernment, faith, challenging work, and trust in God recently culminated with his profession of sacred vows of Holy Orders.
On Saturday, June 4, the Vincentians of the Eastern Province (Congregation of the Mission) gathered to celebrate the ordination to the priesthood for Deacon Walner Diaz, C.M. ’17C. The Vincentians, a Roman Catholic community of priests and brothers founded by St. Vincent de Paul to evangelize the poor and educate clergy, welcomed their newest member of the Eastern Province.
Before a crowded congregation that included family and friends from across the country and many Vincentians, the Most Rev. Alfonso Cabezas, C.M., Bishop Emeritus of Villavicencio, Colombia, presided over the ordination ceremony held at the Miraculous Medal Shrine in Philadelphia, PA. It was through Bishop Cabezas that Fr. Diaz first met the Vincentian priests and brothers in New York.
Fr. Diaz cites Bishop Cabezas as a mentor who exposed him to the possibilities of a Vincentian vocation and attributes his mother as the person who first instilled in him a love of faith. Born and raised in El Salvador and the youngest of eight children, he made his way to New York as a young man. When he first arrived in New York, he spoke little English and could only find work in manual labor jobs. While attending Sunday Mass, Fr. Diaz met and was inspired by Bishop Cabezas, who befriended him and soon invited him to attend monthly discernment meetings.
“The rest is history,” he shared.
Fr. Diaz soon began his formal seminary studies, enrolled at St. John’s, and resided at the nearby Miraculous Medal House that houses international seminarians studying philosophy and theology at the Queens, NY, campus.
Ordination is the sacramental ceremony in which a man becomes a deacon, priest, or bishop and enabled to minister in Christ’s name and that of the Church. The ordination ceremony includes various rituals rich in meaning and history (e.g., prostration, laying on of hands, anointing of hands, giving of the chalice and paten, and the sign of peace).
In the phrase “holy orders,” the word “holy” means “set apart for a sacred purpose.” The word “order” designates an established civil body or corporation with a hierarchy, and ordination means legal incorporation into an order, in this case the Congregation of the Mission. The Rite of Ordination occurs within the context of Mass.
Fr. Diaz’s first assignment as a Vincentian priest is Our Lady of Guadalupe in Charlotte, NC, a thriving, mostly Spanish-speaking community in the Diocese of Charlotte. “I want to be a servant to the people,” he said.
To learn more about the Vincentian vocation process, contact Rev. Luis Romero, C.M., Vocation Director, at 718-990-1823 or [email protected].