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placeholder October 23, 2017   •   VOL. 55, NO. 18   •   Oakland, CA
National Vocations Awareness Week

Bishop Michael C. Barber, SJ, and Rev. Mark Amaral, who directs the formation program for the permanent deacons, with the 18 men in the third of five years of formation.

18 advance to candidacy to permanent diaconate

Through the Rite of Candidacy to the Permanent Diaconate, 18 men from parishes across the Diocese of Oakland moved a step closer to ordination. The men, who range in age from 35 to 55, are entering the third year of a five-year formation.

In his homily during the Oct. 1 Mass at St. Stephen Church in Walnut Creek, Bishop Michael C. Barber, SJ, defined the role of the deacon: "Not primarily liturgical, not primarily even sacramental."

Candidates (spouse) for the Permanent Diaconate

Paul Abenoja (Cristina)
Jorge Aragon (Maria Renne)
Larry Aseo (Lily)
Juan Bermudez (Ivette)
Tom Bobich (Kitte)
Alberto Cruz (Claudia)
Leland DeFrates (Silvia)
Alex Ebarle (Linda)
Robert Falco (Laura)
Benjamin Lai (Denise)
Peter Nixon (Gina Cattalini)
Sumner Peery (Veronica)
Arsenio Reyes (Teresita)
Frederick Seril (Mariza)
Rene Solorzano (Elsy)
Dominic Tarantino (Rebeca)
Paul Turek (Emma)
David Weiss (Darcel)
"The greatest need I see is to help in ministry to the sick and the incarcerated," the bishop said.

As an example, Bishop Barber told them of Deacon Ruben Gomez's ministry. For more than 20 years, he has ministered every weekend at the Federal Correctional Institution in Dublin. Deacon Gomez prepares the women incarcerated there for baptism and confirmation.

"Make sure you have a ministry to the poor, the sick and the incarcerated," Bishop Barber advised the candidates.

Each candidate was seated, with his family, on the church's center aisle. When his name was called after the homily, each answered and walked to the altar, where they stood 18 across.

The bishop accepted their candidacy to the permanent diaconate.

Among them: a building inspector, an immigration official and an accountant. Two parishes — St. Bonaventure in Concord and Immaculate Heart of Mary in Brentwood — have two deacon candidates.

For Alex Ebarle of St. Edward Parish in Newark, the call has been part of his life for a long time. "I heard it when I was younger," he said. "I kept following it. It led me to the diaconate."

He credited the guidance of Rev. Jeff Finley at St. Edward. Ebarle's goal is "to keep following the Lord."

Dominic Tarantino "is very active in social justice," said Deacon Bill Gall, who serves at St. Bonaventure Parish. Tarantino and Peter Nixon are candidates from the parish.

Deacon Gall said he had been ordained 22 years ago; including the formation process, he and his wife Sylvia have been involved in the diaconate for almost 30 years. "It's really been a blessing to us," Deacon Gall said.

"A blessing for my whole family," a smiling Jorge Aragon said after the Mass, surrounded by his wife, young children and extended family.

Aragon's call to serve God "started when I was in youth group at Holy Angels in Daly City," he said. Parishioners often suggested to him that he would make a good priest. He went to a vocation retreat.

"God spoke to me and said marriage was my call, but I needed to serve Him in a deep way," he said.

He told the young women he dated that one day he would like to serve as a deacon. Not everyone was interested until, of course, he met the woman who would become his wife.

When he told Maria Renee of his calling, she didn't shy away.

"She said, 'It would be a dream come true for me to see you as a deacon,'" he recalled.

She smiled.

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