It has been almost a year now since my five-year journey to the Permanent Diaconate was held up and almost derailed by the single biggest factor that drove the year 2020. I was a member of the group of 23 gentlemen who began this journey in October 2015, discerning the call for a year, then studying for four more years at Immaculate Conception Seminary at Seton Hall University in South Orange, N.J.
Our final semester of study was disrupted by the coming of the COVID-19 virus and by the need to social distance and shelter-in-place. The final semester was completed virtually instead of in live classes, but nonetheless, we finished our four-year Masteral course by early May of 2020, and thereafter looked forward to our ordination in late June.
And then it happened.
Just two weeks before the ordination date, I was stricken by COVID-19. In mid-June, I entered the emergency room at Jersey City Medical Center, where I was immediately diagnosed with the virus, my oxygen having dropped to the dangerous level of about 81. I had come so close to getting intubated. I spent the next ten days in the hospital, undergoing rigorous and radical treatments developed to fight the virus.
In the meantime, so many people were lifting me up in their group and individual prayers for my complete healing – my wife Nora, my family, both here in the United States and in different parts of the world, my fellow parishioners from Our Lady of Mercy Church in Jersey City, my many friends and brethren from the Christian community, and most especially, my brother-deacon-candidates from the seminary.
While in the hospital, I was able to join my deacon batchmates in our four-day virtual canonical retreat. Mine was a classic case of the power of prayer for healing, and the miracles that can be brought about by the intense prayers of the multitude. I am so thankful for all the prayers that were said for me during this time. After 10 days of confinement, I was restored by our good and merciful Father to become strong and well enough to leave the hospital and continue my recovery at home.
In the meantime, the ordination date for our batch had been moved to July. Although I had hoped to still be able to join my brothers in time for our ordination, I prudently accepted the advice given to me to excuse myself from the ordination and continue on the road to my full recovery. Thus, on July 11, 2020, my 22 co-brother candidates were ordained by Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin, C.Ss.R to the Permanent Diaconate in two separate rites, while I watched both livestreamed Masses, praying for them while recovering at home.
I have never complained about the delay in my ordination. In fact, it has given me even greater faith and trust in the Lord and in the reason for why He made this happen. He has increased my desire to serve Him as a deacon in my parish. I believe He has continued to form and mold me into a stronger, holier and more righteous person worthy of the call.
I had answered this call in 2015 after serving so many years of steadily increasing involvement with my faith, together with my wife, Nora. We had been members and leaders in the Christian community, and I served my parish by proclaiming God’s word as a lector, and Nora and I would serve together by participating in the Eucharistic Feast as extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion. Later, my pastor, Father Marty Jacinto at Our Lady of Mercy, would get me further involved as the coordinator for Bereavement Ministry.
In the 10 months since I missed my original ordination date, I have become even more involved with the parish’s life, helping now with the preparation and formation that goes with First Eucharist for the children, as well as initial involvement with the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults Ministry at Our Lady of Mercy. I guess this has been good practice that my pastor has given me.
I am in complete awe of the service that a permanent deacon renders in his ministry- the Sacraments of Baptism, Eucharist, and Matrimony, the preaching of God’s Word via the Homily,
the work of charity with and for the sick, the aged, and the poor, and the service of comfort, consolation, and prayer for those who have passed away and those they have left behind.
I have followed some of the ministries of a few of my now-ordained brother deacons and constantly pray to our Heavenly Father for their continued empowerment, and for my anointing and empowerment by the Holy Spirit in my own eventual service. But what I find most compelling in the deacon’s ministry is the virtue that every deacon must possess in his character – that of humble servanthood, imbibing Jesus’ perfect example of this virtue through His washing of His disciples’ feet.
A deacon’s biggest difference from other clergy members of the church is that he can be married, and with his spouse, can serve Almighty God and His church as a team. Nora and I have been married now for 31 years, and we plan on doing just that- serve our Lord God and his flock at the Archdiocese of Newark and our home parish of Our Lady of Mercy.
So now I look forward to the date, May 23, when, with God’s Grace, I will be ordained a deacon of the Catholic Church on Pentecost Sunday. I would consider this to be very significant, as it was also on Pentecost that the Holy Spirit came down to empower the apostles in their great service to our God. It would be my hope and prayer that our mighty Lord God would pave the way for me to become a good and worthy deacon.
Edwin Dava will be ordained as a deacon along with five other men on Sunday, May 23, at the noon Mass celebrated by Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin, C.Ss.R. at the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Newark. All are welcome to watch the livestream of the event on YouTube or Facebook.