More than 125 deacon couples from across the Archdiocese of Los Angeles gathered together at St. Kateri Tekewitha Church in Santa Clarita the afternoon of Aug. 10 — the Feast Day of St. Lawrence, a third century deacon and martyr —  for the annual archdiocesan celebration honoring the local diaconate community.

During his homily, Archbishop José H. Gomez, who presided at the special Mass, addressed the Feast of St. Lawrence, who “gave his life for the Church.” He asked the deacons to be faithful in their service, to be “men of great love” for the people and for the entire Church, and led them in reaffirming their ordination promises.

“Do you resolve to discharge the office of deacon with humility and love in order to assist the bishop and the priests, and to serve the people of God?” asked the archbishop.

“I do,” replied the deacons.

“Do you resolve to shape your life always according to the example of Christ, whose body and blood you give to the people?” asked Archbishop Gomez

“I do,” they reaffirmed.

Near the close of Mass, Deacon Manny Martinez, archdiocesan director of Deacons in Ministry, recognized six senior deacons in attendance from the archdiocese’s first diaconate class in 1975: Deacons Hosea Alexander, Felix Dumlao, Jack Ryan, Bill Landa, Nicholas Curran and Dick Dornan. Their wives were also honored for their devotion and service to their parish communities.

Immediately following the service, the deacons, wives, and guests processed from the church into the parish hall for a dinner celebration with the archbishop, the parish priests of St. Kateri Tekewitha, and Deacon Martinez, who is celebrating his own milestone: his 25th anniversary since being ordained a deacon.

“The word deacon means service, and … it’s always been an act of service for me — that’s always been something that I’ve been called to,” said Deacon Martinez, who previously worked in service-oriented professions, including the funeral industry and as a police officer. His devotion to service and his faith eventually led him to the diaconate, and he has now been the director of deacons since 2001.

“It’s just an honor to serve those on the margins, the poor, the sick,” said Deacon Martinez, who joined the Friars of the Sick Poor of Los Angeles in 2006. Being a deacon involves much more than being a Communion minister or helping in the sacristy, he explained; it’s about being called to serve others as a way of life.

Although the “official” retirement age for deacons is 75, most senior deacons retain active roles in their parishes and across the archdiocese, explained Deacon Martinez. Deacon Emile Adams — who, at 93, is lovingly described as “the oldest deacon in the West” by his daughter Rouzan — has “slowed down” over the past several years, but he is far from being retired as a deacon, he told The Tidings.

  Every week he faithfully calls in to his long-time parish, St. Bernadette in Los Angeles, where he has served for the past 36 years, and whenever they need him, he’s there, said Deacon Adams. In addition, he and his daughter Rouzan regularly visit dying patients (who have no visiting friends or relatives) at Providence Little Company of Mary Medical Center to help ensure that “no one ever dies alone.”

“Deacon Adams is still going strong; he’s really a good holy man,” said Deacon Martinez.

For Deacon Mark Race and his wife Vickie, from Transfiguration Church, Los Angeles, and Deacon Rito Lopez and his wife Silvia, from Blessed Junípero Serra Church, Lancaster, the Aug. 10 gathering was a welcome opportunity to celebrate.

“It’s always wonderful when the deacon community can get together in one place, because we hardly ever get a chance to do that as deacons,” said Deacon Race, who also serves as both deacon and parish administrator at Transfiguration.

“For me, it’s a big privilege to be here as a deacon couple — only by God’s mercy, that’s what we are,” said Silvia Lopez, who deems it a cherished blessing to serve the archdiocese. “It’s a joy to be here — it’s a blessing. Sometimes I feel that I’m not worthy … but God is good. God wants us to be here … This is our life.”

“It’s always a joy to be able to serve the people of God,” agreed Deacon Lopez, who was ordained with Deacon Race in 2007. “It’s good; we could never go back.”