ENCINO — Auxiliary Bishop Alexander Salazar ordained eight men to the transitional diaconate Nov. 22 at Our Lady of Grace Church.

The newly ordained, most in their late 20s, are from St. John’s Seminary in Camarillo. Their brief diaconate ends on May 30 of next year, when they will be ordained to the priesthood.

More than 100 priests followed the altar servers and acolytes into the church. Several bishops were also in attendance, including Cardinal Rodger Mahony, while Bishops Oscar A. Solis and Joseph M. Sartoris concelebrated. In addition to prayers in Latin and Greek, English, Spanish, and Korean were interwoven throughout the Mass.

In his homily, Bishop Salazar emphasized the great commitment the ordinandi (Latin for “those to be ordained”) will take on.

“In the eyes of the world, this is not a normal decision you are making. You are laying down your lives,” he said. “You have chosen celibacy for life. But it is out of love that you serve, and not for your own merit.”

The bishop exhorted them to proclaim the Gospel and conform their lives to Christ, who came “not to be served, but to serve.”

After promising obedience, the ordinandi lay prostrate on the cold marble in a pose of humility and self-sacrifice, while the choir and congregation chanted the Litany of the Saints.

Then, as each of the ordinandi knelt before the bishop as he laid his hands upon their heads—a gesture as old as the diaconate itself, which originated at the time of the Apostles.

Although the Second Vatican Council restored the diaconate as a permanent office attainable by married men, for much of Church history the diaconate has been a transitional stage towards the priesthood. Both permanent and transitional deacons are called to proclaim the Gospel, preach, baptize, witness marriages, conduct funerals, and serve the needs of the Church.

Father Samuel Ward, associate director of vocations for the archdiocese, has worked intimately with the new deacons from the start. His job involves promoting vocations, screening promising candidates and guiding them through discernment.

Those who discover a vocation to the priesthood are then sent either to the Juan Diego House of Formation in Gardena or directly to St. John’s, depending on their level of prior education.

According to Father Ward, most of the newly ordained have been in seminary for seven to nine years. After their second year of theology the seminarians complete a one-year internship at a parish in the archdiocese.

The number of new priests has been increasing. This past May, four priests were ordained, and two the year before that. “Having eight this year is a great encouragement,” Father Ward said. “Over the next couple years we are hoping to have about eight or nine each year.”

After their ordination in May, Archbishop José H. Gomez will send the new priests to “one of the almost 300 parishes in the archdiocese and will be of service for decades and decades to come,” Father Ward said.

Among the newly ordained was Raymont Medina, 29, from Carson. Medina came to the United States from the Philippines at the age of 7, and is now in his seventh year in seminary. Before seminary, Medina was a pre-med student at UCLA.

“I thought I was being called to serve others through medicine, through healing the body,” Medina said. “But in the midst of all that, I figured out that that God was calling me to be of service by healing the soul and the spirit.”

Medina graduated in 2008, and immediately entered the seminary.

After Mass, a great throng of family and friends enveloped Media, embracing him before pulling him into pictures. Medina bashfully estimated that as many as 115 people came to witness his ordination. Many were from the L.A. area, but family from the Midwest and an uncle from the Philippines were also present.

“The deacon is called to ministry, serving the people in charity and love,” Medina said.  “But also specifically for me, a transitional deacon on the road to priesthood, part of the calling is being able to share the Word of God, especially through preaching. And the Word of God has been so infused into my life that I can’t help but share that.”