New group of Permanent Diaconate Aspirants studying hard

There are currently 12 men who are off and running in their studies as part of the Permanent Diaconate Formation Class of 2028.

Bishop Frank J. Dewane selected the aspirants after each was nominated and vetted through an extensive screening process. A key characteristic of those selected is that each has a deep understanding of the Faith.

The 12 aspirants come from a variety of personal and professional backgrounds, representing all areas of the Diocese of Venice, forming one of the largest aspirant classes in Diocesan history, explained Diocesan Permanent Diaconate Director of Formation Deacon Bob Gaitens.

Bishop Dewane said of the men chosen: “Each has answered his own call to serve Our Lord and Holy Mother Church in a particular way, as a Permanent Deacon. The Class of 2028 is on a journey of Faith that will bring each of them, and their family, closer to the Lord.”

The aspirants began their five-year formation process in September 2023, with classes taking place at St. Martha Catholic School in Sarasota. They have already completed their first semester of classes (Old Testament Part 1 and Theology of Orders).  Now they will start on Psychology Part II, Eschatology and Morality.

An added benefit for the Class of 2028 is that they are being formed alongside the Class of 2025. This allows both groups to draw on each other’s strengths to enhance their formation process. Gaitens explained how the Class of 2025 has taken a mentor role with the Class of 2028 and have embraced the responsibility of taking a leadership position with their newer classmates.

“The class has begun to feel comfortable with the program” Deacon Gaitens said. “When classes started in the fall, there was some trepidation about speaking up in Class. But with the encouragement of the Class of 2025, we have seen the Class of 2028 engage in classroom participation. Their interaction has been invaluable and has shown that the class has a very keen understanding and acumen. They are a diverse group and will expand the Diocese’s ability to help in Spanish speaking communities.”

There are currently more than 65 active Permanent Deacons serving in Parishes throughout the Diocese of Venice. The most recent Permanent Deacon group was ordained in August 2021. The mission of the Permanent Deacons of the Diocese is to serve as ministers of the Word, where they proclaim the Gospel, preaching and teaching in the name of the Church; helping the needy; serving the faithful; ministering the Sacrament of Baptism; leading the faithful in prayer; witnessing marriages; and conducting wake and funeral services.

Reflecting on the comments from many of his fellow members of the Class of 2028, Matthew Harkness, St. Katharine Drexel Parish, Cape Coral, said it is a blessing to be part of the Diaconate Candidate program and feels honored to be among so many other worthy men who are committed to serving the Lord in a unique way.

The following constitute the Permanent Diaconate Class of 2028:

  • Aldo Boldi, St. Patrick Parish, Sarasota;
  • William (Oscar) Gamble, St. Raphael Parish, Lehigh Acres;
  • Kyle Goneau, Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Parish, Sarasota;
  • Ted Harb, St. John the Evangelist Parish, Naples;
  • Matthew Harkness, St. Katharine Drexel Parish, Cape Coral;
  • Matthew Lesak, St. Joseph Parish, Bradenton;
  • Roberto Lewis, St. Agnes Parish, Naples;
  • George Smith, Incarnation Parish, Sarasota;
  • Alex Tsai, Ave Maria Parish, Ave Maria;
  • Daniel Vasquez, St. Vincent de Paul Parish, Fort Myers;
  • David Wallace, St. Vincent de Paul Parish, Fort Myers;
  • Ed Watson, Ave Maria Parish, Ave Maria.