Thomas Gregory Dougherty and Alejandro Giraldo Roldan followed different calls of the Lord in their lives, but their answers were the same, leading the two Diocese of Venice seminarians on a journey toward the priesthood. The pair reached a major milestone along that path on April 22, 2023, when they were ordained as Transitional Deacons.
Deacons Dougherty and Roldan were among 11 ordained at St. Joan of Arc Catholic Church in Boca Raton by Most Rev. Erik T. Pohlmeier, Bishop of St. Augustine. The men, from different Dioceses across Florida, are studying either at St. Vincent de Paul Regional Seminary in Boynton Beach or Pope St. John XXIII National Seminary in Weston, Massachusetts.
Deacon Dougherty said he is humbled by all that the ordination means. “The diaconate is a lifelong commitment to a life of celibacy, and obedience in service to God, His Church, and my Bishop. This is only possible by the grace of God.”
Deacon Roldan said he is very joyful to be ordained after nearly 11 years of discerning his vocation. “It is a gift I receive from God not because of my abilities but because of His great mercy and love towards me.”
The first of three ranks of ordained ministry in the Church, Deacons perform many services to the Church in conjunction with the ministries of priests and bishops. In Parish life, Deacons may preside at baptisms, weddings and rites of Christian burial, assist the priest at Mass, proclaim the Gospel and deliver homilies.
In his homily, Bishop Pohlmeier said the Sacrament of Holy Orders is built upon the history of God choosing good coworkers which began with Adam, before the fall, with the task of cultivating and bringing out additional growth in God’s creation – the heart of Holy Orders.
“We are all called by God. It is one of those great aspects of our faith – beyond our comprehension,” the Bishop continued. “Yet He calls us. It is that understanding that He calls us, even in our unworthiness, that sets us on the right footing. Continue this work as a coworker of God. Cultivate the ability to pray in quiet and active moments. Pray in moments of acting and ministering in the Word of God. This is the labor of cultivating God’s Kingdom and bringing about great growth and beauty.”
Bishop Pohlmeier said the transitional diaconate is relatively short, therefore the men should reflect on the simple, yet profound words of the Rite. Those words must have significance to each of them. “What you receive through ordination never goes away. Never lose sight of what God gives you in this moment.”
Following the homily, the men approached Bishop Pohlmeier one-by-one, knelt and promised respect and obedience, each to his own Bishop and successors of that Bishop. To signify humble submission before God, the men then lay prostrate in the sanctuary while the assembly sang the Litany of Saints. The faithful remained standing during the Litany as the ordination took place during the Easter Season.
Each man again approached the Bishop who imposed his hands on the candidate and proclaimed a prayer of consecration, to confer the Holy Spirit to guide their ministries. This is the moment the men are ordained.
The Deacons then received a stole and dalmatic (the exterior garb of a deacon), signifying the Office of Diaconate and the deacon’s role in the celebration of the Eucharist.
Next, the newly ordained Deacons knelt before the Bishop who presented them each with the Book of the Gospels, and said: “Receive the Gospels of Christ, whose herald you have become. Believe what you read, teach what you believe, and practice what you teach.” The reception of the Book of Gospels is a symbol of their new ministry of proclaiming the Gospel and preaching. The Rite of Ordination concluded with the fraternal kiss of peace.
Deacon Dougherty, 54, has been studying at St. John XXIII National Seminary which specializes in formation for later vocations. Although a later vocation, Deacon Dougherty said he thought about becoming a priest in high school, even enrolling in a minor seminary but never attended because he was conflicted about his decision. He graduated from Bradley University and Middle Tennessee State University becoming an elementary school teacher in Winchester, Tennessee. He transitioned into industrial sales for several years before returning to teaching just prior to entering seminary. “The noise of the world muffled the call for several years, but God directly intervened in my life at the age of 39, which reawakened that call.” As a seminarian within the Diocese, Deacon Dougherty has had pastoral assignments at Incarnation Parish in Sarasota and Ss. Peter and Paul the Apostles in Bradenton.
Deacon Roldan, 29, has been at St. Vincent de Paul Regional Seminary since 2020, following one year of English studies at St. John Vianney College Seminary in Miami. Growing up in Colombia, Deacon Roldan recalls his First Holy Communion and how that was one of happiest days of his life, experiencing the love of God in a special way. That awakened his desire to become a priest. At the age of 17, he discerned a vocation with a religious order for a time, but the Lord allowed him to make a detour along the way. Deacon Roldan continued at university studying theology and earning a degree as a lay person. Unfulfilled in life, God continued to call him toward a priestly vocation, and this led him to the join the Diocese of Venice as a seminarian in 2019. As a seminarian, Deacon Roldan has served pastoral assignments at St. Mary, Star of the Sea Parish in Longboat Key and a pastoral year at St. Thomas More Parish in Sarasota.
Please pray for these men as they continue their spiritual journey.