Deacons celebrate 20th anniversary of ordination
Friday, Nov. 27, 2020
At the Nov. 21 Mass at Christ the King Catholic Church, Bishop Oscar A. Solis blesses Deacons Rigoberto Aguirre, Denny Davies, and Rogaciano Tellez, who were celebrating the 20th anniversary of their ordination.
Intermountain Catholic staff
CEDAR CITY — Two decades ago, on Nov. 19, 2000, the Most Rev. George H. Niederauer, eighth Bishop of Salt Lake City, ordained five men from Washington County as permanent deacons for the diocese. They then went forth as ministers of word, as ministers of sacrament and as ministers of charity, serving in the parishes of St. George and Christ the King. As time passed, two have died, but they were recalled during a recent Mass of Thanksgiving celebrated by Bishop Oscar A. Solis in honor of the 20th anniversary of the deacons’ ordination.
The five men who were ordained were Rigoberto (Maria) Aguirre, Denny (Gail) Davies, Jack (Barbara) Gorman, Joe (Pat) Regan and Rogaciano (Juanita) Tellez. Deacon Regan died in 2006; Deacon Gorman died in 2019.
The service of these men was recognized at a Nov. 21 Thanksgiving Mass at Christ the King Parish. Bishop Solis was the main celebrant. Father Adrian Komar, pastor, concelebrated. Deacon Carlos Mendez was Deacon of the Mass. Deacon Scott Dodge was Master of Ceremonies.
The deacons “have given their life in the service of God and the service of the people of the Diocese of Salt Lake City,” Bishop Solis said as he recognized the three men, and thanked them for their work. “Brothers, your anniversary invites you to remember your gift of vocation as the manifestation of God’s graciousness and generosity,” he said. “It is not about honor or privilege, it is a duty and responsibility. … Twenty years of ministry reminds you of God’s fidelity and love for you and for the community you serve.”
The deacons helped build the Kingdom of God in the midst of the people of the diocese, the bishop said, and he asked that God’s grace be upon them “so that you can continue to give yourself to God and Church in the name of Christ, who came not to be served but to serve.”
The bishop then thanked the deacons and their wives on behalf of all the priests and people of the diocese. He called them forward for a blessing and asked the congregation to extend their hands in blessing as well.
During the Prayers of the Faithful at the Mass, prayers were said in thanksgiving for the gift of the diaconate to the Church and for the witness and service the deacons give; for Benedictine Sister Jeremia Januschka and Holy Cross Sister Ellen Mary Taylor, “for their inspired efforts as directors of formation for the ordination Class of 2000, and for all the priests, deacons and lay staff who traveled from Salt Lake City to St. George week after week as part of the instruction team.” Prayers also were asked for Deacon Gorman, Deacon Regan, “and all the members of our families and our friends who have gone before us.”
In addition, prayers were made in honor of the 40th wedding anniversary of Deacon Carlos and Teresa Mendez, and what would have been the 56th wedding anniversary of Deacon Denny and Gail Davies.
Each of the deacons came to their vocation in a different way.
Deacon Rigoberto Aguirre
Deacon Aguirre’s road into the diaconate started as he attended several retreats. Back then, “I never imagined I would be working and serving in and for the Church,” he said.
After those retreats, however, he heard the call to service, “and I felt how a spirituality flame ignited in me,” he said.
Being a deacon has been a great experience for him.
“I love working and serving the community, especially the families,” he said.
His 20 years of service has given him lots of memories, but one that he really enjoys recalling is a time when he and Monsignor Michael J. Winterer were supposed to celebrate Mass in Beryl Junction, a mission of St. George Parish.
At the time, Msgr. Winterer was pastor of Christ the King Parish; he is now retired.
When the pair arrived in Beryl Junction, “the place where we were going to celebrate Mass was closed,” Deacon Aguirre said.
They didn’t have a key and no one was able to open the doors, but that didn’t stop them.
“It was winter, it was snowing, but Monsignor and I started preparing everything in the parking lot. … We celebrated Mass covered in a foot and a half of snow,” the deacon said.
That experience continues to this day to motivate him to keep serving and working for the community no matter what.
“It’s important that we keep on going,” he said. “Now more than ever that’s true. … We are living in an era of many challenges.”
Being present to the people, listening to them and “guiding them and accompanying them is very important,” he said, adding that despite all the hardships, “we always need to trust the Lord.”
One thing that makes him happy is to see how St. George Parish has grown from having just a few ministries in the early years to now having dozens.
“And the more we work and serve, the more we will grow,” he said.
Deacon Denny Davies
Deacon Davies became a deacon while working as a park ranger in Zion National Park. He was one of the 10 men who responded to an appeal from Sr. Jeremia and Sr. Ellen Mary, who were seeking applicants for a new diaconate class. Of those men, five finished the class. They were the only diaconal class to be ordained outside the Cathedral of the Madeleine; all of the candidates were from southwestern Utah.
Upon ordination, Deacon Davies was assigned to Christ the King Parish in Cedar City, where he has served faithfully ever since.
Msgr. Winterer, who was pastor at Christ the King Parish from 1996 to 2011, remembers Deacon Davies being a tremendous help to him in administering the parish.
Deacon Davies was dedicated to the parish, competent and exacting, easy to work with and a creative thinker; “he was a gem,” Msgr. Winterer said. “I would have found it very difficult to operate the parish without him, had not he been there.”
Msgr. Winterer also appreciated Deacon Davies’ spirituality.
“His prayerfulness radiated to the others; the others picked up his prayerfulness,” he said. “He pointed people to Jesus, not to himself.”
Deacon Davies became the pastoral administrator of St. Christopher Parish in Kanab in 2004. The longtime pastor, Fr. Anthony Vollmer, CPPS, died in 2000, and the parish had been without permanent ecclesial leadership since then. Deacon Davies and his wife, Gail, would make the 80-mile trip from Cedar City to Kanab twice a month and stay at the rectory overnight. Then he would conduct Sunday Celebrations in the Absence of a Priest. He also provided SCAP services at the north rim of the Grand Canyon. He served in this position for 10 years.
“The parish was so welcoming to have somebody there after their priest of many years had died,” Deacon Davies said. “They were just wonderful to be with; very supportive.”
As part of his ministry, he also conducted a Bible study with federal prisoners at the county jail for two years. Although they were mostly Hispanic and he did not speak Spanish, Deacon Davies said the prisoners were always very appreciative. He was also involved in baptismal and marriage preparation at his home parish. Currently, he serves as a member of the Cedar City Interfaith Religious Council.
When his wife was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in October of 2018, Deacon Davies took a step back from his parish responsibilities to care for her at home until she passed away a year later, then returned to his diaconal duties.
“Being involved in the diaconate program puts me right in the center of some of the most wonderful creations that God has ever made,” said Deacon Davies, who calls the Colorado plateau his ‘spiritual home.’ “The deacon program and the Sunday Celebrations in the Absence of a Priest, assisting in Mass, preaching, all of those – I just feel so fortunate to live where we live and to be able to praise God in the way we do. That has just deepened through my experience as a deacon and member of this parish.”
Deacon Davies, who is 81, hopes to be able to continue to serve for as long as his health allows.
Deacon Rogaciano Tellez
Deacon Tellez’s ministry in the Church began when he was very young. One of his earliest memories is seeing his mother praying the rosary.
“My mom was very active in her spirituality,” he said. “She used to go to daily Mass.”
When he was 7, he started serving as an altar boy in his home town parish in Mexico. As a teenager, he entered a seminary, where he stayed for two years.
“But the Lord didn’t want me to be a priest, so I left, but started working with the pastoral youth and was always very active in my parish,” Deacon Tellez said.
After moving to the United States, he at first had no interest in serving the Church because he was focused on working and forming a family with his wife, Juanita.
But “when I came to Utah, something in me told me that I needed to start serving in the Church again,” he said.
At the time, Fr. Paul Kuzy CPPS was pastor of St. George Parish.
“One day I saw him on the altar and I went next to him,” the deacon recalled. Fr. Kuzy asked what was he doing, “to which I responded that I had experience as an altar boy, and I could help him. He just said, ‘Do whatever you want,’ and I did.”
After that, Fr. Kuzy became the deacon’s mentor and friend.
Once, Deacon Tellez attended a class given by diocesan personnel, and although he participated, he didn’t receive a class certificate.
“Fr Kuzy asked me where it was and I just shrugged my shoulders. … He told me that he was giving me a life certificate, and those words marked my heart,” said Deacon Tellez, adding that when he heard about the diaconate program, he didn’t hesitate to enroll in it.
Now 78, Deacon Tellez has had a life filled with many blessings, both spiritual and physical, he said, and he plans to continue serving the people and doing his best to spread the Good News.
“Right before being ordained as deacon I had a heart surgery, and four years ago my wife had a surgery because she had terminal cancer, and here she is next to me working and serving,” he said.
Sometimes God has a very mysterious way of calling people to serve, “but he always knows the ways. He is the life, and we just need to listen to his words,” the deacon said.
Despite the challenges that life throws, “God is always with us, guiding us, walking next to us,” he said. “For me, it is really important that people never forget that God loves us.”