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A Ministry of Presence

Reflections from the Newest Transitional Deacons

Diocese of San José Seminarians Robert Lamorena, Ryan Michael Chew Kong Mau, and Duy Nguyen were ordained to the transitional diaconate at the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Joseph on Saturday, May 20, 2023.


As you prepare to be ordained to the transitional diaconate on your way to the priesthood, how has this journey transformed your personal faith?

Robert:  As I prepare for ordination, time spent in prayer continues to draw me closer to God and affirms my vocation. Since this vocation comes from God, it is vital that I continue to pray and listen for God's call and invitation.

Ryan: Throughout my formation in the seminary, I feel that I have grown in understanding the Holy Spirit, whom I have always seen as the initiator, sending us out to proclaim the faith. I have greater confidence when speaking to others about the Church. I have cherished my time in seminary, where I have developed that aspect of my life.

Duy: The deacon takes on the role of servant of Christ. Prayer for faith and strength is essential to carrying out the ministries of Christ, evangelizing and baptizing people in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

How did faith before the seminary influence your decision to pursue this path?

Robert:  I was born and raised Roman Catholic. I practiced my faith early on by attending Mass and regularly praying the rosary with my family. Spending time with God in prayer helped with discernment.

Ryan: I feel that it has been an ongoing process. I started altar serving when I was about 12 years old, and I always loved it. That same desire to serve has stuck with me for all these years. It really blossomed when I joined my youth ministry when I was 14 and stayed with the same ministry, while also joining the young adult group, until I was 28 when I moved to San Jose.

Duy: Prayer is an integral part of being a deacon. Growing up, my family always prayed the rosary together. Prayer also nurtures the seed of faith and builds trust and relationship with God. My discernment began with the prison ministry in San Jose. Prayer helps me recognize the love of God for me and leads me to leave everything to dedicate my whole life to God.

Are there any practical experiences you credit with helping mature your faith?

Robert: The program at Mundelein Seminary encourages a greater appreciation for the Church's wisdom, rich traditions, and diverse practices. The Church inspires me to be creative in the ways I can share God's love with others. Being involved in ministry and having pastoral encounters are essential to maturing my faith in the context of my vocation.

Ryan: My parish internship last year was a great joy! I learned a lot while serving at St. Lawrence. Participating in parish daily life helped me better understand local needs. I also have benefited from the summer assignments and the wide range of experiences I have had with pastors.

Duy: My parish internship helped me a lot. I shadowed a priest at Masses, weddings, funerals, etc. And I learned that the most important ministry is the ministry of presence. Sometimes, your presence is enough.

What do you wish others considering the diaconate knew about the priesthood?

Robert:  If you are discerning, pray to God for clarity and for the right people to guide you. Do not discern alone. Converse with Jesus, Our Lord, especially in the Blessed Sacrament. Meet with a priest or a spiritual director and talk to others who are also discerning religious life and Holy Orders.

Ryan: Take your time in discerning the call to priesthood. You will have time in the seminary to discern, and many people are there to help you. There will be lots of people who will be excited that God has called you!

Duy: It is an exciting journey. Remember, you will serve in the footsteps of Christ. You lead by example. Do not worry about what you are to say, the Holy Spirit guides you, and Christ invites you to venture out into the deep. Allow God to lead you where you may have never dreamed of going.

What inspires and challenges you personally and spiritually on this journey?

Robert: When I first got to Mundelein Seminary, a fellow seminarian advised me to fall in love with Jesus. The beauty of this vocation (and any vocation really) is learning to fall in love with God and growing in the desire to love Him well.

Ryan: My family and friends inspire me the most. They have been a great support system for me, and I am so grateful to them. Spiritually I trust that the Holy Family will take care of and guide me. Our secular culture challenges me. People see all sorts of truth but cannot determine which is the real one. We need to show everyone that Christ is the Truth.

Duy: I am inspired to be Christ’s servant and to walk with Christ. This journey challenges me to live a life conforming to Christ and to be a model for all.

In your view, what makes the role of a deacon an important one today?

Robert: In the life of the Church, the deacon reflects Christ, the servant. The role of the deacon reminds all Christians of the call to serve others with and through Christ's love.

Ryan: Much of what a deacon does is behind the scenes and often goes unnoticed. I am sure many deacons are happy to be in the background, but they are important for the overall ministry of the diocese! They assist the priests of the diocese in their daily ministry, while still serving their family and friends.

Duy: An essential responsibility and role of the deacon is praying for the Church and the people of God. He promises to pray the Liturgy of the Hours, the prayer of the Church, where the Psalms and other scriptural texts are recited or sung aloud at specific intervals throughout the day.

If you had to choose 1 or 2 words to describe your experience leading up to your upcoming ordination to the transitional diaconate, what would they be and why?

Robert:  Hills & Valleys.

Ryan: Unworthy because I know that being a sinner, I am unworthy of this special gift God is giving me. Grateful because I am thankful for this opportunity to share in this ministry

Duy: Awe-inspiring. Being a deacon fills me with awe. Your life is not your own anymore. You live the life of Christ, bringing the good news to the whole world. 

Is there anything you wish to leave with readers? Any requests, advice, or favorite scriptures?

Robert: "We love because he first loved us." 1 John 4:19

Ryan: Please continue to pray for me as I begin my ministry as a cleric. I also ask that you continue to pray for our diocese and our bishop, priests, deacons, seminarians, and religious!

Duy: Allow God to surprise you!

Robert, Ryan, and Duy are completing their third year of theological study at  Mundelein Seminary, Illinois. Robert Lamorena was born and raised in the LA basin and enjoys adoration, time with family and friends, music, and photography. His home parish is St. Martin of Tours in San José. Ryan Mau is the eldest of three brothers. His home parish is the Newman Center at San Jose State University where he graduated in 2017. He loves playing basketball, ultimate frisbee, and traveling. Duy (“Zwee”) Nguyen was born in Vietnam before emigrating to the United States during high school. His home parish is our Lady of La Vang. He has a special devotion to our Blessed Mother and Saint Joseph.

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