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Since 1732, the Redemptorists — a congregation of missionary priests and brothers — have followed in Jesus’ footsteps, preaching the Word and serving the poor and most abandoned.
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The fulfillment of a dream

Deacon David Verghese

Note: This story was first published in the Winter 2013 edition of Plentiful Redemption.

On October 11, when David Verghese made his final profession as a Redemptorist, he couldn’t help but recall a pivotal moment from a retreat he had once attended at Mount St. Alphonsus in Esopus, N.Y., long the location of the Redemptorists’ major seminary.

“We visited the graves of all the men who were buried there and lit candles for them,” he said. “I remember thinking how wonderful to give your whole life as a Redemptorist—what a great gift that would be.”

That life is now a reality for David Verghese, 33, ordained a deacon in Boston on October 12. Cardinal Seán O’Malley, the archbishop of Boston, presided, ordaining Deacon Verghese as well as eight Jesuit deacons. The Mass was held at St. Ignatius of Loyola Church in Chestnut Hill.

Deacon Verghese had taken his final vows as a Redemptorist the previous day during a Mass at The Basilica of Our Lady of Perpetual Help (Mission Church) in Boston. Provincial Superior Father Kevin Moley received his promises of poverty, chastity, obedience, and perseverance.

In the days before his ordination, he said, “I was nervous, but on the day itself I felt a wonderful sense of peace. It was the fulfillment of all that I’d dreamed of.

“Looking out on the people’s faces, we could see that they were so happy for us and genuinely in deep prayer. I felt a sense of joy, thinking about giving my life for these people.”

Attending the ordination Mass were the new deacon’s parents; brother and family; three uncles; a number of cousins, including one who is studying for the priesthood for the Diocese of Lubbock, Texas; and some family members on his mother’s side who had traveled from India.

Deacon Verghese is scheduled for ordination as a priest on May 31 in Annapolis, Md.

A native of Leonardtown, Md., he grew up in St. Aloysius Gonzaga Parish and graduated from St. Mary’s Ryken High School in 1998. He spent a year working with the Missionaries of Charity in Washington, D.C., before entering the Redemptorist formation program in Whitestone, N.Y., in 2004.

The Redemptorists weren’t the only congregation he considered. He also thought about the Franciscans of the Immaculate and the Missionaries of Charity Fathers.

In 2007 he took a detour, becoming a seminarian for the Archdiocese of Washington. But two years later he rejoined the Redemptorist formation program in Boston. He completed his theological studies at Boston College in May 2012 and this past summer finished a pastoral year at St. Gerard Church in Lima, Ohio.

There he visited the sick in local hospitals, taught in the parish school, and ministered to prisoners in two correctional facilities.

Prison ministry, he said, “was very gratifying for us because the men were so hungry for the Word of God and for the Church. It was eye-opening because I didn’t expect to meet such faithful Catholics in prison.”

Working with children in the parish school posed challenges of its own.

“It was a little difficult because I was one of two guys who were walking around in religious garb, and the kids wanted to know what it was all about,” Deacon Verghese said.

“They had lots of questions—why do you wear this habit, and why does it look like a dress? But it was good because it allowed us to explain the philosophy and teach them more about the Church.”

Deacon Verghese is now in residence at St. Mary Church in Annapolis. As a deacon, he will be able to perform baptisms, witness marriage vows, proclaim the Gospel and preach at Mass, and officiate at wakes and funerals.

Deacons are servants of the people of God, as Cardinal O’Malley said during his homily October 12. That’s a point he kept returning to, said Deacon Verghese.

“He talked about shepherds, and how they smell like the sheep. And he said that when we get to heaven, there might be a sniff test—meaning that the Lord would find out whether we smell like the sheep.”

Over the next several months the new deacon will have plenty of opportunities to mingle with the flock and serve them. And perhaps get a head start on that sniff test as he prepares for his priestly ordination May 31.

View a slideshow from the ordination here.