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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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Two Redemptorists ordained deacons in August

Frater Ako Walker (left foreground), Provincial Superior Father Paul Borowski, and Frater Michael Cunningham (right foreground) on the day the two young men made their final profession of vows.

Two young Redemptorists were ordained transitional deacons this month: Frater Michael Cunningham on August 11 at his home church in Bethpage, N.Y., and Frater Ako Walker on August 18 at the Basilica of Our Lady of Perpetual Help (Mission Church) in Boston.

Dozens of priests and seminarians, friends, and family members participated in both Masses, praying for and supporting the two on their journey to the priesthood. Both men had made their final vows to the Redemptorists—the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer—on August 1 during a youth event held at Notre Dame Retreat House in Canandaigua, N.Y.

After the liturgy of the word concluded during the two ordination Masses, the candidates were called to come forward as the rite of ordination began. Provincial Superior Father Paul Borowski then said to the bishop, “Holy Mother Church asks you to ordain this man, our brother, to the office of deacon.”

The ordaining bishops—Bishop John O. Barres of Rockville Centre on August 11 and Bishop Mark W. O’Connell of Boston on August 18—then asked, “Do you know him to be worthy?”

Father Borowski replied, “After inquiry among the Christian people and upon the recommendation of those concerned with his formation, I testify that he has been found worthy.”

In his homily for Deacon Cunningham’s ordination, Bishop Barres said, “Michael, you are being ordained a deacon at a time in the universal Church when we are focusing at our Sunday Masses on the bread of life discourse in the sixth chapter of the Gospel of John.”

In that chapter Jesus refers to himself as the bread of life, telling his listeners that his flesh is real food and that those who eat it will have eternal life.

“May the Eucharist, the sacrament of charity, both animate and illumine your diaconal charity,” said Bishop Barres. “May the word of God be a light and lamp for the steps you take on your vocational path.”

Bishop O’Connell, who ordained Deacon Walker, had known the ordinand previously, when the latter was a student in his canon law class. “I first knew Ako when his only threshold was to pass my canon law exam,” he said during his homily, generating laughter from the congregation.

The laying on of hands: Ako Walker is ordained a deacon by Bishop Mark O’Connell.

The bishop added that although the diaconate is not the ultimate destination for those seeking priestly ordination, it is “another threshold and an important beginning.”

“With this sacrament today you enter the clerical state. It will be part of you for the rest of your life and forevermore.”

After the homily during their respective ordinations, Frater Walker and Frater Cunningham answered “I do” to a series of questions posed by the bishop. In this way, the ordinand resolves to be consecrated for ministry to the Church, to carry out his office as deacon with humble charity, to hold fast to the mystery of faith and proclaim it in word and deed, and to remain celibate “as a sign of your dedication to Christ the Lord for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven, in the service of God and man.”

The deacon-to-be also resolves to maintain and deepen his prayer life and faithfully to pray the Liturgy of the Hours with and for the people of God. He then promises respect and obedience to the diocesan bishop and to his religious superior.

Michael Cunningham is ordained a deacon by Bishop John Barres.

One of the most dramatic moments of any ordination is the litany of supplication, during which the candidate lies prostrate on the floor while music ministers and the congregation ask in song for God’s mercy and the prayers of all the saints.

The laying on of hands follows, during which the ordinand kneels before the bishop, who places his hands on the man’s head and invokes the Holy Spirit.

Click to view photo galleries from the ordinations of Frater Michael Cunningham and Frater Ako Walker.

Now the newly ordained man is vested for the first time with a deacon’s stole and dalmatic. He then kneels again before the bishop to receive the Book of Gospels. The bishop prays, “Receive the Gospel of Christ, whose herald you have become, and see that you believe what you read, teach what you believe, and practice what you teach.”

Now as the Mass proceeds with the liturgy of the Eucharist, the newly ordained serves at the altar as a deacon for the first time.

Listen to Bishop John O. Barres’s homily for Deacon Michael Cunningham’s ordination:


Listen to Bishop Mark W. O’Connell’s homily for Deacon Ako Walker’s ordination.