Deacon James' Answer to God's Call

On Aug. 15, 2007, I witnessed the first vows of two special brothers: Br. Angelo Casimiro, MIC, and (now) Deacon James Cervantes, MIC. My time in the Marians has been marked by a particular love for these two older brothers who are just one step ahead of me in religious life. The day after I became a novice, they became brothers. On Nov. 17, 2010, Br. James Cervantes became Deacon James Cervantes, the first Marian seminarian to be ordained in the Philippines.

The celebration was presided by His Excellency the Most Rev. Nereo P. Odchimar, DD, Bishop of Tandag and current president of the Council of Catholic Bishops of the Philippines. The light that pervaded St. Augustine Cathedral in Cagayan de Oro made the ceremony hot, but reminded me of the purity to which Christ's ministers are called: to be the light of the world. Deacon James is not alone in this task. Two of his fellow seminarians from St. John Vianney Theological Seminary were ordained with him. Deacon Lino Macatol, of the Archdiocese of Cagayan de Oro, and Deacon Alvin Pobar, of the Diocese of Talibon, Bohol, were also elevated to the diaconate.

Perhaps the most touching aspect of the ceremony was seeing the faces of the parents and family of those ordained. Despite the doubly repeated prohibition against any cameras during the ceremony, all members crowded the sanctuary to capture the moment of the Laying on of Hands, the ancient biblical gesture beseeching God to empower the candidate by the Holy Spirit. (And many had an excuse, too. Even though all were Filipinos, those from the north could claim they spoke only Filipino, and not the Visayan used in the south.) After the bishop laid his hands on Deacon James, Fr. Jan Migacz, MIC, superior of the Marians' Asian Vicariate, rushed to meet Deacon James' mother, Yolanda. The two invested Deacon James with the stole and dalmatic - which only hours earlier I had seen his mother ironing with much love.

Later, Deacon James was able to offer Holy Communion to his mother. Then, as a special surprise, Divine Providence allowed him to give Holy Communion to all his fellow seminarians at St. John Vianney. Apparently it was the most smile-filled line of communicants he had seen. All were so proud of their new deacon brother. I, too, felt like a younger brother, so proud to have my "big brother" now a deacon, just a step away from the priesthood.

At the end of Mass, Deacon James dismissed the crowds (albeit in English during a Visayan Mass). We then all proceeded to the Dynasty Hotel, where a small, quiet reception was held for family, friends, and the Divine Mercy Foundation, which manages the Shrine of the Divine Mercy in El Salvador, Philippines. Our last tribute for his ordination included a Filipino dance known as "the Papaya" (that being the only word amidst an instrumental song). Father Klaudiusz Rokicki, MIC, noted how much he loved the fruit (which is said to help priestly vocations), and so picked the song as a tribute to his presence in our community.

Perhaps the most fruitful of all is Deacon James' answer to God's call. From being the first Filipino with Br. Angelo to enter the Marians, then taking vows, promising his life to God, and now to transferring to the Philippines, Deacon James exemplifies a life lived out in humble love for God and neighbor. He is truly what the Marians' Renovator, Blessed George Matulaitis-Matulewicz (1871-1927), would call, "a rag to be used anywhere in the Church".

I pray and I hope that God will use him many times to clean the Church - both now as a deacon - and soon as the first Filipino Marian priest.

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