RALEIGH – Cong Le and Ross Williams, seminarians for the Diocese of Raleigh, were ordained to the transitional diaconate Saturday, April 15 at Holy Name of Jesus Cathedral. Bishop Luis Rafael Zarama conferred the rite during Mass.
Le, 38, was born in Vietnam, where he was raised as the youngest of eight children and graduated from college at Thiet Ke Tao Mau in Saigon. In 2005 he moved with his family to Greensboro, North Carolina, where St. Mary became his home parish. He is a student at Notre Dame Seminary in New Orleans, Louisiana.
Williams, 27, was born in Wisconsin. As a boy, he moved to Cary, North Carolina in 2000 and St. Michael the Archangel became the home parish for him and his family. He graduated from N.C. State University, where he studied computer engineering, before he began studies at seminary. He’s a student at St. Vincent de Paul Regional Seminary in Boynton Beach, Florida.
During the Mass, Le and Williams became transitional deacons through the Rite of Ordination to the Diaconate, which includes the presentation of the candidates, election by the bishop, promises of the elect, litany of supplication and laying on of hands.
Readings were shared by those chosen by the elect. Nhung Le, Deacon Cong’s sister, shared the first reading in Vietnamese, and Adam Galetti, friend of Deacon Ross, shared the second reading in English.
Investiture with stole and dalmatic, which are clothing items, or vestments, was also part of the rite. A new robe, worn over the plain white alb, signifies a new ministerial role in the celebration of the Eucharist. A stole, worn across the body, is another sign of the new role.
Each deacon asked someone to assist with vesting, or process of investiture.
For Deacon Cong, that was Monsignor Cuong Pham, pastor of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Church in Astoria in the Diocese of Brooklyn.
“I met him when I was taking philosophy at St. John University in New York … he became a spiritual father to me, guiding me. When I have a difficult situation, he helps me to find a way,” Deacon Cong said.
Deacon Ross was assisted by Deacon Brian Phillips from his home parish of St. Michael.
“I deeply respect him,” said Deacon Ross. “One of the interesting things, you can be vested by a deacon or a priest … I thought it was important to be vested by a deacon because that is the order that I am joining. That is the point that I am reaching. Next year, God-willing, and I am going to keep on saying that … I will ask a priest to vest me. But, here, I am becoming a deacon.”
Each deacon’s mother played an important role during the Mass as well; they presented the gifts before the liturgy of the Eucharist.
For Deacon Cong, ordination was a joyful moment that he has spent years preparing for, including a pastoral year at St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Raleigh.
“I felt God calling me. I prayed deeply … asking God what he wanted me to do,” he said, noting that he’s looking forward to the role of deacon and his final year of seminary. “I enjoy visiting people in hospitals, nursing homes and retirement houses … Everything begins with my family, they support me and pray for me. I appreciate the people in the parish praying for me … the kids in the school send me the cards. And when I open the envelopes … that touches my heart. God asks people to support me in different ways and that brings me joy and makes me feel that I am not alone.”
Deacon Ross said he feels support from family, friends and the Catholic community, including Infant of Prague Parish in Jacksonville, where he did his pastoral year.
“I’ve heard it said that there are two ways of discerning the priesthood … with St. Peter he was called to be an apostle and then slowly over time figured things out. Whereas, with Paul, it was all at once. I had the Pauline style of call,” he smiled. “October of my senior year of college … it all fell into place.”
NC Catholics NOW spoke with Deacons Cong Le and Ross Williams and some of those who are close to them about the Mass, what it means and their vocation journeys.