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Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory performs the laying of hands on Joe Laramie, SJ (Photo by Vincent Orlando)

Rite of Passage

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By Kathleen Sullivan | Chronicle Staff
Published: Nov. 4, 2010
Seven Jesuits who are students at the School of Theology and Ministry now have added the title of deacon to their credit.

The seven — John Brown, SJ, Jeff Johnson, SJ, Joe Laramie, SJ, Joel Medina, SJ, Antoine Paumard, SJ, Aaron D. Pidel, SJ, and Alejandro Olayo Méndez, SJ — received the sacrament of Holy Orders on Oct. 8 at St. Ignatius Church, where they were ordained as deacons, enabling them to preach sermons, perform baptisms and witness marriages.

Archbishop of Atlanta Wilton D. Gregory presided at the Mass and administered the ordination, with family and friends of the seven looking on as well as members of the STM and University communities. [See a slideshow of the event at http://bit.ly/9c3nxD]

“The ordination was beautiful,” said Laramie, who was joined at the celebration by his parents, grandparents, godparents, sister and her future brother-in-law. “The music, having my family attend, along with brother Jesuits and fellow STM students — I was really able to pray during the Mass. I felt so grateful that God has called me to this life. As a deacon, I’m honored to serve the Church.”

“It was a beautiful, terrific ceremony,” echoed Johnson, whose parents traveled from Tennessee to be at the ordination. A reception, sponsored by STM, followed on the Brighton Campus.

The formal process of ordination involves the bishop invoking the Holy Spirit through the laying on of hands on the deacon candidates. The deacon candidates then receive their vestments from a priest they have chosen to perform the vesting ritual. Johnson said he chose Rev. Brad Schaeffer, SJ, rector of Blessed Peter Faber Community, to do his vesting to thank him for all the support he has shown him.

Deacon Pidel, a native of Georgia, chose his spiritual director Rev. Casey Beaumier, SJ, a graduate student, to do his vesting. “The ordination was magnificent,” said Fr. Beaumier. “It is a great sign of hope. It was a gift to me to be able to participate and their ordination is a gift to our church.”

The new deacons, who hail from provinces across the country (Detroit, New Orleans, Missouri and Oregon) and from outside the US (France), represent a generation of Jesuits comfortable with using social media and incorporating pop culture into their preaching. Johnson, Laramie, Paumard, Mendez and Pidel are all active on Facebook. Pidel and Johnson are contributors to the Jesuit blog “Whososever Desires,” and Johnson wrote and co-produced “Xavier: Missionary and Saint,” a documentary film narrated by Liam Neeson. And Laramie managed to work a reference to Snooki, a character from the reality show “Jersey Shore,” into a recent homily about the Beatitudes.

In addition to studying at STM, each deacon ministers at a nearby parish. Laramie, a Saint Louis University grad who joined the Jesuits in 2000, is assigned to St. Raphael Parish in Medford, where he gives the homily at the children’s Mass and is helping to prepare students for Confirmation. All of which, he says, is readying him for work in campus ministry following his graduation from STM.

Johnson, who entered the Jesuits after serving five years in the US Navy, is assigned to St. Ignatius Parish, where he has already performed six baptisms. He plans to serve as a high school teacher or administrator after his graduation.

In June, the deacons will be ordained as priests in their home provinces or country.