SS. Rose and Clement Church was filled with joyful parishioners at the 10:30 Mass Sunday morning, as two longtime members of the parish served their first Mass as deacons after being ordained the day before at the Cathedral of SS. Peter and Paul in Providence.
A reception in the church basement followed Sunday’s Mass, with people patiently waiting in long lines to congratulate Deacons John Fulton and Kenneth Andrade.
“I’m filled with emotion,” said Deacon Andrade, who has been assigned to serve at SS. Rose and Clement. “I’m thankful for the support.”
Andrade said he is “overwhelmed” that he will continue his religious journey at SS. Rose and Clement because he has been a member of St. Rose of Lima Church for 55 years, and continued to follow the church after the merge with St. Clement in 1997. He made all of his sacraments through the church, beginning with First Holy Communion when he was in second grade, and he and his wife Helen have been regularly attending Mass together since they were married 32 years ago.
Fulton, who has been a parishioner since 1990, will soon head to St. Kevin Church to serve. For him, Sunday’s Mass wasn’t just his first as deacon; it was one of his last at SS. Rose and Clement.
“One of the things I was thinking was, ‘I’m not going to be here. I’m going to be leaving my parish family,’” Fulton said. “So, it felt like a goodbye mass. I’m still wrapping my head around it.”
Nevertheless, he’s looking forward to meeting people at St. Kevin Parish, and is grateful to his SS. Rose and Clement friends for their encouragement. Anna, his wife of 31 years, said she’s sure she’ll continue to frequent SS. Rose and Clement, as she often serves as a Eucharistic Minister.
“We will still be part of this parish, but we will miss it,” she said. Of her husband’s first Mass as deacon, she said, “It was wonderful. I cried through the whole thing.”
Helen was also moved to tears a few times during the Mass. She became emotional when Rev. Father Edward Wilson Jr., the parish pastor, instructed Deacon Andrade to bless a gift from the parish for Helen, a gorgeous silver necklace featuring the Blessed Mother, before presenting it to her. He did the same with Deacon Fulton and Anna.
“I’ll treasure it, I really will,” Helen said of the necklace, tears streaming down her cheeks. “I’m extremely proud of my husband.”
During Mass, Fr. Wilson reminded the congregation that deacons are all married men, and that they need the support of their wives through their religious journeys. The necklaces, he said, are tokens of their appreciation for being wonderful partners. Additionally, Fr. Wilson told the congregation that the vestments the deacons wore were gifts from the parish, another sign of their thanks.
Also at Mass, Deacon Noel Edsall, who has been at SS. Rose and Clement for more than 15 years, gave the homily. In his time with the church, he said many parishioners have asked him what a deacon’s responsibilities are.
In his homily, he explained that priests are deacons before they are priests, and that deacons are ordained in a lifelong bond with God that is as strong as a priest’s relationship with God.
“In this way, they are icons, they are images of Jesus Christ,” Deacon Edsall said. “They are to serve, and not to be served.”
He also noted that deacons are permitted do many things priests do, such as benediction, officiate weddings, funerals and lead communion services. But they do not celebrate a Mass, meaning they are not responsible for the consecration of the Lord to the Eucharist. They also cannot anoint the sick, or give absolutions to confessions.
Deacon Edsall said it’s the deacon’s right and responsibility to read the Gospel during every Eucharistic liturgy he attends, whether the Bishop or Pope are there or not. No matter what, the deacon present is the proper reader.
Keeping with the requirement, Fulton read the Gospel, as well as the Prayers of the Faithful. Andrade retrieved the Eucharist from the tabernacle and gave the final blessing.
Deacon Edsall stressed the importance of preaching the word of God not only on the altar, but in everyday life.
“Prayer is a source of every word you preach,” Edsall said. “Deacon is not simply what you do; it’s who you are. Let what you do and what you teach flow from the heart, from the fruit of prayer each day. If you are faithful in daily prayer, and seek the health and protection of our Blessed Mother, though you may stumble, you will never fall or fail.”
He went on to offer more words of encouragement and guidance.
“By the Holy Spirit at your ordination you were changed forever,” he said. “You are no longer ‘Mister,’ but ‘Deacon.’ You are visible to the world no longer as one of the sheep; now you are one of the shepherds. Your visibility to society outside of the church is an important side of Jesus Christ, who came to serve.”
Longtime parishioners Tony and Mary DiSaia said Fulton and Andrade are an inspiration to others. At the reception, they praised them both.
“They are going to make great deacons,” Mary said. “We just love them dearly, and we know how hard they worked on their studies.”
To earn their status as deacons, Fulton and Andrade have studied the Diaconate Formation Prayer for four years through Providence College. They’ve also been busy at their full-time jobs: Fulton is a chronic disease epidemiologist for the Rhode Island Health Department, while Andrade, who has been affiliated with local Scouting for nearly 50 years, is a funeral director at Nardolillo Funeral Home.
Patty Gomm, of Scout Troop 7 Buttonwoods, who is also a parishioner at St. Kevin, has known Andrade for many years, and said witnessing Andrade’s work with the Scouts proves to her he will be a great deacon.
“He has a great heart,” she said, noting how wonderful he is with children.
And while Fulton is leaving SS. Rose and Clement, St. Kevin is ready to welcome him with open arms.
“We are delighted to be getting Deacon Fulton,” said Fr. Robert Marciano, the pastor of St. Kevin Parish, who served as pastor of SS. Rose and Clement before Fr. Wilson took over. “He’s a talented, faithful man. I’ve known him for many years. He and his wife Anna have been very involved in the church, and I had the privilege to be the one to recommend him and Deacon Andrade to the Diaconate program.”