Twelve will join archdiocese’s diaconate community when Cardinal George ordains them permanent deacons May 15 at Holy Name Cathedral.
The newly ordained deacons will have completed a four-year program at the University of St. Mary of the Lake/Mundelein Seminary that included classes in theology, pastoral ministry, spiritual formation and communication and collaboration.
They are clergy, along with priests and bishops. The ministries that deacons perform include the teaching mission of the church, caring for the poor, performing baptisms and marriages, conducting funeral liturgies, presiding at wake services and assisting the priest at Mass by proclaiming the Gospel, preaching, leading intercessions, preparing the altar and intoning the dismissal.
The new deacons and their wives are:
John and Joan Baier, Immaculate Conception Parish, Highland Park
John Baier, 64, is a physics teacher and lives in Clarendon Hills with his wife, Joan. The couple has a daughter, Brigid Anne.
Following ordination, Baier says he plans “continued work with liturgy, especially liturgy of the hours” and wants to continue teaching classes on the Bible.
He said diaconate formation taught him the value of the sacrament of marriage. It also taught him how to minister to others and to develop a “rich” spiritual life through the sacraments and prayer.
Joan Baier said she enjoyed taking the classes with the other couples.
“This has led to John and I having had many wonderful experiences both together and with others as we try to discern God’s will for us,” she said.
Michael and Denise Ciciura, Ss. Cyril and Methodius Parish, Lemont.
Michael Ciciura, 41, works as a branch manager for an investment firm.
Following ordination, Ciciura says he will work with the parish’s Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, marriage preparation and other programs.
Denise Ciciura said the formation program was a “great experience.”
“Being on this journey with my husband has brought us closer and I know this journey will continue to bring us happiness and our faith will continue to grow,” she said.
Martin and Victoria Enciso, Good Shepherd Parish, 2719 S. Kolin Ave.
Martin Enciso, 39, works as a production manager. He and his wife have four children: Martin, 15, Nicodemus, 14, Noel, 11, and Maya, 9.
Following ordination, Enciso says he will work in youth ministry at his parish.
Deacon formation strengthened the Encisos’ marriage.
“My wife and I feel as if we were new to our marriage. We have gotten to know each other all over again,” he said.
His wife agreed.
“The love and respect for each other has increased and as a result we have become closer to each other,” Victoria Enciso said.
Bill and Jean Gibbons, St. Patrick Parish, Wadsworth
Bill Gibbons, 51, is a project manager for a telecommunications provider and lives in Gurnee with his wife, Jean. The couple has two children: Erin, 27 and Megan, 23.
Following ordination Gibbons says he will continue his ministry at the Lake County Jail in Waukegan and he will work with the Light of the World evangelization retreat program that began in 2006.
For Gibbons, the formation process helped him discern a possible call to bereavement ministry, brought he and his wife closer together and helped him gain “a better understanding of who I am as a man, husband and father,” he said.
Joe and Carol Gonzalez, St Germaine Parish, Oak Lawn
Joe Gonzalez, 54, works as an operations manager and the couple has two children: Adam, 16, and Amelia, 13.
Following ordination, Gonzalez said he will work to teach the youth that church is good, that God is awesome and that it’s OK to be the ‘good’ kid.”
Gonzalez said he feels truly blessed to be called to be a deacon.
“It has been an exciting time knowing that in the end I will be able to serve our Lord, and his people, as he has called me to,” he said.
Carol Gonzalez said the other candidates and their wives were an inspiration and support. “This isn’t something that can be accomplished alone,” she said.
Ivan Lazcano, St. Stephen Protomartyr Parish, Des Plaines
Ivan Lazcano, 38, works as an accountant, fundraiser and strategy director.
Religious education for children and adults will be Lazcano’s focus following ordination.
A highlight of formation for him was the charity internship. Lazcano said this opportunity gave him a taste of what his ministry as a deacon will be like and helped him grow spiritually.
He said he enjoys leading retreats and missions, “working for peace and justice among immigrants and leading the youth to Christ.”
Mark and Judy Phelan, Most Holy Redeemer, Evergreen Park
Mark Phelan, 52, is a carpenter and is a village trustee for Evergreen Park. He and his wife, Judy, have four children: Kelly, 19, twins Luke and Meghan, 17, and Jenny, 15.
Following ordination, Phelan says he looks forward to serving the parishioners at Most Holy Redeemer through liturgies and other ministries such as visits to the homebound.
“I also hope to work with and assist the poor and needy of the community, spreading the Good News of Christ’s love for all of us.”
Edward and Gail Podgorski, St. Monica Parish, Foster and Nottingham
Edward Podgorski, 68, is retired from pharmaceutical sales and lives in Niles with his wife, Gail.
Following ordination, Podgorski says he will continue with the bereavement ministry and begin doing baptisms. The highlight of his formation process was his summer internships at Zacchaeus House and at St. Sylvester Food Pantry.
“I have grown spiritually because of the program,” he said. “With the help of God, I hope to continue to grow in the love of God so I can serve my neighbor as Jesus did.”
His wife, Gail Podgorski, agreed.
“I personally have grown closer to God through this time and feel the joint commitment necessary to complete this program has strengthened our marriage,” she said.
Juan and Helen Ponce de León, St. William Parish, 2558 N. Sayre
Juan Ponce de León, 59, works as a product buyer for Insight Corporation.
The couple has two sons, Juan, 27, and José, 23.
Ponce de León says his goal following ordination is to service the people of St. William Parish and assist the pastor.
For him, a highlight of his deacon formation was visiting various parishes and witnessing the different liturgical services.
(James) Chuck and Amanda Thompson, St. Mary of the Woods Parish, 7033 N. Moselle Ave.
Chuck Thompson, 49, teaches theology at St. Ignatius College Prep. He and his wife Amanda have three children: Maggie, 10, Hannah, 9, and Leo, 7.
Following ordination, Thompson plans to work with adult sacramental preparation and faith formation in his parish.
During his formation process Thompson says he was “affirmed” by the St. Mary of the Woods community.
“I will never forget their kind words of love and support,” he said.
Joseph and Diane Yannotta, St. Edna Parish, Arlington Heights
Joseph Yannotta, 64, lives in Buffalo Grove with his wife. The couple has two children: Carolyn, 38, and Alice, 36.
Yannotta says he will serve the parish’s human concerns commission, ministry of care, peace and justice and St. Edna Outreach following ordination.
“I feel that this entire experience has brought me closer to God and my family,” he said. “The bond between my diaconate candidate brothers has been a treasure and something I will always hold close to my heart.”
Diane Yannotta called the formation process a “blessing.”
“I feel that I have grown in my spiritual life and have enjoyed all of the opportunities for learning,” she said. “Our family and friends have given us so much love and support.”
Gregory and Eileen Zeifert, St. Bede Parish, Ingleside
Gregory Zeifert, 59, is a store manager for an automotive parts chain and lives in Antioch with his wife. The couple has three children: Edward, 30, Ryan, 28, and Michael, 26.
Zeifert says he will continue his role as co-coordinator of the parish’s ministry of care and work in baptism preparation.
A highlight of the formation process for Zeifert was studying Scripture.
“Our professors in both the Old Testament and New Testament classes brought the Scripture into a whole new perspective, which aroused my enthusiasm to read, study, reflect and pray more and more on God’s Word.”
Eileen Zeifert said the four years that her husband has been in formation were “Spirit- filled.”
“I have enjoyed watching Gregg grow and mature in his ministry,” she said.