The ordination to the diaconate of three parishioners of Christ the King Church in Little Rock was a celebration of their commitment and of the vocations boom at the parish.
Patrick Friend, Joseph de Orbegozo and Stephen Elser have walked similar paths so it was only fitting they were ordained together May 24 during a Mass attended by their former pastor Msgr. Gaston Hebert as well as their family, friends and teachers from Christ the King School and Catholic High School.
Including Father Stephen Hart who was ordained May 27, the parish has nine diocesan seminarians.
The trio received their sacraments at CTK, attended CTK School and graduated from CHS, Friend in 2007 and de Orbegozo and Elser in 2009. They completed their seminary training at St. Meinrad Seminary in Indiana where they continued to nurture their bonds.
The importance of parish and schools were apparent. Their former junior high religion teacher, Deacon Danny Hartnedy, was asked to vest them in their stole and dalmatic during the Mass. A former CHS teacher, Deacon Chuck Ashburn, also assisted.
Friend, 28, admitted, “I thought I would have the ol’ emotions under control, but the second I turned the corner and saw that crucifix hanging over the altar, the same cross that I had seen when I received by first Communion, confirmation, that I saw at my mother’s funeral and my dad and his wife, Dona’s, wedding, it was just so beautiful. It felt so right. Finally, I was getting to publicly commit to the life that God has been calling me too for all of these years. I felt extremely grateful and humbled that the Lord has allowed me to share in this ministry.”
For Friend and Elser, they are continuing a vocations tradition set by their uncles. Friend is the nephew of Msgr. Scott Friend, vicar general and vocations director for the diocese, and Elser is the nephew of Father William Elser, pastor in Hot Springs Village.
During the Mass the men made promises of celibacy, prayer and obedience. As deacons they can proclaim the Gospel and preach during Mass, administer baptism, distribute Communion and preside over funeral services and act as an official witness at weddings.
De Orbegozo, 25, said two moments during the ordination rite had an impact on him.
“First, the promise of obedience was a powerful moment. With the bishop grasping my hands I really felt the largeness of what was happening in my life and a joy in having made the promises. The second was the laying on of hands. It is a humbling and powerful experience, and one that continues to remind me that I am a servant to the Lord, the bishop and the people.”
Elser, 26, said lying prostrate on the floor was the moment he continued to reflect on after the Mass.
“It was such a powerful moment for me as I was literally laying down my life for Christ and his Church,” he said. “As the litany of saints was being sung, I kept thinking about how each saint was praying for me as I was beginning my life as an ordained minister of the Church.”
Hartnedy said he still remembers each of the new deacons when he taught them in seventh and eighth grades.
“I am grateful to be a little piece in God’s great plan,” he said. “They were good with a capital G, particularly Joseph and Stephen. And then just the life in Patrick. I knew whatever he said yes to he was going to excel at.”
The new deacons will work this summer in parishes. Friend has been assigned to Our Lady of Good Counsel Church in Little Rock with Father Josh Stengel. De Orbegozo will be serving in Russellville, Dardanelle and Danville with Father Mauricio Carrasco. Elser will be serving Immaculate Conception Church in Fort Smith with Father John Antony. They are scheduled to be ordained priests in 2018.
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