The Official Newspaper of the Diocese of Little Rock

63 men chosen for next diaconate formation class

Director says the men have shown servant’s heart, commitment

Published: May 18, 2023   
Travis McAfee, Arkansas Catholic file
Bishop Anthony B. Taylor ordains Deacon Tom Parks of Rogers during an ordination Mass June 25, 2022, at St. Vincent de Paul Church in Rogers.

Sixty-three men have been chosen for the next diaconate formation class, which will begin its five-year program in August.

Deacon Mark Verkamp, diaconate formation director, said about 120 men expressed interest in becoming deacons, with about 90 submitting applications. The selection was made after psychological evaluations, recommendations from their pastor, parishioners and coworkers, background checks and interviews with the diaconate formation team. Bishop Anthony B. Taylor approved the aspirants who were chosen.

Beginning Aug. 4-6, the men and their wives will meet monthly at St. John Center in Little Rock for weekend classes. The classes will be held 11 times a year through May 2028. Their ordination will be held in June 2028.

The English-language program will be led by instructors from St. Meinrad School of Theology in Indiana, while the Spanish-language program will be taught by Arkansas priests.

Verkamp said he is already impressed with the eagerness of the aspirants.

“The sense of commitment from everyone is excellent,” Verkamp said. “We have a wide range of people, different professions from ranchers to doctors, lawyers, construction workers, all walks of life. Some are retired, and some still work their day job. It is a great sense of initial excitement. Everybody comes across with a servant’s heart.”

Twenty-five Hispanic aspirants were chosen. They are:

  • Our Lady of Fatima, Benton: Francisco Antonio Lemus Sagastume, wife Mirza
  • Our Lady of Good Counsel, Little Rock: Juan Miguel Moreno Compean, wife Anabel
  • St. Edward, Little Rock: Ernesto Garay Badillo, wife Lili
  • St. Edward, Texarkana: Leovardo Parra Vargas, wife Remedios; C. Rolando Olmos Zepeda, wife Ana
  • St. John, Hot Springs: Armando Cadena Morales, wife Carmenn
  • St. John, Russellville: Salvador Gonzalez, wife Tere
  • St. Joseph, Fayetteville: Gonzalo Leon Perez; wife Maria
  • St. Jude, Waldron: Martin Baza Millan, wife Leda
  • St. Luke, Warren: Jorge Acuchi Diego, wife Maria
  • St. Mary, Arkadelphia: Melesio Vazquez Torres, wife Silvia
  • St. Mary, Batesville: Cesar Rendon Rodriguez, wife Yamel
  • St. Michael, Van Buren: J. Cruz Hernandez Solis; wife Mari; J. Lucas Hernandez Gutierrez, wife Marina
  • St. Raphael, Springdale: Cruz Carlos Ortiz Benavidez, wife Lorena; Jose Dalio Ceciliano, wife Guadalupe; Mario Escobar Serrano, wife Esperanza; Roman Villagran Mondragon, wife Maria
  • St. Theresa, Little Rock: Jose Guadalupe Guzman Pineda, wife Ena; Oscar Mendez Leon, wife Mariana; Raul de Jesus Beza Beltran, wife Rosario
  • St. Vincent de Paul, Rogers: Jesus Martinez Reyes, wife Herminia; Jose Luis Balderas Medrano, wife Jacky; Jose Aquiles Morales Galvez, wife Claudia; Paul Ibanez Becerra, wife Ana Liz

Thirty-eight aspirants will be in the English-language program.

  • Christ the King, Little Rock: Doug "Neal" Reeves, wife Robyn
  • Holy Redeemer, El Dorado: John Eckart, wife Laurie
  • Immaculate Conception, Fort Smith: David Young, wife Rosalie; Robert "Rob" Maestri; William "Bill" Thomas, wife Peggy
  • Immaculate Heart of Mary, North Little Rock (Marche): Daniel "Danny" Bercher, wife Anita
  • Our Lady of Fatima, Benton: James "Rick" Lee, wife Kathy; Thomas "Tom" Avery Jr., wife Michelle
  • Our Lady of Good Counsel, Little Rock: John Ekeanyanwu, wife Jennifer; Michael Smith, wife Cindy
  • Our Lady of the Holy Souls, Little Rock: Jeffrey "Jeff" Hathaway, wife Laura
  • Our Lady of the Lake, Lake Village: Ross Sims, wife Dallas
  • Our Lady of the Ozarks, Winslow: Charles "Chuck" Dwyer, wife Emily
  • Sacred Heart of Mary, Barling: Anthony "Tony" Schneider, wife Darla; Joseph "Joe" Schneider, wife Alina
  • Sacred Heart, Charleston: Philip Savage, wife Cindy
  • Sacred Heart, Morrilton: Mark Hoelzeman, wife Annie
  • St. Augustine, Dardanelle: David "Dave" Thompson, wife Elena
  • St. Bernard, Bella Vista: William "Bill" Campbell, wife Lucia
  • St. Edward, Little Rock: Mark Wankum, wife Sarah
  • St. Joseph, Fayetteville: David McCall, wife Meagan; Mark Rechtin, wife Tammy; Rodrigo Montemayor, wife Carrie; Ronald "Ron" Novak II, wife Abby
  • St. Joseph, Paris: Raymond "Ray" Kiefer, wife Angela
  • St. Joseph, Tontitown: Mark Casey, wife Catherine
  • St. Jude, Jacksonville: Thomas "Tom" Smith, wife Gretel
  • St. Mary, Altus: Andrew Post; GregoryKap LianNgaihte, wife Annunciata; Noel Sagullo, wife Laurie; Paul LeBlanc, wife Lisa
  • St. Mary, Hot Springs: Lawrence "Buck" Womack, wife Kara
  • St. Raphael, Springdale: Bradford "Brad" Keeling, wife Annette
  • St. Stephen, Bentonville: Gregory "Greg" Brandenburg, wife Mandy
  • St. Vincent de Paul, Rogers: George Schaefer, wife Alesia; Juan "Fernando" Serrano, wife Vanessa; Stephen "Steve" Perry, wife Suzie; Timothy "Tim" Spellman, wife Darcy

The English-language formation team includes Debbie King of North Little Rock; Deacon David and Karen French of Conway; Deacon Calvin and Margaret Pearcy of Conway; Deacon Randy and Kim Spellins of Little Rock; and Deacon Ronnie and Sharon Hoyt of Rogers.

The Spanish-language formation team includes Deacon Marcelino and Maria Vazquez of Fayetteville; Deacon Ricardo and Rosario Puello of Paragould; Deacon Oscar and Alejandra Lopez of Springdale; Deacon Jose and Candy Luebano of, El Dorado; and Deacon Elias and Maria Rangel of Berryville.

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