Paul Patrick Márquez’s 5½ year wait ended on October 1 in front of a packed Catholic Church of the Holy Spirit as he joined 16 other men to be ordained a deacon in the Diocese of Fresno.
After a 2.5-hour ordination mass, the 58-year-old retired Cal Fire firefighter didn’t wait long to spring into action. He led Mass at 7:30 a.m. the following day at Good Shepherd Catholic Parish in Visalia.
“One day at Mass, one of our deacons from our parish came up behind me, put his hand on my shoulder and asked, ‘Have you ever thought about becoming a deacon?’ “, recalls Márquez a few minutes before the ordination ceremony.
“That kind of started my discernment.”
Diocese of Fresno Bishop Joseph V. Brennan welcomed the 17 new deacons to assist pastors in a diocese that covers more than 35,000 square miles and includes Fresno, Inyo, Kern, Kings, Madera, Mariposa counties , Merced and Tulare.
Diocesan spokesman Chandler Márquez (yes, his uncle is a new deacon) said most dioceses won’t ordain more than five deacons at a time. So, he added, the 17 new deacons for the Diocese of Fresno are historic.
Brennan said recruiting deacons is not a direct effort to address a shortage of priests (the United States had 59,192 priests in 1970 and 35,513 in 2020) but rather to support parishes.
“We only do it every three years, but after they’re trained they’re good and ready to go,” said Brennan, who became bishop of Fresno 2½ years ago.
During the ordination mass, the bishop used humor to convey his message about the importance of becoming a deacon.
After mentioning how Saint Teresa, the patroness of the Diocese of Fresno, met Pope Leo XIII when she was a young girl and let him know she wanted to be a nun and got the answer: “Listen to your superiors” , Brennan turned to the new deacons. and repeated these four words.
Then he turned to the older generation of deacons and said, “Listen to your superiors.
Brennan asked the new generation of deacons to maintain the qualities of a child.
“We need to remember how important it is to be simple again, to marvel again at the world we live in,” said Brennan, who for the first time wore a chasuble with an embroidered Saint Therese.
Following the tradition of the church, he repeated to each new deacon who knelt before him one at a time: “Receive the gospel of Christ of which you have become the herald. Believe what you read; Teach what you believe; and practice what you teach.
Márquez joins his brother as deacon
Few new deacons had a smile as big as Márquez.
“The church is full of people, so it’s a very nice day,” he said. “We have been waiting for this day for 5 and a half years, and it is here.
“We really appreciate it. We accept it, but it’s not for us. It is up to God, it is up to us to serve God.
Márquez – who graduated from Woodlake High School and now lives in Visalia with his wife and three children – “grew up in a fire station” because it was his father’s job.
At 21, he joined Cal Fire and stayed there for 30 years. During this time, he continued to attend church regularly and served as an altar server.
So when asked to become a deacon, Márquez had an easy answer. Her younger brother, Pete Márquez, was ordained a deacon three years ago.
“This stuff started with discernment,” he said.
After retiring, Márquez jumped into the deacon preparation program. He was soon enveloped in studies, discernment, retreats and prayers.
“There was a lot of theology, a lot of philosophy, and a lot of prayers and asking God to guide me,” Márquez said.
His wife had to give him the green light from year to year to continue his preparation.
“My wife must have been very supportive of that,” he said. “She always had to be willing to allow me to move on to the next year’s process.”
Márquez leaned on his younger brother a bit. “He told me a lot of things like what to expect and what not to expect,” he said. “He kind of kept me grounded.”