BRIDGEPORT—On Saturday, March 13 at St. Augustine Cathedral, Walter Avitabile of Westport, Edward R. Carrillo of Bridgeport and Frank Mantero of Shelton were admitted to candidacy for ordination as deacons by Bishop Frank J. Caggiano.
“To you, I am deeply grateful. For despite the challenge we face in our world, you have come forward with generosity, with the love of your families. You have come here seeking true integrity of life and you have done well, you have done much,” he said to the three aspirants during Mass.
In addition to the family, friends and faithful who attended in-person, the Candidacy Mass was live-streamed on the Cathedral website
In his homily, Bishop Caggiano spoke about the parable of the Pharisee and tax collector, which teaches us “the need for humility to avoid the self-righteousness that can easily fall into the lives of anyone, most especially those who have authority, religious authority, and are called to leadership.”
He explained that ostensibly the Pharisees did everything correctly, and yet their intentions, their hearts, their deepest spirit was far from being righteous. The bishop explained that in the time of Jesus, the hypocritical nature of the scribes and the Pharisees was well-known. “People were searching for true guides and they were lost.”
The bishop posed the question, “How different is that from the world in which we live today?”
“We have lived through a terrible time in the life of the church, where the few have done great harm and many in our world question our authenticity. They speak of an authenticity gap, where Christians, especially those in leadership, will say one thing but live something else,” continued the bishop.
The bishop explained that this often deters people from entering a life of faith.
“While it is true that all of us are called to a life of authenticity and integrity before the Lord, it is especially of responsibility for those who are in leadership,” the bishop said. “For if we do not live what we preach, our preaching is empty and it will bring no one to faith.”
The bishop challenged all the faithful, including himself, to go deeper. “To avoid self-righteousness,” said the bishop, “is not only to do the good, but it is also to seek those occasions where we can do more of the good.”
The bishop encouraged those gathered to use these days of Lent remaining to ask themselves what is it that they can do more to be an authentic witness of God’s love in the world.
“If you and I rise to that occasion, my dear friends, there will be no sinner in any of our churches, no person in any place of our Christian life, that will be left alone, sitting in the back of a church, wondering if God forgives him or loves him. For he will know that message by our words and by our witness,” said the bishop.
Deacon Jerry Lambert, director of the diaconate, said that “This Admission to Candidacy for Ordination marked the end of the first year of study for Walter, Edward and Frank. In this past year of aspirancy, these men have participated in monthly formation weekends within our diocese, while also beginning four years of theological study at Saint Joseph Seminary in Yonkers, N.Y. In addition, their wives participate in the “wives formation,” program designed to support them in their spiritual growth as they accompany their husbands on their continued journeys of discernment.”
The three aspirants who were admitted to candidacy are Walter Avitabile, Edward R. Carrillo and Frank Mantero.
Walter Avitabile is a member of Church of the Assumption, Westport, along with his wife Gracemary and three daughters (28, 26 and 23). He has served as a catechist, extraordinary minister of Holy Communion, reader and a member of the Knights of Columbus. Avitabile attended Salesian High School and works as a general construction superintendent in NYC on infrastructure projects. After high school, he started as an apprentice with Plumber’s Local Union #2, working up to become Master Plumber. “I have felt a calling to the diaconate for several years,” explains Avitabile. “The one question I kept asking myself and others was, why am ‘I’ being called to the diaconate? I continued to pray on this for months still resisting in some ways but could not stop feeling the call.”
Avitabile says that he decided to trust in God and complete the application. He reflected on receiving the book The Heart of the Diaconate on the first night of formation. “While reading the book, the following quote struck me; Christ asking, ‘Will you allow me to work my servant mysteries through you?’” Avitabile explains that he was so moved by this, because he recognized this to be God answering what had been his central question since he began discerning. “I began to meditate upon the meaning and enormity of what it truly means to have Christ living His servant mysteries through me. I am now thankful to have the proper focus in my continued discernment throughout my formation,” says Avitabile. “I do believe that with continuous prayer and the grace of God, he will help me grow into the servant that Christ needs in His Church. My discernment and prayer will continue, and I believe God will keep answering my questions as he has already done in this book. He will lead me to where He wants me to be.”
Edward R. Carrillo and his wife, Glenda, have three married daughters (29, 26 and 23), one son (16), three grandchildren and one on the way! Carrillo is a member of St. George Parish in Bridgeport and has served as director of liturgical music , co-founder of the parish youth group, a catechist and co-founder of the St. George family prayer group. Carrillo earned a bachelor’s degree in computer programming in Guatemala, Central America. Carrillo has worked as a sub-contractor for the Department of Justice as well as an EOIR Interpreter. He is currently self-employed as a general contractor. “Since a very young age I suffered a lot from illness,” shares Carrillo. “These circumstances allowed me to get close in an extraordinary way to the Creator. Carrillo explains that he has always felt the call to serve others and to talk about what Jesus has spoken in the Gospels but he didn’t realize that those are two aspects of the life of a permanent deacon until he participated in his first Diaconate Discovery Evening. The rest, they say, is history.
Frank Mantero is a member of St. Catherine of Siena in Trumbull, along with his wife, Angela, and their four children Marisa, Francisco, Olivia and Antonio. He has served as deputy grand knight for the Knights of Columbus St. Catherine of Siena Council, is a trustee for the Knights of Columbus Msgr. Edward Halloran Assembly and a member of the board of directors for Habitat for Humanity of Greater New Haven. Mantero holds a master’s degree in internal relations from the University of Kentucky, and bachelor’s degrees in both political science and Spanish from the University of Georgia. He is currently the vice president of marketing at Knights of Columbus Supreme Council in New Haven. He was previously head of global communications for Bunge, Ltd, a $40B agribusiness firm. He has also held various roles in the healthcare industry in marketing, public relations and communications, including seven years at GE as director of corporate responsibility. “I want others to experience the joy that comes from growing in faith and how accepting control according to His plan enables peace,” says Mantero. “My entire life, I had always assumed that greater control allows for greater peace of mind. I have learned the opposite is true. This desire to surrender to the calling is more relevant than ever. Jesus is always there: searching, inviting. We need to look up and accept the invitation, and that is when true revelation begins to happen.”
The Diaconate Formation Program supports the vocation and ministry of the deacon, beginning as inquirer through his journey to ordination and beyond. Through prayer, study and the grace of the Holy Spirit, the candidate undergoes a transformation of heart and mind as he prepares himself to be minister of the word, altar and charity.
Discussions with those interested in knowing more about the diaconate formation program are ongoing. For more information about the permanent diaconate and the formation program, please contact Deacon Jerry Lambert, director of the diaconate at email@example.com or 203.416.1451.