By Emily Clark

MONROE—On the afternoon of Divine Mercy Sunday, a day to remember the gifts of mercy and love given through Christ’s death and resurrection, the diocese celebrated the ordination of one of its own to the transitional diaconate.

Jozef Ukaj, a seminarian originally from Kosovo who has been studying at Pope St. John XXIII National Seminary, took a final step toward his ordination to the priesthood before a gathering of family, friends, and fellow clergy at St. Jude Parish in Monroe on April 7.

As midday sun streamed through the stained-glass windows, the choir, accompanied by the rich sounds of a trumpet, violin, and organ, welcomed Ukaj and a procession of Bishop Frank J. Caggiano, diocesan priests and deacons, and the Knights of Columbus. Following the Rite for the Blessing and Sprinkling of Water, Father Christopher Ford, director of vocations and seminarians, asked, on behalf of the Church, that Ukaj be ordained and testified to his worthiness.

The bishop then said, “Relying on the help of the Lord God and of our Savior Jesus Christ, we choose this our brother for the Order of the Diaconate.”

In his homily, the bishop began with that familiar line said at every Mass after the Lord’s Prayer: “Peace be with you.” He wondered, however, why we cannot live in peace, saying, “Even as we gather here singing joyful praises, we have sisters and brothers around the world who are victims of violence and conflict.” His answer was a simple one. “What the world is looking for is not what Jesus is offering.”

“We gather here on this Divine Mercy Sunday and ask for that gift of peace,” the bishop continued. “Remember that the person who is filled with the peace of Christ is that man or woman who is not afraid to speak the truth, to live the commandments of God even when it’s a struggle.”

Understanding that many would aspire to that truth, Bishop Caggiano said that to achieve such peace, one had only to remember five words spoken by St. Thomas.

“It’s the five words, Jozef,” he said, nodding to the candidate, “that will be inscribed in your heart in a very particular and unique way: my Lord and my God … The path to peace is to be able to surrender our life to one Lord. With every word we speak, every judgment of our lives, we say over and over again: my Lord and my God.”

The bishop acknowledged the many companions the Church provides to assist its faithful on this journey, including those who are called to be servants of God’s people.

“And that’s why today, Jozef, we come with great joy because you have heard that call,” he said. “You have persevered through the twists and turns of life. You have come here to take that next step that God has foreseen since you were conceived. You are going to become a man who walks in charity and mercy as I know you to be. With the grace of Holy Orders, you will have an effect beyond your wildest imagination because Christ will be working in every single thing you do.”

Ukaj rose and stood before the bishop who asked him to declare his resolve and accept the duties and responsibilities of the diaconate. He then knelt and made that promise after which the bishop led the congregation in the Litany of Supplication for this young man to be ordained.

“Bless, sanctify, and consecrate this chosen man,” the bishop prayed, as the faithful chanted in response, “Lord, we ask you, hear our prayer.”

In silence, Bishop Caggiano then initiated the ancient gesture of the Laying on of Hands, followed by the Prayer of Ordination, invoking the Holy Spirit upon the candidate.

“Look on this servant, sent forth by the Holy Spirit,” the bishop said. “We pray that he will carry out the work of the ministry.”

This ritual, dating to the time of the apostles in which the sacrament of Holy Orders in the Diaconal Order is imparted, was then complete.

Newly ordained Deacon Jozef Ukaj was then vested during the traditional Handing On of the Book of the Gospels, embraced by fellow deacons and priests, and seated on the altar next to Bishop Caggiano, whom he assisted during the Liturgy of the Eucharist.

Joyful rounds of applause ensued before this Mass with the Rite of Ordination concluded when the bishop told Deacon Ukaj that he would remain to serve the congregation of St. Jude.

“You have entered into the great mystery of the diaconate, Jozef, my brother,” he said. “You are a great gift to the whole church, one more among us to discover the true peace that Christ gives us.”

Deacon Ukaj, along with Deacon David Klein, will be ordained to the priesthood on Saturday, June 15 at St. Augustine Cathedral in Bridgeport.

Photos by Amy Mortensen