Three ordained to permanent diaconate

By Joe Pisani

BRIDGEPORT — Bishop Frank J. Caggiano ordained three men to the permanent diaconate on the Solemnity of SS. Peter and Paul on June 29, urging them to be living sacraments of self-sacrificing love and follow the example of the “two great Princes of the Apostles, the fisherman and the rabbi.”

St. Augustine Cathedral was filled with family members, friends, men in formation, priests and deacons who gathered for the ordination of Walter Avitabile, Edward Ronaldo Carrillo Castro, and Francisco-Manuel Mantero.

“What a joyful morning it is for us to gather around our three brothers who God in his loving providence and mercy has called to this moment in the journey of their life, supported by the love of their wives, their children and their grandchildren, and all those who have walked with them in this adventure that is your life,” the bishop said. “He has called you into a great mystery to become living sacraments of self-sacrificing love. You’ll now dedicate your life to that in your ministry and every moment of every day that you live.”

He said the diaconate called them to be Servants of the Word, Servants of the Altar, and Servants of Charity.

“You are very well prepared to be bearers of the Good News of salvation, even in the moments of great suffering, of great thought, of great pain,” he said. “You are also servants of charity so you will bring to the altar all that the people of God share with you — their hopes, their dreams, their challenges, their pains. You will be there, interceding for them, praying for them and bringing the Holy Eucharist to them.”

The bishop talked about the life and example of Peter and Paul, one a simple fisherman, the other an educated rabbi.

“Your lives now must be all about Christ, who is the beginning and the end, the Alpha and the Omega,” he said. “By doing that, it will free you to love your wives in a whole new way, your children and grandchildren in a whole new way, and God’s people in a whole new way because by giving up everything for Christ, we gain everything back and more. It’s all about Christ, not about you, not about me.”

He said they should have the conviction of St. Peter, “who was stubborn in the best sense of the word but recognized his frailty.”

“Brothers, you have been called to something you are not, nor I,” he said. “You’ll look at yourself in the mirror every day and realize there are a thousand reasons why someone else, perhaps, has better gifts and talents than you. And you’ll always — as I do every morning and evening — confront your own sins as I do mine. So remember the example of Peter, who was chosen not because he was perfect but because he was humble of heart and knew the voice of the Shepherd.”

He also told the candidates to stay close to their hidden strength — “the Great Mother of God, who is our mother as well….If you ever find yourself confused or doubtful or discouraged, turn to her.”

After the homily, the bishop questioned each candidate to declare his resolve in accepting the duties of the diaconate. The assembly then prayed the Litany of Supplication, followed by the Laying On of Hands, during which the candidates knelt before the bishop, who as a Successor of

Photos by Vic Eng

the Apostles, laid his hands upon their heads. Then, he said the Prayer of Ordination, invoking the Holy Spirit, thus completing the Sacrament of Holy Orders in the Diaconal Order.

The newly ordained deacons were vested with a diaconal stole and dalmatic and knelt before the bishop to receive the Book of the Gospels and a fraternal kiss from the bishop and fellow deacons.

At the conclusion of the Mass, Bishop Caggiano and the assembly applauded the men, their wives and children for the sacrifices they made.

He thanked Deacon John DiTaranto, Director of the Diaconate, and Deacon Gerald Lambert, Episcopal Delegate for Clergy and Religious, for their role in the formation of the men. Deacon Avitabile was assigned to Assumption Parish in Westport; Deacon Mantero to St. Thomas Aquinas Parish in Fairfield; and Deacon Carrillo to St. Peter Parish in Bridgeport.

“We are blessed with three dedicated, holy, generous, faithful men who have answered the call,” the bishop said. “We have many men in discernment, and now there will be a diaconate class every year because more and more are hearing the call and saying yes.”

Commenting on his ordination, Deacon Avitabile said, “I felt the power of the Holy Spirit come over me when the bishop laid his hands on me. It was very moving. I feel so blessed.”

He first felt a calling in 2016 and tried to push it off, but couldn’t. He started the process in 2019.

He and his wife, Gracemary, have three grown daughters and are members of Assumption Parish, where he serves in the RCIA program and adult Confirmation. He has served as a catechist, Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion, reader, and is active in the Knights of Columbus. He works as a general construction superintendent in New York City on infrastructure projects.

Deacon Mantero said, “It’s overwhelming, and it doesn’t feel like the end; it feels like the beginning. After many years of formation, I feel joy to what transpired in the Holy Orders. It’s spectacular.”

Early in his life, he saw signs he might have a calling and some deacons later approached him, but he hesitated until “There was a point where I thought I can’t ignore it anymore and so five years ago I began the process….If he’s calling you, you just can’t ignore it.”

Deacon Mantero is a member of St. Catherine of Siena Parish in Trumbull with his wife, Angela, and their four children. He has served as Deputy Grand Knight for the Knights of Columbus at the St. Catherine of Siena Council and is a trustee for the Knights’ Monsignor Edward Halloran Assembly and a member of the board of for Humanity of Greater New Haven. He has held marketing and communications leadership roles in healthcare, manufacturing and

Of his ordination, Deacon Carrillo said, “It feels overwhelming, it feels out of this world, it feels that you have become someone different within you, although from the outside you are the same person. That change came from the Holy Spirit while the bishop was laying hands on me, and I received the sacred orders. No words can describe that moment. The only thing I can say is we’re here to serve, and we’re instruments for our Lord and for those in the world who need love.”

He first felt called when he was nine and “saw a sacred image of the Lord with a crown of thorns that attracted me to be with him.” Ten years ago, he learned about the diaconate, and “the doors opened for me to become who I am today, thanks to the Holy Spirit.”

He and his wife, Glenda, are parents to one son and three daughters, the third of whom passed away from COVID in 2021. He is a member of St. George Parish, where he served as Director of Liturgical Music, co-founder of the youth group, catechist, and co-founder of the family prayer group. He is a Certified Medical Interpreter at Yale New Haven Hospital.

“What a blessed day to see Edward, Walter and Frank get the blessing of the Bishop and receive the sacrament of Holy Orders,” Deacon DiTaranto said. “They were truly led by the Holy Spirit, and their families were a big part of their ordination. At dinner, we heard a beautiful outpouring from the hearts of their children and families. You can tell these men are well-deserving of being part of the diaconate. I look forward to their services, not only to their communities, but to the bishop and all the faithful.”

Deacon Brad Smythe, who taught them several classes, said, “Not only did we ordain three new men, but we also renewed and reenergized those of us who have been ordained some time. It’s such a wonderful blessing to be part of this community.”