Labor of Love
by Jennifer Szweda Jordan
October 9, 2018
Brand new Paulist Deacon Evan Cummings at the Sept. 1, 2018 Diaconate Ordination Mass
Brand new Paulist Deacon Evan Cummings at the Sept. 1, 2018 Diaconate Ordination Mass

While many people celebrated Labor Day Weekend, the Paulist seminarians progressed in their particular labor of love – to prepare to serve God’s people through life and ministry with the Paulist Fathers.

“After a five-year period of discernment, prayer and commitment, I have devoted myself for life to ministry and mission in the Paulist Fathers as a full member, which is just an amazing and exciting moment in my life,” said Paulist seminarian Evan Cummings, who on Saturday, September 1, was ordained a transitional deacon. “I know that this is what God wants me to do with my life. And it just felt so wonderful to be able to say, ‘Yes, God. I will do this.’”

Bishop Roy Campbell, auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., ordained Evan and three other seminarians from other religious communities during a special Mass in the Crypt Church of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C.

The applause from the congregation lasted for more than 20 seconds when the bishop said, “We choose these, our brothers, for the Order of the Diaconate.”

“Now you are not only hearers of this Gospel but you are also its ministers,” Bishop Campbell said. “Uphold the mystery of faith with a clear conscience. Express by your actions the word of God that your lips proclaim.”


Deacon Evan Cummings with his family on August 31, 2018
Deacon Evan Cummings with his family on August 31, 2018

At the end of his homily, the bishop asked Evan and the other ordinands to face their family and friends in the congregation and applaud them for their support.

Evan smiled as he turned to his parents, Kit and Kevin Cummings; his brother, Ian; his Godmother and aunt, Elizabeth Sweeney, and her husband, Kevin; and Evan’s grandparents, Margaret and Bernard Kowalski.

“We both feel really grateful that we’ve been able to be witnesses to this,” Kevin Cummings said later.

Kevin and Kit have been particularly supportive of the families of all seminarians. They started the blog to answer families’ questions about the seminary process.

Special Paulist touches in the Ordination Mass included Sr. Sara Dwyer, A.S.C., reading a scripture passage from the prophet Jeremiah. Sr. Sara was part of the formation team that guided Evan.


Paulist Fr. Eric Andrews, president of the Paulist Fathers, presents Evan Cummings with the Paulist Mission Cross
Paulist Fr. Eric Andrews, president of the Paulist Fathers, presents Evan Cummings with the Paulist Mission Cross

During the Mass, Paulist Fr. Michael Hennessy, who was ordained a priest in May, smiled as he assisted Evan in putting on a dalmatic, the vestment worn by deacons. “It’s a special moment,” Fr. Mike said later. “I remember clearly last year when Fr. Jimmy Hsu vested me. It’s an intimate moment. It just gets very real.”

Paulist Fr. Dat Tran, the Paulists’ vocation director, said that a meaningful moment of the Mass for him was when each new deacon was handed the Book of the Gospels. The order of deacons is closely associated with proclaiming and preaching the Good News.

Philip Catalanotto

“Believe what you read, teach what you believe, and practice what you teach,” the bishop proclaims.

Paulist Fr. John Collins, a full-time Paulist missionary who was at the Ordination Mass, said he was impressed that Evan and the other men moved forward to be ordained during this difficult time for the Church.

“I thought it took a lot of courage, strength and faith. And I think it helped me, it confirmed me,” Fr. Collins said. “They were willing to step forth and say, despite everything that is going on, I still have faith in it. And I love what it stands for and, if it brings me to a greater sense of the Holy One in my life and I can share that with other people, then I am willing to take that step today.”

The day before the diaconate ordination, on Friday evening, August 31, Evan made his final promise to the Paulist community during a special Mass in the chapel of St. Joseph’s Seminary in Washington, D.C.

Eric Hernandez at the Sept. 1 Mass
Eric Hernandez at the Sept. 1 Mass

At the same Mass, Philip Catalanotto and Eric Hernandez made their first promises to the Paulist Fathers, marking the completion of their novitiate year. The step makes Philip and Eric the latest men to bear the order initials “C.S.P.”

Paulist seminarians Michael Cruickshank, Paolo Puccini and Richard Whitney also renewed their promises.

“All of us need to be renewed,” Paulist Fr. Eric Andrews, president of the Paulist Fathers, said in his homily. “Not only our commitments that we make as a spouse, as a religious, as a priest, but commitments that are made for us in our baptism.”

Fr. Eric shared quotes from recent reflections provided by the Paulist seminarians.

“No matter how ugly things get,” Fr. Eric read, “all of us have the God-given ability to change these things, even just a little bit.”

“As long as there’s a hunger for God’s love, I’ll keep showing up,” another wrote.

Fr. Eric said that the seminarians’ reflections helped his journey of faith in the wake of the abuse revelations.

“Ugly can be a part of the religious experience, as well as joy and beauty and goodness and faith,” Fr. Eric said. “We are called to be part of this journey of Christ, one that leads to the cross, leads through the cross, and leads to life everlasting.”

Jennifer Szweda Jordan is a writer and audio producer based in Pittsburgh.

Please visit this SoundCloud playlist to hear Jennifer’s interviews with some of those who attended the Diaconate Ordination Mass on September 1 and the Promises Mass on August 31.