On August 14, 2021, Bishop James Wall ordained Marty Smith and Ron Chavez as the newest deacons for the Diocese of Gallup.
Both men plunged right into their new roles, assisting Bishop Wall that same day at their ordination Mass.
“To serve for him and with him was just the crescendo of what we’ve been working for. It was the moment – we had arrived,” Smith recalls. “And we can go serve now and perform God’s work.”
A number of clergy from around the diocese made the trip to be present at the ordination Mass, along with a large contingent of Smith’s and Chavez’s family and friends – many from California, where Chavez was raised and lived for many years.
“It was very emotional for me to feel that support that they offered by coming,” Chavez said. “That was the best gift that they could give me, to be present at my ordination.”
Like priests, deacons can proclaim the Gospel, preach homilies, perform Baptisms, and preside at funerals. Only a priest or bishop can hear confessions or celebrate Mass, but deacons also assist at Mass by preparing the altar and gifts.
Chavez, who serves at this home parishes of San Rafael in Concho, AZ and St. John the Baptist in St. Johns, AZ, says he’s felt nothing but support from the parishioners as he settles into his new role.
“I had a deacon once tell me, when I got into the program: ‘If you’re doing it to walk on water, don’t do it. But if you’re doing it to crawl in the mud, then by all means, become a deacon.’”, he recalls. “That’s my calling – to help the people who need the most help – either they’re fallen away, or [are] wandering, or need help in their everyday lives.”
Neither has the weight of his office escaped Deacon Smith, who serves at St. Mary’s in Farmington, NM.
“I kind of feel I’m directly responsible for their souls now,” he said. “As the day approached, the first thought is ‘I’ll never be worthy’. But as everyone told me, no one is worthy. And that’s the thought that’s running through your head: how can God’s grace come upon a lowly servant like me? But God in His infinite wisdom chooses those who can do His work. So I feel in my heart: am I up to His work? Am I up to His call? And it’s not up to me. It’s up to Him. He’s gonna work through me.”
Deacons are also called, in a very particular way, to a life of service and charity in their local communities. In ancient times and in modern, they have devoted themselves to the care of the poor, sick, orphans, and widows.
Deacon Smith has been fulfilling this role in his community by visiting patients sick with Covid-19 at the hospital in Farmington, NM.
“I’ve been doing the ministry I really wanted to do. You know, visit the homebound, visit the sick. And interact with those who are in most need of [God’s] word.”
Deacon Chavez is already making plans for a post-pandemic world.
“I’m looking forward to be part of the effort to bring people back to the Church after Covid, to make personal contact, by visiting parishioners and blessing their homes, and saying we miss them and we’re inviting them back to the Church.”
And one person who recently came back to the Church is very close to his heart – his son.
“I’ve been praying for him to return to the Church. Out of all my children he’s the one who argues with me about the faith the most,” Chavez said. “I have often told others that it may not even be in our lifetime when our prayers are answered. But God chose to bring my son back to the church just prior to my ordination. Without any prompting from me my son went to Catholic services on his own. He went to confession without any prompting. And now he attends Mass daily whenever possible and receives the Sacraments often.”
Deacon Smith also acknowledges the power of prayer, especially for any men considering a call to the diaconate, or for those discerning a vocation.
“Visit the Blessed Sacrament as often as you can. Because the Lord will speak to you. And if you feel He’s calling you, don’t suppress that feeling.”