CANTON/MCCOMB – The Diocese of Jackson wrapped up ordination season May 25 and 26 with the ordinations of Cesar Sanchez Fermin and Andrew Nguyen to the transitional diaconate. In the Diocese of Jackson, seminarians are ordained into the diaconate in their home parishes. Since both men are from abroad, they selected the parishes where they have found a second home for their celebrations. For Deacon Sanchez, that was Canton Sacred Heart Parish and for Deacon Nguyen, it was McComb St. Alphonsus.
Sacred Heart was crowded with parishioners of all ages and nationalities on Saturday, May 25. Dozens of priests and deacons including Father Joseph Krafft from Notre Dame Seminary in New Orleans, where seminarians from the diocese complete their studies, and Father Aaron Williams as master of ceremonies.
During his homily, Bishop Kopacz recited all the deacon’s obligations focusing mainly on serving only one Lord. After, Bishop Kopacz asked Cesar about his willingness to follow Christ’s example to serve God’s people.
Deacon Sanchez is from San Andrés, Mexico, where he said he “learned to read, pray and reflect with the Bible.” He used to play drums, performing in a band with his friends. He still likes to play the guitar and sing. He found his calling to priestly life at 17, after a vocational retreat that touched his heart.
Cesar compared his journey of discernment with a musician on stage. “In other words, I was not playing the song of life with the instrument that God wanted due to my introversion and little initiative to life. It was a stage where I was content with the minimum, but my heart, made for the great and transcendent, was not fooled.
“There was something that led me to find Jesus Christ, the one who truly fills the deepest aspirations of our being. Although I did not understand very well what I was missing, or what I should do, I felt in the scene of my life the protagonist was missing; the one who gives meaning and direction to a new story in which prayer, sacramental life, service, generosity, joy and discipline will give shape to something new and exciting – called priestly vocation,” he explained.
Cesar’s family is mainly in Mexico, his father Feliciano García López, his mother Maria Graciela Sanchez Fermin and his siblings Lizet, Alan, Jonathan, Fabian and Joel. They couldn’t be physically present, so they followed the ceremony online. His brother, Diego, accompanied Cesar during his ordination weekend and ceremony. “My family is happy, he makes us feel proud. Cesar is my oldest brother, we are eight siblings, but we are close, we spend time together. This is a dream come true. I feel like the luckiest brother in the world” Diego said.
Deacon Nguyen is from Vietnam. His mother, Truong thi Mink, made the trip from Vietnam for the ordination and got a little help from the Catholic Community at large to get to the Mass. She had to fly into Chicago, where Deacon Peter Quan Tong of the Diocese of Des Moines, Iowa, picked her up and brought her to McComb. It was the first time she has seen her son since he left home. The deacon spent several summers in McComb and the community embraced him.
“I took it as a special honor because he is such a sweet guy. On holidays and some summers, he was with us, helping out Father Brian (Kaskie). I just felt like he was part of our family so we were all honored to do this,” said Nita Pounds, who sang for the Mass.
Fellow choir member Susan Bellipanni agreed. “I have seen him the past couple of years here at the parish and he is a joy to be around. I just feel happy for him,” she said.
Earlier in May, Father Adolfo Suarez Pasillas and Mark Shoffer were ordained into the priesthood. Father Mark said he takes joy in all of the ordinations. “Mississippi gained another minister – somebody new to bring the gospel to another community in a state that is ripe for hearing the gospel,” he said of Deacon Nguyen’s ordination.
The pair are set to be ordained into the priesthood next year. For this year, Deacon Sanchez is assigned to Madison St. Francis of Assisi and Deacon Nguyen is assigned to Meridian St. Patrick and St. Joseph Parishes, effective June 14.
(Tereza Ma, Berta Mexidor and Maureen Smith contributed to this story.)
CANTON – Cesar Sanchez Fermin
McCOMB – Andrew Nguyen