Bishop da Cunha prays during the May 21 diaconal ordination at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Fall River. Kneeling are the four new transitional deacons of the Diocese of Fall River: (L-R) Rev. Deacon Brian Connors, Rev. Deacon John Garabedian, Rev. Deacon Christopher Hughes, and Rev. Deacon Thiago Menezes Santos. (Photo by John E. Kearns Jr.)

By Dave Jolivet

FALL RIVER — Unusually warm temperatures and humid conditions greeted hundreds of faithful to St. Mary’s Cathedral on May 21 to witness Bishop Edgar M. da Cunha, S.D.V. ordain four men as transitional deacons, bringing them one step closer to the priesthood for the Diocese of Fall River. That milestone is scheduled to occur sometime in 2023.

This marks the second year in a row that the bishop has ordained four new transitional deacons, the last being in May of 2022. Those same four men will be ordained to the priesthood at the Cathedral on June 4 by Bishop da Cunha.

The four men ordained last Saturday, all entering Fourth Year Theology at Immaculate Conception Seminary in South Orange, N.J., are: Brian Connors, John Garabedian, Christopher Hughes, and Thiago Menezes Santos.

In his homily at the ordination, Bishop da Cunha thanked the ordinandi and their families for having said “Yes” to the Lord.

He told the men, “You are here because God called you to life, life called you to serve, service calls you, and you said here I am.”

He told the four that they had three major duties as deacons; to be a minister of the word, to serve at the altar, and to be a minister of charity.“During the rite of ordination I will hand you the Book of the Gospels as I say to you:

‘Believe what you read; Teach what you believe; Practice what you teach.’

“That is a challenge in itself, especially the command to practice what you teach. Know that you will teach with your words, but even more with your actions.

“As servant at the altar you will prepare for the celebration of the Sacrifice. You will distribute the Lord’s Body and Blood. You will be teacher the faith by word and example. You are to be servant of all. You will be leaders of prayers, but in order to be a leader of prayer you must be men of prayer.

“As you embrace the ministry of charity, you are called to imitate Jesus. Wash the other people’s feet. As He has done, so you must do.

“Pope Francis spoke to deacons recently and told them that ‘they were chosen by the Lord Jesus not to have a career, but to do this service.’

“As deacons you ‘are to go about your duties in such a way that you will be recognized as a disciples of him who came not to be served but to serve’ (Rite of Ordination).

“Don’t be afraid to be yourself, to be human, to be imperfect, to be vulnerable.”

The bishop concluded by saying, “Like the men the apostles chose for works of charity, you should be a man of good reputation, filled with wisdom and the Holy Spirit.” 

Brian Patrick Connors, son Michael and Janice Connors, is a parishioner of Holy Family Church in East Taunton. He has two brothers. Brian graduated from Dighton Rehoboth High School in 2009 and briefly went to Bristol Community College but found college was not for him at that time. In his 20s Brian underwent a conversion and in 2015 received the sacraments of initiation. Continuing with his growth in the faith he became very involved in the parish by teaching the faith to children and helping at the parish on a regular basis. He also has attended different retreats and helped as well in giving witness to the faith to others. The sense of being called to the priesthood became clearer and stronger over the years. In 2017 Deacon Brian was accepted to be a seminarian for the Diocese of Fall River and was sent to Immaculate Conception Seminary in South Orange, N.J. Over the summers he has served at Our Lady of Grace Parish in Westport and St. Mary of the Assumption Cathedral in Fall River. 

John Garabedian was born in 1991, the son of John and Claire Garabedian, and he grew up in a close family in Mansfield. He has an older sister and younger sister. His home parish is St. Mary’s Parish in Mansfield. Though the family always lived the faith, his faith deepened late in high school and college, especially when his family had visited the Vatican and other famous Christian sites in Rome. Deacon John graduated from Mansfield High School in 2009 and went to college at Bridgewater State University, from which he graduated. After college Deacon John worked in the area of graphic design (and coached baseball for four years). During college and afterward, he said he grew deeper in knowing and living his faith, especially in his living of the sacramental life (regular Confession, daily Mass, and Eucharistic Adoration). Deacon John played baseball for Bridgewater State University which, he said, taught him teamwork, perseverance, and leadership. As he grew closer to the Lord so did the sense of being called by the Lord to be a priest. He applied to the Diocese of Fall River and was accepted as a seminarian and sent to Immaculate Conception Seminary in South Orange, N.J. Some of his parish assignments have been serving at St. Ann’s Parish in Raynham, St. Anthony Parish in Falmouth, Our Lady of Grace in Westport, and Holy Name in Fall River. 

Deacon John told The Anchor, “I am humbled, joyful and grateful to God for giving me this gift of the transitional diaconate so that I may draw more closer to Jesus, who is the ultimate servant. I an excited to be giving my life to the service of the Church, the people of God and to Our Lord in anticipation for priesthood next year.

“I feel like a paintbrush in the Divine Artist’s hand and trust that God will work through me and use me as an instrument to accomplish His plans. 

“Although there will be unknown challenges ahead of me — as well as many joys — I am consoled and have a sense of peace knowing that it is God Who called me, is forming me and will continue to guide and take care of me along the way.”

Christopher Daniel Hughes, son of Daniel and Joanna Hughes, is from Sandwich and is a parishioner of Christ the King Parish in Mashpee. He has one younger brother and one younger sister. Growing up he was very involved in the church life (as an altar server; lector; extraordinary minster; sacristan; taught in faith formation; on the parish council; and was involved in youth ministry). He also participated in diocesan retreat programs on the Cape. For many years, he said, he gave thought and prayer to whether he was being called to the priesthood. After graduating from Pope John Paul II High School in Hyannis, Deacon Chris went to St. Joseph’s College in Maine, graduating in 2017. Upon graduating he was accepted by the Diocese of Fall River and began his studies at Immaculate Conception Seminary in South Orange, N.J. Over the summers he has served at St. John Neumann Parish in East Freetown, Christ the King Parish in Mashpee, and St. Francis Xavier Parish in Acushnet. Deacon Chris is entering his last year of theology. 

“It is a very exciting time, and I am grateful to God for the work He has done in my life during my time in seminary,” Deacon Chris shared with The Anchor. “It has been a time of growth. I realize that ordination as a transitional deacon is very important, as it is then that the promises of obedience, celibacy, and commitment to the Liturgy of the Hours are made, and I feel ready to hand my life over to God and to His Church to serve His people.

“I have been blessed with great role models growing up in the parish, Msgr. Daniel Hoye and Father Edward Healey, and I can honestly say it was their example and encouragement that made me fall in love with parish life.  I am humbled, blessed, and very excited to spend this next year in Diaconal Ministry — preaching the Word of God, baptizing, witnessing marriages, and assisting at Mass. Growing up, I had the example of dedicated permanent deacons in my home parish of Christ the King, and I was inspired by the way that they selflessly lived out — and continue to live out — their diaconal ministry in a selfless, committed, and joyful way.  The joy that they exert in serving God and His people in the parish make me truly excited for the year ahead.  I have thoroughly enjoyed my experiences serving in parish ministry thus far, and have really encountered the Lord in His people in profound ways, so am excited to deepen that ministry as a deacon, and next year God-willing, as a priest.”

Thiago Menezes Santos was born in 1996 in Aracaju, Brazil, where his family still lives. His father is Sergio Santana Santos and his mother is Laura Teles Menezes Santos. He has an older sister. Deacon Thiago comes a from a very religious family. As a child he joined the children’s choir at his parish and was a member of it for six years. He says that played a large role in his growing in his faith. After his first communion in 2006, he joined The Missionary Childhood, a group that helped him to learn how to evangelize other children. Doing this awakened within the possibility of a divine calling. He started to have the desire to be a missionary and it was then that he first felt the desire to be a priest and to give all his life to Jesus and the Church. Before he entered the seminary, Thiago was a catechist for two years and also as an altar server. He also served in the childhood missionary and was a member of the parish youth group. In 2015 he was approved to study philosophy at Our Lady of Conception Major Seminary in Aracaju, where he was for three years. 

In 2018 he spoke with Bishop da Cunha and sensed the Lord may be calling him to possibly serve as a priest in the U.S., in particular in the Diocese of Fall River. He saw this as a call from God to go into deeper waters. After prayer and speaking with his spiritual director, his rector, his archbishop, and his parents, he decided to say yes. Deacon Thiago was sent to Immaculate Conception Seminary in South Orange, N.J. for his continuing formation. 

Deacon Thiago has served at St. Mary of the Assumption Cathedral in Fall River and St. Jude Parish, St. Anthony Parish, and St Mary’s Church in Taunton last summer. Last fall Deacon Thiago’s mother and cousin died in a car accident in Brazil and through this tragedy he has found the Lord giving him and his family great strength and consolations, as well as a deeper awareness of trust in the Lord. 

The biographical information came from the diocesan Vocations Office.