by Fr Antonio Pineda
Bishop Alan Hopes of East Anglia ordained Alexander Balzanella to the diaconate on Sunday 14th July at the Church of Our Lady of Snows Chapel in Villa Palazolla, just outside Rome. Alex is a Westminster seminarian studying at the Venerable English College (VEC) in Rome. Three men from Alex’s year group were also ordained: Matthew King (Portsmouth), Piotr Wygnanski (East Anglia) and Dominic Jenkinson (Hallam).
Relatives and friends of the new deacons attended the ordination as well as current and old VEC students. Several priests from the Diocese of Westminster concelebrated.
In his homily, Bishop Alan highlighted three deacons who are ‘in the great company of saints and martyrs which the Church rightly celebrates’: Stephen, chosen by the Apostles and the first to die for the Church; Laurence, who, serving under Pope Sixtus II, gathered around him the poor, widows and orphans of Rome and called them the treasurers of the Church; and Francis who abandoned the wealth given to him by his earthly father so that he could serve better his heavenly Father.
These three deacons, Bishop Alan said, demonstrate three aspects that are relevant to transitional deacons as they prepare for priesthood. First is preaching the Gospel faithfully by preaching Jesus Christ and not themselves. Second, words are not enough because our lives should also speak of the Gospel message. ‘However eloquent we might be with words, our example of living the Gospel will certainly be more powerful,’ Bishop Alan emphasised. Third, and as Laurence reminds us, the people are the Church’s greatest treasures and deacons are called to serve them and to help them grow in holiness. ‘At the heart of the life and witness of Stephen, Laurence and Francis was a burning love and zeal for God and for their fellow men and women,’ the Bishop said.
Bishop Alan’s homily also served as a reminder that although ‘life as a minister in God’s Church is in contradiction to what is accepted as normal in everyday life’, deacons are called to be a sign of hope to a world where only success matters and where there is no room for failure. Bishop Alan called the diaconate ‘a noble and joyous vocation’.
At the end of his homily, Bishop Alan quoted St John’s Gospel: ‘You did not choose me; no, I choose you; and I commissioned you to go out and bear fruit, fruit that will last.’
He concluded with these reassuring words to the four men who were about to be ordained: ‘Today and every day, God will fill you with his grace in order that the One who has begun this good work in you may bring it to fulfilment.’
Alex is looking forward to a month-long parish placement in Rickmansworth in September. He will return to Rome in October to continue his studies for two more years. Please keep him and all new deacons in your prayers.