Catholic Free Press

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  • Jun
  • 14

Deacons give back in service to God, Church

Posted By June 14, 2012 | 12:45 pm | Lead Story #3
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Deacon Ky T. Tran, the diocese’s first Vietnamese permanent deacon, states his expression of gratitude this way. He is one of eight permanent deacons Bishop McManus ordained Saturday in a nearly full St. Paul Cathedral. The others are Deacons Keith T. Caplette, Timothy G. Cross, Brian R. Gadbois, Michael J. Hafferty, William W. Hays, William S. Shea and Brian E. Stidsen.
“The ordination was incredible,” said Deacon Cross, of Our Lady of the Lake Parish in Leominster. “It couldn’t have been more perfect. One of the most beautiful parts was having our deacon brothers welcome us. … I tried to really capture every moment.”
He said he told Deacon Richard C. Martino, who vested him, that the late Franciscan Father G. Michael Bercik was with them in spirit. Father Bercik had been their pastor at St. Ann Parish in Marlborough before it closed. Deacon Cross said Deacon Martino and his wife, Pearl, gave him a deacon’s stole made from one of Father Bercik’s stoles.
“He was my inspiration, who I model my ministry on,” Deacon Cross said of Father Bercik, “Just his gentleness, his love, his willingness to give, no matter what time of day.”
Perhaps this diaconal ministry started at ordination. Deacon Cross said many people, especially those who hadn’t been to church in awhile, recognized how special the sacrament is. Previously some had asked naively, “When are you graduating?”
“I’m just thrilled for Brian and Paula,” Janice Goodhue said after the ordination, referring to the Stidsens, with whom she attended junior high.
“I had to be here for this guy,” she said of Deacon Stidsen, of St. Patrick Parish in Rutland, explaining that she came in from New York City. “It’s been a long journey. It’s so joyful to see him arrive, in this beautiful ceremony.”
Deacon Gadbois’ wife, Nissa, and their eight children came dressed in white and yellow.
“We wanted to wear the colors of liturgical feasts,” explained Mrs. Gadbois.
“And the Vatican’s flag colors, because it’s always a celebration,” added their oldest, Catherine Gadbois, 20. Deacon and Mrs. Gadbois, of St. Joseph Parish in Charlton, are to serve at Our Lady of the Sacred Heart Parish in West Brookfield.
“Everywhere I looked, there was someone I knew,” Miriam Shea, Deacon Shea’s wife, said after the ordination. They are also from St. Joseph’s in Charlton and are to serve there.
“I just wish I could go back and do it over again,” said her husband. Maybe not the classes, although they were wonderful, he said.
“It took a lot of time and a lot of prayer,” he said of deciding to pursue this vocation, which his pastor, Father Robert A. Grattaroti, encouraged.
Phuong Tran, Deacon Tran’s wife, said the classes she attended with her husband helped her learn more about God and made it easy to get closer to him. She expressed gratitude for those who gave them this opportunity to help God’s people and said she hopes to minister with him at their parishes – St. Joseph and St. Pius X in Leicester.
Her husband told how they got here.
In 1979 he escaped from Vietnam with their oldest son, who was about 7; a nephew, age 9 or 10, and two young adult brothers, on a small boat with 37 other people. He left his wife, pregnant with their second son, in Vietnam with their daughter, about 2, hoping to send for them after getting established.
“We can’t stay with the Communists,” he explained.
About a week out to sea, the boat’s engine died. A couple weeks later the passengers landed on a deserted island.
“We don’t know the day; we have nothing to count, so we counted the moon,” Deacon Tran said, explaining that he saw two full moons while stranded. They ate what they could find, and several of them died, including his son and one of his brothers.
“One afternoon I saw a big storm coming,” Deacon Tran said. “I saw a fishing ship. He told his nephew: “I like to swim to that ship to ask for rescue. If they don’t rescue, I might die.” Despite this, the boy accompanied him.
“I talked English a little,” Deacon Tran said. So he could communicate with the Malaysian crew, who told him the island was part of Malaysia. They said they would lose their license if they rescued the stranded, but would tell the Malaysian police about them.
As the ship couldn’t get to shore, the crew wrapped 100 pounds of rice, much fish and a cooking pot in a such a way that it would float, and sent him and his nephew back with it.
A few days later the Malaysian police arrived and counted about 22 survivors, Deacon Tran said. His other brother, very weak, died in the police station on the main island to which they were taken.
They lived in a refugee camp in Malaysia. About six months later his brother in Texas sponsored him and his nephew to come live with him. Later Deacon Tran visited a friend in Connecticut, found it beautiful and moved there, still later securing a machinist’s job.
In 1990, after buying a house in North Brookfield, he sponsored his wife and children to come here from Vietnam. They all went to school and his wife became a nurse.
“I think everything I need, I have,” Deacon Tran says now. “I need to pay back to God. God saved my life more than one time.”
So he applied for the diaconate program.
“Thanks be to God – first step,” he says. “Thanks, God. Thanks, America. Thanks, diaconate program. Thanks Deacon Tony (Surozenski), director.”

– Ordination videos can be viewed at