Peter Dong, from China, was ordained as deacon by Most Rev. Honesto F. Ongtioco, Bishop of the Diocese of Cubao, on Sunday, February 4, 2018 at the Columban House of Studies in Cubao, Quezon City. Deacon Peter took his oath of permanent membership in the Missionary Society of St. Columban on Satuday, February 3. He has already spent two years in Chile on First Mission Assignment.
Peter signing his contract for permanent membership with the Society
Bishop Honesto ordaining Peter as deacon
Excerpt of the Homily delivered by Bishop Honesto F. Ongtioco, DD during the Diaconate Ordination of Bro. Peter Lichun Dong on February 4, 2018 at St. Columban Formation House, Cubao, Q.C. at 9 am
First of all, we would like to welcome some people close to Peter, (our candidate for ordination to the deaconate) who are close to his heart and came all the way from China: His father, JOSEPH, who like St. Joseph accompanied Jesus in His vocation and mission, his cousin Peter and niece, Sunjiwei and Fr. Pat O’Bierne, representative of China Mission Unit.
We are now in the Fifth Sunday of Ordinary time and this Sunday becomes special because we will have the deaconate ordination of the first Chinese from mainland China, Bro. Peter for the service of the Church and part of the centennial celebration as we anticipate the anniversary of the approval of Holy See as a Missionary Society on June 29, 2018. What a gift that we have! Another priest for the Missionary Society of St. Columban!
Today’s readings focus on an experience of everyone – being restless. Job was restless and only when he asked the Lord to be in control of his life did he find peace and freedom. Paul was restless in carrying out the mission entrusted to him by the Lord and his restlessness was an opportunity for him to be more zealous and enthusiastic in preaching the Lord. In the gospel, Jesus was restless in carrying out His mission and so He was not contented in working just in a particular territory. He had to move to neighboring towns. Where did He get all His energy. It seems He has always there for people who needed Him. It was His union with the Father that gave Him all the energy He needed.
Bro. Peter you have been restless since you were young in trying to find meaning in your life but the faith that was handed to you by your ancestors, your grandparents and parents made a big difference. They gave direction and meaning to your restlessness. Your father brought you to the seminary in your place and later on in your seminary formation break, you worked in an orphanage with some Sisters who inspired you to move on in your priestly vocation and this was further strengthened by your encounter with a Columban priest. It is in this context Peter, that you are to be ordained today to the diaconate – a ministry of charity. Your ordination therefore is not only a sign of charity but also the very sacrament of God’s self-emptying love.
Meeting a Columban Father inspired you to think about being a missionary. And so in 2011 you joined the Columban Fathers and came to the Philippines in 2012. Allowing God to take over your life has enriched you in many ways. Your spiritual pastoral formation year in the Philippines and first missionary assignment in Chile for two years enabled you to know more about our loving and gracious God at work in peoples’ lives. Let go of everything so that nothing would hinder you in doing the mission God has given you.
Peter, as a deacon you are asked to make constantly visible in the midst of the world the characteristics of Jesus – the chaste, the poor and the obedient one. through your ordination to the diaconate, you are consecrated to serve the community in charity and justice. As a deacon therefore and later on as a priest, you are to enflesh and manifest in the world that same human heart of Jesus. It is not just a ministry of charity but the very life you live must be one that is shaped by love.
Second, your life is to be marked by service. Remember that Jesus came into the world to be an example of what it means to be a “humble servant.” Do not forget what Jesus did at the Last Supper. Jesus did not ask His disciples to wash His feet but rather He washed theirs as sign of His love. The stole you receive today, which you will wear over your left shoulder to signify the office of the deacon, is a reminder of the towel Jesus used to wipe the feet of His disciples. As deacon, your role is to serve the poor, serve the priest and bishop at the altar and be initiated to preach the Gospel.
Third, you are to be faithful to your promises. You will be making some challenging promises today. You promise to commit yourself to celibacy. You will promise obedience to legitimate directives of the bishop and your superiors. You will also promise to live a simple lifestyle worthy of your vocation. They are not easy to keep. If you are able to live them, it is because of God’s grace. Remain celibate in your ministry. Understand celibacy as an act of self-giving, an act of love for the Lord, for the people and for His Church. Celibacy will free you for the things of the kingdom and will make you available to serve God’s people with openness to all especially those who are most in need. To sustain your promise of celibacy, rely in unity with your fellow deacons and with priests. Pray! Prayer is also essential to remaining celibate. As one spiritual write says, “the secret of your happiness in service of the Lord rests in great part on the seriousness with which you commit yourself to daily prayer.”
Peter, as you are ordained deacon, you are also called to be obedient to the Church and to your superiors. Remember that obedience is an event, not simply a concept. It is one thing to accede to the idea, but to fulfill it is quite another. Obedience to the Church is what united the ministries of deacons, priests bishops and religious. Indeed freedom is the greatest gift God has given to us. But you life is not your own only because you have freely given your life to God.
In your vocation story, we can say that it was God who searched for you, pursued you and brought you back to His love. I shall lay my hands on you as a sign of your being set apart and dedicated to the service of God and ministry of the Church patterned to Christ who was “lifted up” in total surrender to God’s love. Today is a memorable day. But it will be more so if you take to heart your commitment to poverty, obedience and celibacy and these words the Church says to you while handing the Book of Scripture: “Believe what you read, teach what you believe and practice what you teach.”
May our Mother Mary continue to keep you under her maternal care. May St. Columban and Bishop Edward Galvin our founder inspire you to be more zealous and enthusiastic in your priestly life and ministry. Amen.