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Seminarian has New Year’s ordination at OLV

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The new year brought a new life for Joseph Franz as the seminarian became a transitional deacon on Jan. 1 at a special Mass at OLV National Shrine and Basilica in Lackawanna. Deacon Franz is scheduled to be ordained to the priesthood on June 4, along with Deacon Joseph Tokasz.

Deacon Franz, 50, is part of a growing part of the population who answer the call of ordination later in life. The Orchard Park resident had earned an associate’s degree in mechanical drawing and computer aided design from Alfred State College and had been working in that industry for 25 years when his life took a different course.

He began to re-examine his life while undergoing the annulment process with his ex-wife.

“I got serious about my faith and I felt the call to discern through some of the things that I was reading and praying about and listening to and watching. Some of the things people said to me all encouraged me,” he explained.

His life is about to make 180-degree change, but his time at St. Mary’s Seminary and University in Baltimore and Christ the King Seminary in East Aurora before that has prepared him well.

“It’s all integrated,” he said. “That’s what they teach us at the seminary, to live an integrated, transparent life. And a lot of prayer, a lot of time discerning, the encouragement of others, the prayers of others, the example of my brother seminarians and the priests that I have encountered. Our new bishop has sent support to me. I’m grateful for all of those things. It all helped me to integrate what they call the Four Dimensions of Priestly Formation – the spiritual, the human, the intellectual, and the pastoral formation – all of those things combined. My family and my friends are wonderful to me and have been supportive to me throughout my life. I’m very grateful to all of them.”

At his ordination Mass, Bishop Michael W. Fisher explained that diaconate comes from the Greek word diákonos meaning service. The bishop pointed out that deacons have a service to the poor and those on the margins of society. As a deacon, Franz will be able to baptize, to proclaim the Gospel at Mass, to preach the Word of God everywhere, to preside over weddings outside of Mass, and officiate at funeral and burial services.

“As a deacon you will serve Jesus Christ, who is known among His disciples as the one who served us,” Bishop Fisher told Deacon Franz. “Be joyful, be hopeful. That is what our Church needs from us.”

Deacon Franz drove back to Baltimore after his first Mass at OLV the following morning. He plans on spending another year at St. Mary’s to study spirituality after his priestly ordination this summer.

“I’m going to return there in the fall and I’m going to pursue a license in spirituality and I am going to discern more about spiritual direction,” he said. “I love journeying with people. I love the idea of small group discussions. That’s been a big part of my discernment and my faith growth. That’s what I’m looking forward to. And serving God’s people and the people of Buffalo. I want to give back for all of the things they’ve done for me.”

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