Deacons Roger Reilander, Gem Mella and Hyland Fraser lie prostrate before the altar prior to their ordination to the permanent diaconate May 31 at St. Joseph's Basilica as their wives Joyce Reilander, Dada Mella and Harriet Fraser (right) look on.

WCR PHOTO | RAMON GONZALEZ

Deacons Roger Reilander, Gem Mella and Hyland Fraser lie prostrate before the altar prior to their ordination to the permanent diaconate May 31 at St. Joseph's Basilica as their wives Joyce Reilander, Dada Mella and Harriet Fraser (right) look on.

June 9, 2014
RAMON GONZALEZ
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER

With joy and awe the Edmonton Archdiocese welcomed three new permanent deacons to the fold. The large congregation erupted in applause as Archbishop Richard Smith ordained the trio May 31 at St. Joseph's Basilica.

Deacon Hyland Fraser

WCR PHOTO | RAMON GONZALEZ

Deacon Hyland Fraser

"Congratulations," the archbishop told Deacons Gem Mella, Hyland Fraser and Roger Reilander at the end of the ordination Mass. "Now we will put you to work."

The Edmonton Archdiocese now has 29 permanent deacons and is expecting to ordain as many as five more within two years.

Having completed a four-year period of formation, the three new deacons and their wives expect to serve in their own parishes with a threefold ministry of Word, sacrament and charity.

Fraser, a 67-year-old home builder, is a member of Holy Trinity Parish in Spruce Grove. Reilander, a 60-year-old former park ranger, belongs to St. Mary's Parish in Red Deer, and Gem Mella, 58, a fitness and sales manager with Flaman Fitness, makes his home at St. Theresa Parish in Edmonton.

In his homily, Smith encouraged the three men to follow the example of Mary, who placed mercy toward those in need at the centre of her ministry.

"I encourage you to take to heart Mary's example," the archbishop said. "The ministry of deacon is ordered to mercy. (As deacons) you will stand in the midst of the community as a reminder to all that charity is the heart of the Church and animates all aspects of her mission."

ATTUNED TO SUFFERING

Added Smith, "Within the areas of the archdiocese to which you shall be assigned, be always attuned to the suffering in your midst. Let there be no delay in your response to the needy. In all that you do, seek to bring to others the joy of the Gospel."

Deacon Roger Reilander

WCR PHOTO | RAMON GONZALEZ

Deacon Roger Reilander

Deacon Fraser and his wife Harriet were jubilant following the ordination ceremony. "We feel wonderful and blessed," Harriet exclaimed. "I feel very humbled by it all," added her husband.

Later that evening the Frasers celebrated the ordination with family and friends at a rented hall in Spruce Grove.

All three deacons attended a reception at the basilica's hall immediately after the ordination where they hugged and gave their blessings to well-wishers.

"This is a proud moment for me and my family," said Mark Mella, son of Deacon Gem Mella, who was busy with a long lineup of well-wishers. "I'm very happy."

PROUD OF HER DAD

Gezebel Rodriguez, daughter of Deacon Mella, said she felt proud of her father. "I always expected him to serve in this way. He is very close to the Church."

Deacon Gem Mella

WCR PHOTO | RAMON GONZALEZ

Deacon Gem Mella

Deacon Lynn Pion, director of the archdiocese's diaconate program, described the ordination ceremony as a "beautiful celebration" that went "very smoothly."

"I only travelled with them in the last year but I feel very proud of them and I feel very confident that I am able to recommend them to His Grace for ordination," Pion said. "I know they'll serve very well in their parishes."

Pion said many other dioceses in Western Canada now are seeing the advantages of having permanent deacons and are starting their own formation programs. The Regina and Prince Albert dioceses are starting programs this fall, he said.

The Diocese of Saskatoon is currently holding a diocesan-wide dialogue on the permanent diaconate, and Vancouver and Victoria started programs a couple of years ago.

In Edmonton the program is doing well, according to Pion. He said five men are finishing their second year of formation and presently the archdiocese is screening seven more who applied to begin formation in September.