May 20, 2019
Friends, family, and parishioners from across the diocese filled St. Matthew Church in Arlington on May 18 to watch the former youth minister take the next step in his journey to the priesthood. Being ordained a transitional deacon marks the final year of seminary formation for a man as he assumes the clerical state and publicly commits to promises of obedience, celibacy, and prayer.
God willing, Deacon Martinez will receive the sacrament of Holy Orders to become a priest next spring.
“I think he’ll make a great priest,” said Jesus Segura who traveled from Mineral Wells with his mother, Monica, and friends to attend the Saturday morning Mass.
The group met the seminarian at a retreat and got to know him better when he came to Our Lady of Lourdes Parish for a series of talks.
“He’s very outgoing and knows how to connect with people on a personal level,” Segura added. “We feel as if we’ve known him a long time.”
During the most pivotal moment in the ordination ceremony, Jose and Maria Martinez watched emotionally as Bishop Olson placed his hands on the head of their son and invoked the power of the Holy Spirit. Deacon Jim Novak then dressed the former St. Matthew parishioner in the vestments of the diaconate — the stole and dalmatic.
Maria Martinez always prayed for vocations but never expected one of her three sons would have a call to the priesthood.
“I’m thankful. I feel blessed to have this day and to have a son like Pedro,” the proud mom commented in Spanish. “I have so many emotions, I can’t express them all.”
The family always supported his decision to become a priest, according to Karina Martinez, one of the new deacon’s five sisters.
“We always pray for him,” she said. “I know that spiritual support means a lot to my brother.”
Deacon comes from the Greek word diakonos meaning servant or minister and is the first of three ranks of ordained ministry in the Church. An integral part of parish life, deacons may baptize, preside at marriages and funerals, proclaim the Gospel, and preach. They also perform works of charity.
In his homily, Bishop Olson cited Philip and Stephen — two influential deacons in the early Church — as worthy examples of benevolence and sacrificial love. Both served the outcasts of Jerusalem society — Greek-speaking widows and orphans.
Stephen witnessed to Christ with such grace and power, he ultimately became the Church’s first martyr.
“Stephen loved sacrificially as Jesus loved sacrificially,” he told the congregation. “Stephen’s faithful love for Jesus, present in the widows and orphans, fostered in him a desire to give of himself even to the point of lying down his life in martyrdom for the truth.”
A seminarian’s ordination to the transitional diaconate is not only the next step to priesthood, Bishop Olson pointed out. It’s a ministry of charity, selflessness, and sacrifice.
“It fosters in you, and to those whom you witness and serve, a conversion to the same love possessed by Philip and Stephen to bring the love of Christ to the excluded and dispossessed people in the world,” he continued. “It fosters in you a love that prepares you to make the transition for an ever-more demanding gift of yourself.”
Born in central Mexico, Martinez came to Texas as a 14-year-old with his mother and seven siblings to join his father who was working here. As a college student attending the University of Texas at Arlington, he became involved with the young adult group at his parish and began organizing retreats and trips to World Youth Day.
Father Hector Medina, the pastor at St. Matthew from 2006 to 2014, became a role model for the young parishioner.
The thought was planted but it took several years before the decision to enter the seminary was made. Family obligations were a concern.
His father suffered from debilitating arthritis and Martinez’ job with the City of Arlington helped support the family.
Powerful testimonies, given by priests and nuns at World Youth Day in Madrid, gave him the confidence to call the diocesan vocation director.
“Their talks answered all the questions I was asking and seemed tailored to me,” Martinez recalled. “What they said told me to go follow the Lord.”
A month after beginning his seminary studies in 2013, Jose Martinez’ Social Security disability benefits were approved. The news was a relief for his son.
“It was proof of God’s providential love,” said the former human services specialist. “He will always take care and provide for the people who want to do His will.”
Waiting for the ordination Mass to begin, Fr. Medina remembered Martinez’ discernment struggle.
“It was really noticeable that he had a vocation. Everybody could see it but him,” the retired pastor said. “So we encouraged him more and more.”
Martinez possesses compassion and leadership — qualities that will make him an effective deacon and priest.
“I think our families need to encourage vocations, especially Hispanic families, because we don’t,” Fr. Medina admitted. “When we see someone has a calling, and the Lord has chosen this person to serve him in a different way, we must encourage them.”
As the new deacon begins a year of prayer and study before ordination to the priesthood, he is grateful to the Diocese of Fort Worth and the people who contributed to his education both financially and spiritually.
“I could not have made it this far without their generosity to my formation and for their trust in the vision and mission of our bishop,” Martinez said.
ARLINGTON — With the words, “Receive the Gospel of Christ whose herald you have become. Believe what you read. Teach what you believe, and practice what you teach,” Fort Worth Bishop Michael F. Olson presented Pedro Martinez with the Book of Gospels during an ordination rite that raised the seminarian to the sacred Order of the Diaconate.