By Tracey Primrose
November 30, 2020 — Last Friday, Brad Mills, SJ, was ordained a deacon at the Jesuit parish La Iglesia de San Ignacio in Bogotá, Colombia. Although the coronavirus prevented his family back home in California from attending, Brad did a Zoom call with his mother just moments before the Mass began so he could introduce her to three special guests he had invited to be present. Sister Norma Ines Bernal and Stephany Herrera work with Brad in Altos de la Florida, an underserved neighborhood in southern Bogotá where thousands of displaced people have settled after fleeing war, violence and poverty. The third guest? Alex Coronado, who lives in the neighborhood and is a former Confirmation student of Brad’s. When his own family could not be present, this is the family Brad chose to accompany him.
Brad Mills, SJ, (third from right) after being ordained to the diaconate
For Brad, it all made perfect sense. Even though his ordination to the diaconate had to be postponed and rescheduled several times because of the pandemic, the moment, he says, was joyful. “I put myself in the shoes of so many immigrants who are unable to be with their families when their parents are dying or some other major life event. I felt lucky that my friends and family could watch the livestream.”
Brad with the friends he invited to attend his ordination
Brad has always felt at home in Latin America. After graduating from Santa Clara University in 2006, he served with the Jesuit Volunteer Corps for several years in Peru and Bolivia. Although there are three Jesuit theology centers in North America, Brad asked to be sent to Colombia for theology studies.
Brad in Altos de la Florida, Bogotá
After Monseñor Luis José Rueda Aparicio, Archbishop of Bogotá, ordained him and seven of his Jesuit brothers to the diaconate, Brad said he was overwhelmed with gratitude. “I thought about my family, the people I got to know as a Jesuit volunteer, my Jesuit brothers and the people in the neighborhood where I serve. I thought about all the people of God who make this life possible. It is in them that I walk with God and that God walks with me. God has given me the privilege of this path, and I feel so sustained.”
After spending two years in Bogota studying and doing pastoral ministry, Brad will head next week to Cartagena in northern Colombia, where he will serve as a deacon for six months before returning to the U.S. for his priestly ordination next June.
His was the last diaconate ordination of 2021. In October, John Guyol, SJ, a member of Jesuits West Province, was ordained a deacon by the Most Reverend Michael C. Barber, SJ, Bishop of Oakland, at the Church of Santa Maria in Orinda, California.
Eight Jesuits were ordained to the diaconate on Oct. 24 in Orinda, California, including John Guyol, SJ, from Jesuits West.
In September, two other members of Jesuits West Province, Xavier Benavides, SJ, and Martin Ngo, SJ, were ordained deacons by Cardinal Seán O’Malley, OFM Cap, Archbishop of Boston, at St. Ignatius Church in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts.
Eight Jesuits were ordained to the diaconate in Boston Sept. 19, including two from Jesuits West, Xavier Benavides, SJ, and Martin Ngo, SJ.
In June, Jack Krouse, SJ, of Jesuits West Province, was ordained to the diaconate in Paris.
For Jesuits in Formation, ordination to the diaconate is the final step in preparation for priestly ordination. Deacons proclaim the Gospel, preach and teach in the name of the Church. As ministers of sacraments, they baptize, witness marriages and conduct wake and funeral services.
Next summer, Brad and his fellow deacons from Jesuits West will be ordained to the priesthood. In a reversal of his diaconate ordination, Brad hopes that Covid-19 protocols will allow his family in California to be there in person, while thousands of miles away in Colombia, those people he carries in his heart will watch the livestream. In-person and virtual accompaniment on two continents — it doesn’t get better than that.