November 5, 2021

2021 Vocations Awareness Supplement

Deacon’s combination of concern, compassion and celebration of faith guide his ministry

Then-Archbishop-designate Charles C. Thompson ritually lays hands on deacon candidate Juan Carlos Ramirez on June 24, 2017, in SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis during a Mass in which Ramirez and 20 other men from across central and southern Indiana were ordained as permanent deacons. (File photo by Sean Gallagher)

Then-Archbishop-designate Charles C. Thompson ritually lays hands on deacon candidate Juan Carlos Ramirez on June 24, 2017, in SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis during a Mass in which Ramirez and 20 other men from across central and southern Indiana were ordained as permanent deacons. (File photo by Sean Gallagher)

By John Shaughnessy

There are heartbreaking moments in life when a person appreciates even more what it means to be part of a faith community.

For Deacon Juan Carlos Ramirez, one of those poignant moments occurred recently when he received the news that one of his brothers had died unexpectedly.

“I was able to travel to Mexico to attend his funeral, and though I was sad for the loss, I also have the consolation that he is now on his way to the presence of God. And the Holy Spirit showed me—through the words and prayers of many co-workers, friends, family and parishioners—that we should be grateful for the blessed moments we had with him, and we should celebrate his life.”

That outpouring of concern, compassion and celebration of the faith for Deacon Ramirez reflects the same approach that he has given to members of St. Bartholomew Parish in Columbus ever since he began his ministry there after being ordained in 2017.

“Deacon Juan Carlos is well-respected by all the various ministry leaders and brings people together for the benefit of the entire community,” says Father Christopher Wadelton, St. Bartholomew’s pastor.

“There are lots of people who hold strong opinions about how things should be done in the Church. Deacon Juan Carlos has an amazing ability to enter into the conversations with people of all backgrounds with patience and kindness. He is a peacemaker and a great example for other leaders—including myself—to look up to. I admire the way he interacts with people with the kindness of Christ.”

Deacon Ramirez says his approach to people and his ministry has been significantly shaped by a moment that happened during his ordination in 2017—a moment when he felt the presence of the Holy Spirit.

‘An opportunity to be in contact with God and his people’

“There were no words,” he said at the time, “but I know the Holy Spirit was saying, ‘You are now my instrument.’ ”

Four years into his ministry, the 55-year-old deacon has no doubt that the Holy Spirit guides him in every moment.

“The Holy Spirit continuously reminds me that this is not about me, my capability or my capacity,” he says. “It is all about the love God wants to transmit to those in need through us and let them know that he is present in every step of our life.

“There are many moments to see how the Holy Spirit can comfort those who feel lost, or accompany those who need support, motivation or direction. The relationship is the key factor—the opportunity to be in contact with God and his people, to accompany them where they are.”

His relationship with his wife of 32 years, Gabriela, is also key to his ministry. They work together on evangelization efforts for the Hispanic community, serve as part of the parish’s healing ministry, take Communion to the sick and participate in eucharistic adoration. They are also involved in planning a weekend retreat to support married couples.

Gabriela has seen the difference that being a deacon has made to the faith of her husband—and also to hers.

“Juan Carlos has been a great husband, father and friend, but what is more visible for me is his praying time,” she says. “As a person of faith, he has been improving not only the quantity but also the quality of praying.

“Because of his continuous spiritual growth, I’ve also had the benefit of accompanying him and growing my personal relationship with God through helping and accompanying others where they are in their journey. Being the spouse of a deacon, I am more conscious of the privilege to serve others as a blessing from God.”

The blessings have been many for the couple, including their three grown children, Karla, Carlos and Oscar. Deacon Ramirez strives to keep a focus on family in his ministry.

“Through formation, we frequently were reminded that our first ministry is our family,” he says. “It makes a lot of sense because the way we treat our families should be the same way we should treat everybody else—with Christian love.”

Trusting in God’s will and mercy

That sense of family extends to parishioners for him. One particular moment stands out.

“One time, we were bringing the Eucharist to a home care facility to a great friend who suffered from dementia,” he recalls. “She was so happy to receive it with all the solemnity and respect, reminding us of the presence of God in the Eucharist and in our lives.”

Father Wadelton also mentions the difference the couple has made in leading retreats for Latino members of the parish.

“At the end of the retreat, the participants form into ‘small Church communities’ or ‘iglesitas,’ ” Father Wadelton says. “Many of the iglesitas have continued to meet regularly for years, forming strong bonds and spiritual support for each other. The small Church communities have thrived in large part due to Deacon Juan Carlos and Gabby.”

Deacon Ramirez deflects any credit, giving it all to God. An industrial engineer by profession, he works as a quality director at Cummins Inc., in Columbus. He says the reason he wanted to become a deacon was to improve his relationship with Jesus “and help others to do the same.”

“I was terrified that I would be unworthy, not capable and this could be only a personal desire,” he says. “However, through personal and intercession prayer, spiritual direction and discernment—but, more importantly, humility to trust this was God’s will—I was able to accept the invitation to serve and become a deacon.”

Trusting in God’s will has led to the deeper relationship with him that Deacon Ramirez sought.

“Through formation and studies, I have been able to understand better our faith,” he says. “Through prayers, I have been able to recognize God’s mercy. And through my relationships, I can see his love for all of us. As we know more about our faith, I understand that I have a God that is all merciful.”
 

(For more information on the archdiocesan diaconate program, contact Deacon Kerry Blandford, director of deacon formation, at 317-236-1492 or dblandford@archindy.org.)

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