Deacons & Seminarians

Wives of a Deacon - Marie Dombai

In conjunction with Deacon Tom’s article last week, I thought it might be appropriate to provide some explanation about the roles that the wives of Deacons have in their spouses’ ministry. Although the wives are not ordained, we do share in our spouse’s ministry, yet we are independent laity. 

Since the origin of permanent deacons in the Catholic Church after Vatican II, there have been many questions about the emerging roles of the wife as part of the “diaconate couple.” There are no clear‐cut guidelines or explanation of what the wife’s role is or can be, however, because Deacon formation touches each woman uniquely and individually, we support our husband’s call in different ways.

Women who are spouses of deacons respond to a unique grace of personal mission of their own, that comes as a gift from her baptism. Each woman cultivates her baptismal gifts in service to her family, the world and the church.  

The wife of a deacon is not simply a woman married to a deacon—we are essential for the church as we use our own gifts for the good of God’s people. With the power of the Holy Spirit we are equipped to make a particular and important contribution in supporting the church as well as our husbands.   

Participating in the diaconate is something that Tom and I have decided to do together. During our formation journey we developed a deeper appreciation for each other, our faith, and for God. We learned more about our roles both individually and as a couple and how we would together serve our church and our community.

To echo what Tom stated last week about marriage, we strive to be examples of a Christian marriage, not only for our family but also for all who are witnesses to our union. Our love and our commitment to each other can be seen in our thirty‐ five years of marriage. Like this permanent union, I have willingly and unselfishly given my own commitment to share in Tom’s diaconal ministry.  

It is with much thought, reflection and prayer that I hope Tom and I can continue our ministry, now as a diaconate couple, and that we can continue to incorporate and share our gifts as we serve God, His church, and His people.

Marie Dombai

A Sacramental Sign of Christ

Deacons are ordained as a sacramental sign of Christ, who came “to serve and not to be served.” In fact, the terms “deacon” and “diaconate” come from the Greek word diakonia which means “service” or “ministry.” The deacon, by virtue of his sacramental ordination and through his various ministries, participates in his service to the Church and its people through an integrated three-part ministry of service to the Word, service to the liturgy, and service to charity.

As ministers of the Word, deacons proclaim the Gospel, preach, and teach in the name of the Church. As ministers of the liturgy, deacons baptize, lead the faithful in prayer, witness marriages, and conduct wake and funeral services. As ministers of charity, deacons are to be leaders in identifying the needs of others, and innovative in coming up with ways to address those needs. This ministry involves an outreach to the marginalized and those in most need of care, education and social justice. Deacons may minister in many different settings besides their home parish such as prisons, hospitals, convalescent homes, juvenile detention centers, shelters for the homeless or abused, and soup kitchens. Thus, the deacon’s ministry of charity may take place both within and far beyond the boundaries of the parish in which he lives or where he serves in the liturgy most directly.

Permanent deacons (like myself) are often married men with families and active careers in the secular world. The deacon and his wife strive to be a living example of fidelity and indissolubility in Christian marriage before a world in serious need of such signs. Together, they show how the obligations of family, work and ministry can be harmonized in the service of the Church’s mission. The deacon is called to bring the ministry of the Church—its mission of spreading the Good News and promoting charity and justice—to the workplace, to the community, to the neighborhood, and to all places in which he lives and interacts with others daily.  

Thank you to everyone at Saint Juliana for the kindness and support you have shown to Marie and me as we prepared for my ordination. The greatest gift I received was being able to share my first Mass of Thanksgiving with all of you.  

Deacon Tom Dombai

The Feast of Invitations

One of the biggest privileges of being a seminarian is that it’s part of our daily routine to have direct encounters with Christ. From Adoration and Mass in the campus chapel to cafeteria chats with priests or nuns, we have opportunities to experience Christ firsthand every day. That tremendous blessing is due in no small part to your generous prayers and gifts— thank you!

BUT: the best kept secret in the Catholic world is that God desires for each of us, no matter our state in life, to develop a deep personal relationship with Him. So, it’s time to get the word out about that! The feast invitations we hear about in this weekend’s readings seem to be an analogy for the way that God is inviting us to know Him more deeply. The prophet Isaiah describes that “the Lord of hosts will provide for all peoples a feast of rich food and choice wines.” The Psalmist mentions how “You spread the table before me.” And then Matthew talks about a significant wedding banquet where many are invited to “come to the feast.” How do we prioritize our “yes” to the generous invitations of Jesus in our life to know him in a richer sense?

The Church provides simple examples through Scripture and the saints that demonstrate a starting point in developing a relationship with Christ. While in Wyoming this summer, Fr. Bryce Lungren emphasized our human nature, lived it by riding a bucking bronco in a rodeo, and taught it by referencing Luke’s Gospel passage about the Baptism of Jesus. In that narrative, the Lord proclaims to Jesus, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased” (3:22). St. Thérèse of Lisieux similarly says we are called to commit to Christ with a childlike love. When we boldly live our primary identity as sons and daughters of Christ, simply love Jesus as a child loves a parent, and spend quiet time in daily prayer, we respond “YES!” to the invitation of Jesus to His feast of communion with Him.

Lee Noel

The Power of the Resurrection

As I revel in yet another 2020 Bears comeback victory, I can’t help but reflect on the greatest comeback story of all time: the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. You can imagine just how unlikely his believers (and enemies) thought it would be. You think we doubt in any Bears coach or quarterback being able to orchestrate a fourth-quarter revival? Even Jesus’ closest followers thought that the cross had the final say and that Jesus’ incredible mission was brought to a tragic end.   

But think about it: why were they so surprised? Jesus told them again and again and again that he must suffer, die, and then be raised. I like to put myself in the locked upper room on that first Easter morning, with the women running in to tell of the empty tomb. Shock, disbelief, mistrust, all leading to one realization: “He told us this would happen.” How great would it be for the McCaskeys to tell us over and over that the Bears would be Super Bowl Champions. I’d probably treat that announcement similar to the disciples with Jesus—it’s just too good to be true. “Unless I put my finger in the ring and my hand on the trophy, I will not believe.”

And not only did Jesus tell them, but they had the entirety of the history of Israel to point to God’s saving work. The Passover, the prophets, the promise of a new covenant, all of it. We often dismiss the Old Testament as the boring part without Jesus and don’t take it to heart. However, Jesus’ mission and action are all spelled out in the words of the Law, the prophets, and the Psalms. We can use the Old Testament to soften our hearts and prepare our lives to the incredible saving work of Jesus Christ.

Unfortunately, I don’t think this Bears streak can last forever, and the odds are against them to win a title this year. But I know that they have comebacks in them, because I’ve seen it before. No one is too far gone for the power of the Resurrection to work in them. Recognize the work of Jesus and allow it to renew everything. Kevin Gregus

Reflections from Sem Christian - Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?

Transforming “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” into “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.”

It seems that Christ experienced loneliness on the cross. “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani,” which in English is translated into “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46).

“Standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary of Magdala” (John 19:25). In the presence of people who loved him, it seems that Jesus experienced abandonment. What then can be expected for humans? Many times, we are surrounded by loved ones, but sometimes that does not seem to be enough. Shortly after Christ felt abandoned, He said, “it is fulfilled” (John 19, 30) and “cried out…, ‘Father, into your hands I commit my spirit’” (Luke 23, 46). Then, what can we do when we experience the silence of God when we feel alone, when difficulties surround us, or when we are afraid?

In the midst of all its beauty, humanity has many limitations. Not completely understanding the Mystery of God and His will appears to be one of the realities that impact humans. When a personal plan seems different than the divine plans, uncertainty and doubt can take over our thoughts, emotions, and actions. Promptly, frustration, displeasure, pain, and anger might arise. Therefore, what to do?

When we feel abandoned by God, let us surrender ourselves to Him, even when we cannot understand. Let us fight the emotions of abandonment with the action of abandoning ourselves into His hands. It is not a matter of understanding as it is of accepting.

The bad news is that we will not fully understand God. The good news is that trusting and abandoning our lives to Him will glorify Him and positively impact our souls. What does not make sense today might become more evident with time. Let us keep trusting our Lord always and everywhere.

Christian Melendez-Cruz

Deacon Tom Dombai Ordination

Hello from Deacon Tom Dombai and Marie Dombai

We are both overjoyed and I am deeply humbled to inform you that on Saturday, October 26th, I was ordained a deacon of the Catholic Church! For those of you who don’t know me, I am a life-long parishioner of St. Juliana (and a SJ alum) married for 35 years to my wife, Marie, (also an SJ alum). We are the parents of six children ranging in ages from 22 to 32 (all of whom are SJ alums). We are also the doting grandparents of two very active little ones.

My path of discernment leading to my vocation to serve as a deacon has spanned the course of decades. I had the first glimmer of a notion that the Lord might be calling me to be a deacon well over 25 years ago. But at that time, I was the father of several young children, I worked a full-time job and was involved in several parish groups and ministries, and I felt I just could not embark on an intensive and time-consuming commitment then without short-changing my family in the process. As soon as our youngest finished high school, and after talking things through with Marie, we decided it was the right time for me to apply for admission to the deacon formation program of the Archdiocese of Chicago.

My discernment of my vocation was aided in large part by the example of the faith-filled lives of my mother and father. It was also fostered by other important people in my life, most of whom are also from St. Juliana. I was greatly influenced by Deacon Vince Zegers, who was the very first permanent deacon to serve at our parish, a man who tirelessly gave of his time and talents as the longtime leader of our parish sponsored Boy Scout Troop, and a true and faithful servant of the people of God. Over the years I have also been influenced and helped along the discernment path by the gentle nudge and encouragement of several of our parish priests, by the example of Deacon Bob Ryan and Deacon Ed Dolan, and by the prayers and good wishes of so many of you.

The deacon formation program is an ambitious and demanding program involving many academic courses held on week nights and Saturdays, several intensive internships and service projects, monthly theological reflection groups and time in spiritual direction, a great deal of studying, exam taking and paper writing, and a whole lot of prayer! The purpose of the program is not merely to teach candidates for the diaconate how to perform the duties and roles of a deacon. More fundamentally, the formation program is designed to help candidates discern whether the Lord is really calling us to diaconate ministry, to prayerfully decide how we will respond to that call, and to strive to conform our lives to the model of Christ the Servant, in the service of the people of God and the Church. 

Marie also fully participated in the formation program by taking nearly all of the classes offered to the deacon candidates. She passionately advocated that the wives should also receive training in preparing and delivering reflections on scripture similar to the men’s training in homiletics. The class was so well received that the leaders of the formation program are now planning on making this course a permanent class offering to the wives of deacon candidates.

Deacons serve in an integrated three-fold ministry by proclaiming the Word of God, assisting in the liturgy, and performing works of charitable service both at the parish level and, more broadly, to the poor and the marginalized in society. I look forward to performing this ministry in the service of the people of St. Juliana and the people of our Archdiocese for many years to come. Marie intends to share and assist in this ministry to serve the people of St. Juliana by using her own gifts and talents to spread God’s love in the service of others as a lay minister.

We thank you all for your kind encouragement and prayers over the past four years of formation and request that we might remain in your prayers in the future. You have our assurance that the wonderful people of St. Juliana will always be in ours!


Meet Seminarian Christian Melendez-Cruz

My name is Christian Melendez-Cruz but everyone calls me Tian. I am in my third year of theology at Mundelein Seminary. I come from Puerto Rico and I have been living in the states for several years. I am a seminarian for the Diocese of Yakima in Washington State. With God’s help, I will be ordained a transitional deacon next May 2021 and a priest in May 2022. This year, I will be utilizing my academic background in clinical psychology during the remaining of the year.

I will be supporting Catholic Charities with Tele Mental Health Services in my diocese by delivering mental health services to potential clients and consultations to providers. Such services will be provided using secured and encrypted online software. I will also support the Hispanic community by recording a series of short videos that will focus on the development and application of coping skills surrounding Covid-19. As we continue to navigate in the nuances of the virus and its consequences in our liturgies, I hope to be able to see all of you in our wonderful St. Juliana. In the meantime, let’s hope for the best. Together, let us pray for the end of the pandemic and the resurgence of a better church.

Meet Seminarian Kevin Gregus

My name is Kevin Gregus and I am in Theology II, studying for the Archdiocese of Chicago. I grew up in Crystal Lake, IL. Prior to entering Mundelein Seminary, I graduated from the University of Michigan with a degree in aerospace engineering. I worked for seven years as an engineer on Naval fighter aircraft and electronic systems for commercial airlines. I am a big sports fan (Cubs, Blackhawks, Bears, Michigan) and enjoy playing any sport I can, with hockey, golf, and baseball being my favorites. This will be my third year at Saint Juliana, and I’ll be doing my internship here next semester. I’m beyond excited to be spending another year at the best parish in the Arch!

Here is my new "Ask A Seminarian" 

Seminarian Kevin Gregus (Archdiocese of Chicago) recently hosted a Facebook live called “Ask a Seminarian” with his childhood parish St. Thomas the Apostle Catholic Church. This conversation ranges from his daily schedule in seminary to his favorite sports to faith-related questions. 

Meet Seminarian Lee Noel

My name is Lee Noel, and I am in my second year of school at Mundelein Seminary while discerning the priesthood for the Diocese of Cheyenne in Wyoming. My parents (both from Illinois: Rockford and Peoria!) gave my brothers Drew, Louis, and me a sturdy Catholic home and enrolled us in Catholic schools while growing up in Sioux City, Iowa, but unfortunately, I was too busy playing baseball, hockey, and cheering on the Iowa Hawkeyes to ever ask God what He wanted me to do with my life. That all changed after I moved to Wyoming in 2014 to attend graduate school and study entomology.

Our local church hosted a retreat that fall and when I went to Reconciliation there I felt a surge of warmth, like a merciful golden wave of joy rush through me. Pretty emotional, to say the least! I didn’t hear a call to the priesthood, but I knew I wanted to get more serious about our faith. After graduating in 2016 I worked for two years in Colorado where I lived with great buddies from our church, dated an awesome gal for a few months, and explored the mountains on the weekends… but I still felt like something was missing. The priests of Cheyenne inspired me to be open to discerning the priesthood, and I am very grateful for the privilege to spend time in prayer, fraternity, and studying at Mundelein in order to follow Mary and Jesus wherever they lead me.