Updated: Jul 7, 2022
Seven men called to Spirit-filled service as deacons in Diocese of Boise
The following story appeared in the June 24 Idaho Catholic Register.
SERVICE is at the very heart of the diaconate. Above, newly ordained Deacon Nelson Cintra gives the Precious Blood to Deacon Salvador Carranza, who recently was appointed director of the Office of the Permanent Diaconate. (See story on page 2.) Deacon Cintra is a transitional deacon, preparing to be ordained to the priesthood in a year. (ICR photo/Joe Egbert)
By Emily Woodham
and Gene Fadness
Idaho Catholic Register
Nalita Cintra prayed her whole life that one of her sons would become a priest. When her first three sons did not choose priesthood, she was about ready to abandon hope.
But – like He did in the Old Testament – God often chooses the youngest and the least likely to lead. He did the same with the fourth and youngest Cintra son, Nelson. “Nelson is my baby, and I never thought he would be the one,” said Nalita Cintra about Nelson, the son she calls the “wild one.”
Nelson Cintra and Timothy Segert were ordained deacons by Bishop Peter Christensen on June 9 at the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist in Boise. They were two of seven men ordained deacons for the Diocese of Boise this month. Deacons Cintra and Segert were ordained to the “transitional” diaconate, meaning they will likely be ordained priests a year from now.
Two days later on June 11, the Bishop ordained five married men to the “permanent” diaconate. They are Art Martinez of Malad, Mar-tin Knoelk of Grangeville, Tilio Perez of Preston, Scott Tverdy of Buhl, and Eric Wassmuth of Greencreek.
At the Church’s beginning, deacons were called (see Acts 6) to serve those in the Church whose needs were not being met because bishops and priests were busy with sacramental and administrative duties. However, beginning around the 5th century, there was a gradual decline in the diaconate as a permanent state of life in the Church. As seminaries developed, the only men ordained as deacons were seminarians who were completing the last year or so of graduate theological training, so-called “transitional deacons.”
In 1967, following the recommendations of the Second Vatican Council, St. Pope Paul VI revived the practice of ordaining men to the diaconate who were not candidates for priestly ordination.
In both ordination Masses, the Bishop reminded the men that it was God who called them and God who will equip them to serve in love.
“As ordained ministers, you must, in order to serve well, be free to love, remembering always that Jesus shows us that even in the darkest hours, God’s love knows no end,” the Bishop said. “Even in the hardships of everyday life, God’s love knows no bounds. Even in our suffering and death, God’s love holds nothing back. This is the faith that deacons must bring to the poor in spirit who do not know Jesus. This is the power of the Cross that deacons must bring to people who have no idea how much God loves them. This is how a deacon meets people where they are – the sick, the broken, the fallen away – and brings them to Jesus.”
The Bishop admonished the deacons to “incarnate Christ the Servant more effectively” in their own lives.
“By sensitizing yourself to God’s presence in those you serve and responding in love, you will extend the hand of Christ to those in need. And you will be transformed in this process every time you do so since it is impossible to touch another without being touched,” he said.
Bishop Peter also encouraged the deacons to imitate the vulnerability and trusting heart of the Blessed Mother. “Mary allowed herself to become vulnerable before the Lord and this vulnerability opened her heart ever more deeply to accept God’s will for her life, including the pain of suffering, especially at the Cross,” he said. “Continue to allow yourselves to be loved. You have been chosen by the Lord, and now sent to proclaim His love to the world.”
Timothy Segert, back, and Nelson Cintra lie prostrate before the altar at the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist in Boise, as the congregation prays the Litany of the Saints for them. Hundreds attended their ordination to the transitional diaconate. After a year as deacons, they will be ordained to the priesthood. (Courtesy photo/Deacon Andy Finney)
Transitional deacons both chose this Diocese
Cintra was born in Brazil. When he was 1, his father died. His mother made sure her children went to Catholic school and attended Mass. In 1999, when he was 13, his mother moved her family to Ohio to be near her in-laws.
“Nelson was the wild one,” Nalita Cintra said of her son. However, perhaps in answer to her prayers for one son to become a priest, their parish priest in Columbus, Ohio, would ask Nelson every time he saw him, “When are you going to the seminary?” including one time when Nelson brought a girlfriend to Mass.
After he got a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Ohio State, Deacon Cintra came to Idaho to accept a job at a private boarding high school near Arco. When he met Bishop Peter Christensen at the Bishop’s installation in 2014, Cintra decided to enter Mount Angel Seminary and, if ordained, serve in the Diocese of Boise. “It was in Idaho that God and the Catholic faith became the center of my life,” Deacon Cintra said.
Nalita encourages mothers who are praying for their children to keep persevering. “Remember St. Monica, how long she prayed for her son. Then he became the great St. Augustine.”
During his homily, Bishop Peter commended Deacon Cintra for his leadership abilities. “Nelson is a natural-born leader, having common sense, an ability to see the needs of others around him, and serving those needs,” the Bishop said.
When Cintra entered the seminary, the Bishop said, his intention was to save souls. However, through his formation Cintra realized that “perhaps he was the one needing the saving.”
“Through his spiritual and emotional growth over the years, he now understands more clearly that he doesn’t have to be the savior. As my great, insightful Jesuit spiritual director once said, ‘Why would you want to un-employ Jesus?’ ” the Bishop said.
Even though he grew up in Boise, Deacon Timothy Segert was considering the priesthood in the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C.
Segert converted to Catholicism from an evangelical background while he was a student at Boise State. After graduation, he moved to Washington, D.C. to work as the director of three residence halls at the Catholic University of America. Bishop Peter emailed Segert, inviting him to come to the much smaller Diocese of Boise, where ministry was more personable. Moved by the email, Deacon Segert chose to come to Boise. “I could tell he wrote it, not a secretary,” Segert said. The Bishop assured Segert that in the Diocese of Boise, he would not be a number or stranger to the Bishop or anyone in the parishes, which can happen in large, metro dioceses. “You will be known by name here,” the Bishop wrote.
“Timothy is a very humble man, which makes him very approachable,” Bishop Peter said. “He has a listening heart and willingness to help others to better understand where God might be present in their lives.”
Segert has chronic pain, but never complains, the Bishop noted. “He has used his physical suffering as a prayer offering, with the desire to intercede for others in order to help them on their journey. This is quite heroic.”
Segert’s parents, Tom and Paula Segert, attended the ordination, although they are still active in their Protestant faith. During his remarks at the conclusion of the ordination Mass, Segert thanked his parents for their support and presence during his formation.
“The ordination was absolutely incredible,” Deacon Segert said. “When I was making the promises asked of all transitional deacons, there also seemed to be a steeling of my will such that I was making them not only on my own power, but also with the voice of the whole Church behind me and the Holy Spirit moving my soul very distinctly.”
“I am incredibly thankful to the Lord for bringing me to this point in my life. The plan He has set out for me is so much better than anything I had in mind for myself,” he said.
All five of the new permanent deacons are from rural Idaho. Theirs is perhaps the first class to be ordained in recent years that does not include candidates from the Treasure Valley. From left are, Eric Wassmuth, Bill Tverdy, Tilio Perez, Art Martinez and Martin Knoelk. (ICR photo/Vero Gutiérrez)
Five men ordained as permanent deacons
At the ordination for the permanent diaconate, Bishop Peter observed that each of the new deacons were fam-ily men from rural Idaho. It is one of the first classes that does not include deacon candidates from the Treasure Valley.
The Bishop read what he called “snippets of wisdom” that each of the deacons shared in the May 27 issue of the Idaho Catholic Register, and noted especially the diversity of the group.
“They have worked in the areas of agriculture and served in the military – the Air Force and the Navy. One was the owner of a cleaning company and fence company, as well as being a fire-fighter and a medic. We have a dairy farmer and the owner of a trucking company and another who is a farmer and a loan officer for a community bank. Another is an agricultural mechanic and a road foreman for his local highway district. All are individually gifted and called by the same Lord to our local Church in Idaho at this time in history.”
Each one may feel inadequate to the call, as did St. Peter when he said to Jesus, “Leave me Lord, for I am a sinful man!” (Luke 5:8) Jesus responded, the Bishop noted, by telling Peter to follow Him and, by so doing, become a fisher of men. It is the Lord who told His disciples, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness,” the Bishop said quoting 2 Cor. 12:9. “We must remember that the strength to serve comes from God; the Lord does the calling.”
Bishop Peter thanked the wives and children of the deacons for their “powerful acts of sacrificial love.”
Noting that deacons must serve both their families and the Church, the Bishop quoted from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ National Directory for the Formation, Ministry and Life of Permanent Deacons: “The married deacon must always remember that through his sacramental participation in both vocational sacraments, first matrimony and again in Holy Orders, he is challenged to be faithful to both with integrity. He must live out both sacraments in harmony and balance.”
Deacon Art Martinez is assigned to Good Shepherd Parish in Soda Springs, and will serve primarily at St. Paul’s in Malad.
“I have been so blessed to have been called to serve the church in Idaho. Words could never do justice for the feeling of love that God brought down to each of us at the ordination,” Deacon Martinez said. “Though I know I will never be worthy of this calling, I pray that I will always do my very best to try and be worthy of the trust that Bishop Peter has given me.”
Throughout his four years of preparation, Martinez said he struggled with feeling worthy. Despite his doubts, he said that he felt a voice say to him, “I have come to call sinners.” That encouragement gave strength to him and his wife, Lorrie, bringing them “to the very beautiful experience of love that was present” at the ordination, he said.
Deacon Tilio Perez is also assigned to Good Shepherd in Soda Springs, but will serve primarily at St. Peter’s in Preston.
“To become a deacon with my four brothers, I was very blessed, excited and really inspired. I never believed I would be close to Jesus and serve Jesus,” Deacon Perez said.
His wife, Amparo, was also excited about the ordination.
“It is a great blessing. I want to say more thanks to God for this opportunity, but I don’t have the words,” she said.
Throughout Deacon Perez’s formation, the family supported him and encouraged him to continue, Amparo Perez said.
“During the ordination, I felt many emotions at the same time. I felt like crying, but also very happy.” She hopes to work with her husband in bringing others back to the faith.
Deacon Scott Tverdy, who will serve at Immaculate Conception in Buhl, said the ordination weekend “was so full of emotion that I am still recovering from the mental stimulation and exhaustion. My mind was filled with an endless kaleidoscope of memories, experiences and scripture in an aware-ness of God’s will and mercy.”
The support of friends, family and the Catholic community has been generous, he said. “Many offered gracious words of reflection rendering me without a response and in tears.”
The portion of the ordination Mass where the priests and deacons embrace each of those ordained was very impactful for Deacon Tverdy.
“I was overwhelmed by the deeply holy and sincere welcoming into a brotherhood of dedicated men of God. My vocabulary is not adequate to express the feeling,” he said.
“As the Bishop prayed over us, I thought, ‘Oh! This is real!’ ” Teresa Tverdy said. She is overjoyed for her husband’s ordination and looks forward to supporting him in ministry.
Deacon Eric Wassmuth will serve the Tri-Parish Community based in Cottonwood and primarily at his home parish, St. Anthony in Greencreek.
“It has been amazing to me the number of people who have congratulated me and discussed the diaconate with me in the last few weeks,” Deacon Wassmuth said.
He is surprised by how many non-Catholics have been impacted by his ordination.
Deacon Martin Knoelk recently relocated from the Treasure Valley and will serve at his new parish, Sts. Peter and Paul in Grangeville.
“The path to becoming a deacon has been an amazing part in my family’s life and mine,” Deacon Knoelk said. “The amount of people who have entered into our family and have opened the doors for us to enter into their families has been a true blessing. There has been so much sharing and opening of eyes.”
He is grateful, he said, for the many priests and deacons who have helped him and his family. “It has truly increased my faith and opened my eyes and heart to be able to see the volume of love in this world,” he said. “I especially want to thank the classmates who have walked with me.”
His wife, Judy, found the ordination to be beautiful and humbling, a culmination of all the hard work of the four years of formation. “The ordination marks the beginning of new spiritual growth each of us will share within our parishes and communities,” she said.
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