PROVIDENCE — Growing up in Haiti, Jean Joseph Brice frequently told his family that he would follow God’s path to the priesthood one day.
When he came to the U.S. in 2006 and attended Providence College, that calling grew within him.
His younger sister, Marie V. Brice, arrived from Haiti three years later. She remembers the moment her brother decided to act on his calling.
One day he called all of my family and he said, ‘I’m going on my way now. God has called me, I’m going to do what God wants,’” she said.
Joseph applied to Our Lady of Providence Seminary and took his first step toward the priesthood.
On Saturday, he joined fellow seminarians Stephen M. Battey and Brian J. Morris in meeting a shared milestone along that path, as all three were ordained by Auxiliary Bishop Robert C. Evans to the Transitional Diaconate at the Cathedral of SS. Peter and Paul.
“Keep in mind that when you proclaim the Gospel, preside over public prayer, teach holy doctrine, administer baptism, assist at and bless marriages, bring viaticum to the dying, conduct funeral rites or distribute the Lord’s Body and Blood, you do so not in your own name but in that of the One whose name is above heaven and earth,” Bishop Evans preached during his homily.
“Recall the words of Jesus: ‘Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there also will my servant be.’”
Before receiving graces by entering the cathedral through its Holy Door to mark the Year of Mercy, to the admiration of a few hundred family, friends and supporters, the three seminarians gathered together in silent prayer in the chapel next door at the cathedral residence.
Toward the end of their time of reflection, they were joined by Father Carl B. Fisette, vocations director for the diocese, who assisted them with their final preparations before their ordination.
“The diocese is truly blessed to have these three men who are about to be ordained continue their formation, their service to the Lord. It’s a great blessing,” he said as the seminarians walked along outside the cathedral to begin the ceremony.
“They’ve responded so generosly to God’s call. We’re just very happy for them.”
The ceremony, which was accompanied by powerful musical interludes throughout, featured many of the same rituals that will be performed over them next year when they are ordained to the priesthood, such as the Laying on of Hands and the Handing on of the Book of the Gospels. During the Litany of the Saints, the three lay prostrate on the floor in one of the solemn signs of the journey they are embarking on.
“It’s just a profound sense of peace that I have today going over all the different moments that have lead up to this moment and seeing God at work in that,” said Deacon Stephen M. Battey, son of Mark and Mary Ellen (Mimi) Battey, of North Kingstown.
He graduated from North Kingstown High School and entered the Seminary of Our Lady of Providence in 2011 and attended Providence College where he received a B.A. degree in philosophy. In 2013, he continued his seminary formation at St. John Seminary in Boston. He will serve as a deacon this summer at St. Margaret Parish in East Providence before returning to the seminary to complete his formation for the priesthood.
Deacon Brian J. Morris, son of John and Mary Beth Morris of East Greenwich, graduated from Bishop Hendricken High School, Warwick and Wake Forrest University in North Carolina where he earned a B.S. degree in business. He also attended Georgetown University in Washington for the financial planning certification program. In 2011, he entered the Seminary of Our Lady of Providence and attended Providence College. In 2013, Morris was assigned to St. John Seminary in Boston. After his diaconate ordination, Morris will serve as a deacon for the summer at St. Eugene Parish in Chepachet before returning to the seminary to complete his formation for the priesthood.
“I’m just so thankful for everyone who helped get me here, especially my parents, my brothers, family and friends and so many wonderful priests who have been praying for me and helped to get me to this point,” Deacon Morris said.
Deacon Jean Joseph Brice, son of Arnold and Rosana Brice of Providence, graduated from Lycee Nationale de Petion Ville High School in Haiti and immigrated to Rhode Island with his parents. He entered the Seminary of Our Lady of Providence and attended Clark University in Worcester and Providence College where he earned a B.A. degree in philosophy. In 2013, he was assigned to continue his formation at St. John Seminary in Boston.
He will serve as a deacon for the summer at St. John Paul II Parish in Pawtucket before returning to the seminary to complete his formation for the priesthood.
“God has been so good to me in choosing me to follow him on this path, this way,” he said. “I’m just so grateful to him for making it happen today in such a special way.”
Transitional deacons are seminarians in their last year of preparation for ordination to the priesthood. As a transitional deacon, they may baptize, proclaim the Gospel and preach at Mass, distribute Communion, witness marriages and lead rites for Christian burials.
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