It was a sunny Saturday afternoon in June when a rare father-and-son moment took place inside the sacred walls of St. Louis Cathedral.
Martin Gutierrez, along with 21 other men, was ordained as a permanent deacon in the Catholic Church by New Orleans Archbishop Gregory Aymond.
The June 23 service included a “vesting” ceremony, a rite of ordination for permanent deacons, transitional deacons and priests in which a cleric selected by the ordinee presents the clerical vestments and stands with the ordinee as he puts them on for the first time.
Vesting the newly ordained Deacon Gutierrez, 52, was his son, Andrew Gutierrez, 25, ordained as a transitional deacon in May and to be ordained a priest next June.
“To have my own son, now a deacon himself, vest me was an overwhelming moment,” he said “It was just awesome. I cried like a little kid, and it took a lot to regain my composure.”
“Normally, that role goes to a priest or deacon who has been an influence in their life, so for my dad to ask me to vest him was a privilege,” Andrew Gutierrez added. “I was filled with overwhelming peace, joy and a sense of pride for my dad.”
Aymond said it was a “special and unique honor that we shared that moment. And I look forward to ordaining Andrew as a priest next year.” The archbishop said the only other father-son vesting combination in the archdiocese he could recall was the Nalty family almost 20 years ago.
Monsignor Christopher Nalty is currently pastor of Good Shepherd Parish, St. Stephen’s Church in New Orleans. He said his father, Paul, who died in 2009, vested him when he was ordained as a transitional deacon on Oct. 8, 1998.
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“My dad was ordained a deacon in the first class of the permanent diaconate in New Orleans on May 18, 1974,” Nalty said. “He served as a deacon at St Francis Xavier, then at St Louis Cathedral for at least 20 years, and later back to St. Francis. When I was assigned to St. Stephen Church in 2008, dad served with me there until his death. Those were some of the best months of my life.
“I was particularly happy for Andrew and his dad. It brought back dear memories of my dad and me, and the times my dad served my Mass as a deacon.”
Andrew and Martin Gutierrez took similar paths to ministry in the Catholic Church. Both were in their teens when they contemplated the diaconate and the priesthood. And both entered the seminary in 2013.
Andrew Gutierrez, a graduate of Archbishop Rummel High School, earned a psychology degree from LSU. He entered St. Joseph Seminary College in fall 2013, and shortly thereafter, Notre Dame Seminary.
“I was dating a girl from sophomore year of high school into my first semester at LSU, and it was during that time when things got serious about my discernment,” he said. “Within that first year (at LSU), the plan God had for me was evident, so I ended the relationship with a great deal of heartache and followed the Lord to be his priest.”
Martin Gutierrez said his parents, Octavio and Pastora, both 86, “planted the seed of my faith.” He began thinking about the priesthood when he was 19.
“My wife, Judi, and I started dating with her knowing that I was thinking about entering the priesthood,” he recalled. “After participating in discernment meetings and a retreat, I realized the priesthood was not my calling.
“I started to think about the diaconate after I was working as director of the Hispanic Apostolate (for the Archdiocese) in 1997. Serving as a deacon came to mind about 19 years ago. I did not plan to work for the church, but God had a different plan.”
Martin, a native of Nicaragua, continues to work for the archdiocese as a division director for Catholic Charities. He oversees several areas, including immigration and refugee services; education services: housing and homelessness; services for the deaf; and domestic violence legal services.
The Gutierrezes have two other children: Martin Alejandro, 27, is married with one child and is a deputy with the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office; and Jazmin, 22, is studying for her master's in counseling at the University of Holy Cross.
Andrew Gutierrez said that while his mother was reluctant to accept his decision to enter the priesthood, she is “my number one fan.”
“I like to say my mom was ‘reluctantly supportive,’ ” he said. “She didn’t want me to enter the seminary or become a priest because she thought I was going to be lonely and unhappy. But after seeing how happy I was and fulfilled with this life, she has now fully supported me."
“My wife’s support and commitment was crucial in getting me to this point,” added Martin Gutierrez, who is assigned to St. Clement of Rome in Metairie, his family’s home parish for almost three decades. “I am blessed to have Judi next to me as we walk this path of ministry together.”
Andrew Gutierrez is an intern at St. Catherine of Siena in Old Metairie until October, when he will return to the Notre Dame Seminary to finish his studies for his ordination.
“The diaconate internship covers a variety of areas,” he explained. “I have a unique situation because Rev. Tim Hedrick (pastor at St. Catherine.) is finishing his studies in canon law in Washington, D.C. That leaves me doing more administrative work than the usual intern would do during this experience, but it has been exciting to learn all the details of running the parish.
“And I am trying my very best to have the people of St. Catherine as my top priority in whatever capacity I can be of service.”
As they continue their service to the church, father and son each have some advice for one another.
“I would say to my dad to stay close to Jesus and to never cease praying,” Andrew Gutierrez said. “Secondly, I would say keep my mom and my siblings as his first and highest priority. Yes, he’s an ordained deacon, but my dad’s first responsibility is to love my mom and my siblings. The vocation to your marriage is not second to your vocation to ordained ministry. Your family will always need you.”
Said Martin Gutierrez, “And I would tell Andrew to continue to be a man of prayer and to take care of his own spirituality. I would ask him to pray for humility and wisdom and to allow God to fill his heart with love so he can share it with the people he comes in contact with.”