63 men in new diaconate formation class

Published: May 22, 2023

En Español

Bishop Anthony B. Taylor recently accepted 63 aspirants for the Diocese of Little Rock Diaconate Formation Class of 2028. Their five-year formation program to become permanent deacons begins in August.

Of the men accepted, 38 will be in the English-language program and 25 will be in the Spanish-language program. All will attend monthly, weekend classes 11 months a year with their wives at St. John Catholic Center in Little Rock. English classes will be presented by instructors from St. Meinrad Seminary in Indiana. Spanish classes will be led by diocesan clergy and laity. This program is a ministry of the Diaconate Formation Office.

The 38 aspirants in the English program are:

  • Christ the King, Little Rock: Doug Reeves (wife Robyn)
  • Holy Redeemer, El Dorado: John Eckart (wife Laurie)
  • Immaculate Conception, Fort Smith: David Young (wife Rosalie); Robert Maestri; and William Thomas (wife Peggy)
  • Immaculate Heart of Mary, North Little Rock (Marche): Daniel Bercher (wife Anita)
  • Our Lady of Fatima, Benton: James Lee (wife Kathy); and Thomas Avery Jr. (wife Michelle)
  • Our Lady of Good Counsel, Little Rock: John Ekeanyanwu (wife Jennifer); and Michael Smith (wife Cindy)
  • Our Lady of the Holy Souls, Little Rock: Jeffrey Hathaway (wife Laura)
  • Our Lady of the Lake, Lake Village: Ross Sims (wife Dallas)
  • Our Lady of the Ozarks, Winslow: Charles Dwyer (wife Emily)
  • Sacred Heart of Mary, Barling: Anthony Schneider (wife Darla); and Joseph Schneider (wife Alina)
  • Sacred Heart, Charleston: Philip Savage (wife Cindy)
  • Sacred Heart, Morrilton: Mark Hoelzeman (wife Annie)
  • St. Augustine, Dardanelle: David Thompson (wife Elena)
  • St. Bernard, Bella Vista: William Campbell (wife Lucia)
  • St. Edward, Little Rock: Mark Wankum (wife Sarah)
  • St. Joseph, Fayetteville: David McCall (wife Meagan); Mark Rechtin (wife Tammy); Rodrigo Montemayor (wife Carrie); and Ronald Novak II (wife Abby)
  • St. Joseph, Paris: Raymond Kiefer (wife Angela)
  • St. Joseph, Tontitown: Mark Casey (wife Catherine)
  • St. Jude, Jacksonville: Thomas Smith (wife Gretel)
  • St. Mary, Altus: Andrew Post; GregoryKap LianNgaihte (wife Annunciata); Noel Sagullo (wife Laurie); and Paul LeBlanc (wife Lisa)
  • St. Mary, Hot Springs: Lawrence Womack (wife Kara)
  • St. Raphael, Springdale: Bradford Keeling (wife Annette)
  • St. Stephen, Bentonville: Gregory Brandenburg (wife Mandy)
  • St. Vincent de Paul, Rogers: George Schaefer (wife Alesia); Juan Serrano (wife Vanessa); Stephen Perry (wife Suzie); and Timothy Spellman (wife Darcy)

The 25 Hispanic aspirants in the Spanish program are:

  • Our Lady of Fatima, Benton: Francisco Antonio Lemus Sagastume (wife Mirza)
  • Our Lady of Good Counsel, Little Rock: Juan Miguel Moreno Compean (wife Anabel)
  • St. Edward, Little Rock: Ernesto Garay Badillo (wife Lili)
  • St. Edward, Texarkana: Leovardo Parra Vargas (wife Remedios); and C. Rolando Olmos Zepeda (wife Ana)
  • St. John, Hot Springs: Armando Cadena Morales (wife Carmenn)
  • St. John, Russellville: Salvador Gonzalez (wife Tere)
  • St. Joseph, Fayetteville: Gonzalo Leon Perez (wife Maria)
  • St. Jude, Waldron: Martin Baza Millan (wife Leda)
  • St. Luke, Warren: Jorge Acuchi Diego (wife Maria)
  • St. Mary, Arkadelphia: Melesio Vazquez Torres (wife Silvia)
  • St. Mary, Batesville: Cesar Rendon Rodriguez (wife Yamel)
  • St. Michael, Van Buren: J. Cruz Hernandez Solis (wife Mari); and J. Lucas Hernandez Gutierrez (wife Marina)
  • St. Raphael, Springdale: Cruz Carlos Ortiz Benavidez (wife Lorena); Jose Dalio Ceciliano (wife Guadalupe); Mario Escobar Serrano (wife Esperanza); and Roman Villagran Mondragon (wife Maria)
  • St. Theresa, Little Rock: Jose Guadalupe Guzman Pineda (wife Ena); Oscar Mendez Leon (wife Mariana); and Raul de Jesus Beza Beltran (wife Rosario)
  • St. Vincent de Paul, Rogers: Jesus Martinez Reyes (wife Herminia); Jose Luis Balderas Medrano (wife Jacky); Jose Aquiles Morales Galvez (wife Claudia); and Paul Ibanez Becerra (wife Ana Liz)

Deacon Mark Verkamp, permanent diaconate formation director, said about 120 men expressed interest in becoming permanent deacons, with about 90 submitting applications. The selection was made after psychological evaluations, recommendations from their pastor, parishioners and coworkers, background checks and interviews with the diaconate formation team. The aspirants who complete their formation are scheduled to be ordained in June 2028. Read Arkansas Catholic to learn more.

For more information, email Deacon Verkamp or call him at (479) 965-6255. To learn more about diaconate formation in Spanish, email Deacon Marcelino Luna, associate director of faith formation, or call him at (501) 664-0340, ext. 392.