TRENTON, NJ - Taking the next step on their journey toward the priesthood, four seminarians from the Diocese will receive the Sacrament of Holy Orders when they are ordained deacons by Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., during the 10 a.m. Mass May 20 in St. Mary of the Assumption Cathedral, Trenton.

With their ordination, the new deacons will continue their seminary studies, as well as be assigned to parishes where they will assume duties such as presiding over weddings, Baptisms, wakes, funeral services and committals, proclaiming the Gospel and preaching homilies. They are on track to be ordained priests next year.

The Ordination of four transitional deacons will be carried via live video stream on the home pages of and beginning at 10 a.m. An archive of the video stream will be available later in the day on the same websites.

The four men set to be ordained deacons May 20 are:

Christopher Dayton, 30, was born in Long Branch to Chip and Melissa Dayton. He is one of eight children in a family devoted to the life of the Church.

A 2006 graduate of Christian Brothers Academy, Lincroft, Dayton went on to matriculate in Christendom College, Fort Royal, Va. In 2010, with degrees in political science and economics, Dayton, for a time, turned his attention to public service. Filling several different roles on the staff of a state assemblyman deepened his developing interest in helping others.

Dayton began his studies for the priesthood in St. Mary’s Seminary and University, Baltimore, in 2013 and is scheduled to receive a bachelor’s degree in sacred theology and master of divinity degree shortly before his priestly ordination in 2018.

Dayton has spent the last several summers in parish work in St. James Parish, Pennington; St. George Parish, Titusville; St. Alphonsus Parish, Hopewell, and St. Mary of the Assumption Cathedral, Trenton, where Spanish classes complemented his parish work.

These experiences, he said, have added greatly to the positive sense of parish ministry first kindled in his own youth in St. Catharine-St. Margaret Parish, Spring Lake, by his pastor, the now-deceased Msgr. Thomas A. Luebking.

Dayton will be vested as a transitional deacon by Father Harold Cullen, pastor of St. Catharine-St. Margaret Parish, before spending the coming year in St. Aloysius Parish, Jackson, where he will exercise his diaconal ministry in a bustling faith community of 5,000 families.

Michael G. DeSaye, 33, grew up in a devout Catholic household with his parents, Gregory and Deborah DeSaye, who did their best to instill faith values in their four children. As a 14-year-old, he served as an organist in St. Mary of the Lake Parish, Lakewood, when his family lived in nearby Brick.

DeSaye was educated in Holy Family School, Lakewood, and Christian Brothers Academy, Lincroft, before enrolling in Ithaca College, Ithaca, N.Y., where he earned a bachelor’s degree in music and piano in 2005. After graduation, he went on to work as an organist in a number of parishes as well as a pianist and accompanist for schools, performing arts and theater companies. When it came to a career, however, music was not the top choice.

With the support of his family, DeSaye entered St. Mary Abbey, Morristown, and became a Benedictine brother. He spent four years completing his novitiate and professing simple vows. While in Morristown, he taught music at Delbarton School, Morristown, and became affiliated with St. Ann Parish, Hampton (Diocese of Metuchen). That’s where he realized that his service in the Church was veering from religious life to witnessing the work of a diocesan priest in a parish.

As a seminarian for the Trenton Diocese, DeSaye’s formal education includes earning a pre-theology certificate from Theological College on the campus of The Catholic University of America, Washington, in 2015, and matriculating in Mount St. Mary Seminary, Emmitsburg, Md., where he is currently pursuing a master of divinity degree.

Within the Diocese, his summer assignments have included ministry in Sacred Heart Parish, Trenton, during which time he also served as a caseworker with Mount Carmel Guild, a diocesan, social service agency that provides outreach to those in need in and around the City of Trenton and in St. Benedict Parish.

Among the priests DeSaye said helped inspire his vocation was Father Michael Saharic, pastor of St. Ann Parish, who will serve as DeSaye’s vesting priest at ordination before DeSaye serves his diaconate year in Visitation Parish, Brick.

Brother Nicholas Dolan, 24, is the second of four sons born to Robert and Maria Dolan. He grew up attending Allenwood Elementary School, Allenwood; New School of Monmouth County, Holmdel; Wall Intermediate School, Wall Township, and Christian Brothers Academy, Lincroft.

Brother Nicholas went on to attend college at Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio, where he earned a bachelor of arts in philosophy in 2014. From 2014 to 2015, he attended St. Mary’s Seminary and University, Baltimore. He is currently studying for the priesthood in Mount St. Mary’s Seminary, Emmitsburg, Md., where he is scheduled to graduate in 2018.

Between schooling, he worked in parish and hospital chaplaincy in Trenton with Father Brian Woodrow, now pastor of St. John the Baptist Parish, Allentown, and served with Father Alberto Tamayo in both Corpus Christi Parish, Willingboro, and now, St. Anthony of Padua Parish, Red Bank.

Brother Nicholas will be vested by Father Tamayo, who, while serving as secretary for Bishop O’Connell some five years ago, reached out to Brother Nicholas, urging him to become a seminarian for the Diocese. Brother Dolan will serve his diaconate year in St. Anthony of Padua Parish.

That day-to-day life of a priest may look different for Brother Nicholas than his fellow transitional deacons. Brother Nicholas is part of the Oratory of St. Philip Neri, a Community-in-Formation, which is located on the St. Anthony of Padua Parish campus. As Oratorians, the priests and brothers live, pray and serve the people of God together. The Oratory is the clergy’s permanent home. As such, he said he looks forward to growing with his parish family.

James Smith, 37, is one of three children born to Robert and Deborah Smith. He grew up in Ewing, which is where some people in his life recognized the possibility of his vocation to the priesthood before he did, particularly those in his home parish of Incarnation Parish, Ewing.

Smith was introduced to the idea of a vocation in his early 30s – as he prepared for the Sacrament of Marriage with his then-fiancée.

“At the time I was engaged, that’s when I really rediscovered my faith,” he said. “While going through marriage prep, I began to attend Mass more regularly and became more involved in the parish and found myself drawn to adoration and just felt a certain closeness to God that I have never felt before.

“All the signs in my life should have been pointing to the Sacrament of Marriage; yet when I look at my life at that time, it was just such an overwhelming desire to be close to God.”

Smith turned to the Diocese for direction and eventually spoke with Msgr. Gregory D. Vaughan, who then served as the director of the Office of Vocations. Smith decided to lay the groundwork for priesthood by beginning his education.

While working at a local jeweler, he began his studies in Mercer County Community College, where he rediscovered a passion for education after having been out of high school for nearly 13 years.

He returned to Msgr. Vaughan after acquiring a certain number of credits and began to apply to different seminaries. Smith entered St. Mary Seminary and University, Baltimore, in 2012.

Smith has spent the summers ministering in parishes throughout the Diocese, including

Incarnation-St. James Parish, Ewing, where he was a reader and extraordinary minister of Holy Communion. He currently serves as a reader and acolyte in Our Lady of Good Counsel Parish, West Trenton.

In 2015, he assisted with parish liturgies, youth ministries and the ministry to the sick and homebound in St. Barnabas Parish, Bayville.

Last summer, he assisted Msgr. James Innocenzi, diocesan judicial vicar, with evaluating and processing annulment cases in the Chancery, while also ministering in Sacred Heart Parish, Trenton.

Father Michael Hall, pastor of Our Lady of Good Counsel Parish and director of the diocesan Office of Worship, will serve as Smith’s vesting priest.

You can learn more about the soon-to-be deacons in this story from The Monitor