Pentecost Sunday brings faith journey full circle
Jewish convert turned deacon assists at Hebrew Mass in Holy Land
TIBERIAS, Israel — Deacon David Reiser of Our Lady of the Assumption Church in Charlotte had no idea of the gift he was about to receive when he stepped into St. Peter Church in Tiberias near the Sea of Galilee during a recent trip to the Holy Land.
It was May 27, Pentecost Sunday, and Deacon Reiser expected to attend a Mass said in English. With him were his wife Maria and his brother Gad.
But Divine Providence had other plans for this special deacon.
Pictured above: Deacon David Reiser (left) assists at Mass at St. Peter Church in Tiberias on Pentecost Sunday, May 27. (At left) The interior of the church. (Photos provided by Deacon David Reiser and Wikimedia Commons.)
Shortly after they arrived at the church, they were greeted by the pastor, Father Giuseppe Di Nardi of the Order of the Brothers of St. John the Baptist, informing them that Mass would instead be celebrated in Hebrew.
Deacon Reiser was born in Israel and raised in the Jewish faith, so he was delighted when the priest asked him if he would like to assist at Mass using his native language.
It was a very touching moment for Deacon Reiser. He was 15 when he moved from the Holy Land to Europe before coming to the U.S. at 16. He studied at a Jesuit college and on Palm Sunday in 1977, he had a personal revelation that Jesus was the Messiah and thus began his journey home to the Catholic Church.
"(At Mass, the priest) gave me the Psalm in Hebrew," Deacon Reiser recalls. "I was able to follow along. Of all days, Pentecost Sunday – how wonderful it was!"
There were about 15 people at Mass, he says, representing the universality of the Church.
"Father (Giuseppi) Di Nardi is from Italy. There was a guitar player from Germany, a flute player from Ireland, a Maronite Catholic refugee from Lebanon, two archeological workers from Mexico and a refugee family from Sudan. My wife is a Spanish-speaking American from Puerto Rico and my brother and I are Hebrew-speaking, originally from Israel.
"All the languages coming together, celebrating the Mass in Hebrew – it was incredible."
Deacon Reiser, now retired from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, moved to Charlotte in the 1990s, discovering Our Lady of the Assumption Church. He attended the Spanish Mass there and befriended Deacon Carlos Medina, who encouraged him to enroll in RCIA.
On the feast of Our Lady of the Assumption in 1993, he came into the Catholic Church. Then in January 2011, he became a permanent deacon for the Diocese of Charlotte. He also serves as the director of faith formation at Our Lady of the Assumption Parish.
The feast of Pentecost now has new meaning for him.
"It was a work of the Holy Spirit to get us there to that church at that time and to serve in my original mother tongue," he says. "It was very rewarding at the same time. I came full circle."
— SueAnn Howell, staff writer
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