The Diocese of Orange’s New Director of The Office of Worship Talks About Stepping Into His New Role

“I see myself as a servant of the people of God,” says Deacon Modesto Cordereo, the incoming director of the Office of Worship in the Diocese of Orange, replacing Lesa Truxaw who has retired from the role. The 58-year-old deacon and his wife, Nydia Aileen, a Catholic school teacher, have come from Honolulu where they lived for more than 29 years and raised three daughters.

Born and raised in Puerto Rico, Deacon Modesto lived there until he joined the U.S. Army in his 20s.

The move to Orange County has brought Deacon Modesto and his wife closer to their grown daughters who have settled in California. “Two daughters live in Ventura and one daughter is in San Francisco,” says Deacon Modesto, adding that he now has one grandson.

After the Army, Deacon Modesto worked for the federal government in Honolulu for another 19 years and was able to take early retirement. He then went into formation to become a deacon and was ordained on February 9, 2007, in the Diocese of Honolulu. He worked as director of the Office of Worship there for nine years.

“I see my role here is to serve in any way I can,” says Deacon Modesto. “The main job is to promote efforts to increase vigor, appreciation and participation in the liturgical life in the Diocese of Orange, and to assist the Bishop in his role as its principal liturgist. Part of the job calls to coordinate and assist in the planning and preparation of all major diocesan celebrations where the four bishops are involved or preside, such as the Chrism Mass, clergy funerals, Rite of Election, ordinations or the dedication of a new church. I assist the bishops in any matters of liturgies and I serve as a resource person on liturgy for parishes and institutions, clergy, lay liturgical ministers and the faithful in the diocese.”

In the role as a deacon at the parish level, he will assist couples in their preparation for marriage, assist in faith formation, baptisms, funerals—and he will preach. “I feel privileged to proclaim the Word of God,” he says.

His primary focus is liturgy. “One thing is certain, the diocese here is very strong in liturgy,” Deacon Modesto says. “I see my role as supporting that. I am very strong in training. I have a degree in communications and I like to teach and train. As part of my job in Hawaii, I was on the road visiting parishes and coordinating training for lay liturgical ministers and creating good practices for being a spiritual servant leader. I hope I will continue to do that here and that I will become a resource for pastors and parishes.”

Of course, the diocese here is much bigger than the one in Honolulu. The Diocese of Orange is the eleventh-largest Diocese in the United States. With 57 parishes, 5 faith centers, and 36 schools, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange is one of the largest, most diverse faith communities in the country.

“In Honolulu, I only had one bishop, says Deacon Modesto. “Here there are four bishops. There are about 200,000-plus Catholics in Hawaii, and here there are 1.3 million Catholics in Orange County.”

But both places have diverse populations. “In Hawaii there is a strong multicultural community, being situated in the middle of the Pacific. There are big numbers of Pacific islanders, Filipinos, Samoans, Tonga, native Hawaiians, and a small Hispanic community. Here, Hispanics are one of the majorities, along with the Vietnamese community.” Deacon Modesto is fully fluent in Spanish, an important asset in his work here.

The kinds of events he will help coordinate are the same as those
he worked on in Hawaii, but they will be much bigger. “If we had 600 to 800 people come to a celebration, that was big,” says the deacon, adding that in Orange County events can draw as many as 6,000 to 8,000 people.

Deacon Modesto has provided training workshops on all aspects of liturgy, which includes the role of liturgical minister at sacramental celebrations. “We also bring new people into the Catholic faith—I oversee
the ongoing RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults) process for the diocese too,” he adds.

The biggest source of Deacon Modesto’s inspiration were his parents, both educators in Puerto Rico. “My mother was an elementary school teacher and my father was an elementary school principal and also taught college.” His uncles and aunts were teachers, principals or otherwise involved in the education system and the drive to serve the community was instilled in him from an early age. “In many ways my father was my role model. He taught me the importance of being loyal and the importance of being a servant.”