Celebrating our deacons
Just a few weeks ago, on May 18, at St. Thomas Aquinas Parish in East Lansing, nearly 1,000 people from around our diocese, including a large contingent of priests and deacons, gathered to celebrate the ordination of 12 new deacons for service to the people of our diocese. Ten of the new deacons are permanent deacons, while the remaining two are transitional deacons, meaning that, God willing, next year they will be ordained as priests. It was a beautiful liturgy, in part because of the ordinations being celebrated, but also in large part because of the gathering of the diocesan Church – folks both young and old from every part of our diocese, brought together in one place at one time. That happens but once or twice each year, and it is always a moving sight to see the rich diversity of people in our diocese gathered as one assembly, joined in worship.
For me, the experience had additional levels of meaning. I have had the privilege of teaching seven of the 12 new deacons in our diocesan ministry formation program, sponsored by Siena Heights University. I also consider two of the new deacons to be friends – men whom I first met when I was their pastor a number of years ago. With the assistance and encouragement of their wives, I approached both of them to begin conversations with them that would eventually lead them to ordination. As is the case with married men considering the deaconate, their wives play an instrumental role in their discernment and their future ministry.
In fact, one of the great joys I have known through the years is the opportunity to watch as both husband and wife cultivate their identities of service within the Church – often leading them to different but complementary ministries within their parishes. One might take a leadership role in guiding the RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults), while the other is active in school-age religious formation. One assists with ministries of charity such as the parish food pantry or St. Vincent de Paul, while the other ministers to the sick and the homebound. One assists with youth ministry while the other is devoted to caring for folks who stop at the parish office, needing assistance of one kind or another. I see them together, often in prayer. I appreciate their witness as devoted parents and grandparents.
Let us all rejoice in the ministry of our 12 new deacons. Each has responded to a unique call from God. Those who are married find encouragement and joy in the challenges of living both the sacrament of holy orders as well as the sacrament of marriage. All of them are visible reminders that each of us, lay or ordained, have many ways to build up the body of Christ, and a lifetime of opportunities to do so. And so, our journey in FAITH continues.