A glorious day! More than 1,300 people witnessed the ordination of 18 new deacons to the diocese on Saturday, Jan. 7 at St. Pius X Church in Granger. There were also 20 previously-ordained deacons, 40 priests, 70 watching on closed-circuit television off the vestibule, and nearly 100 from the parish’s music ministry from their choirs, orchestra, bell choir, and organ performers in attendance.
Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades presided and emphasized in his homily that the deacons were to “take the form of a servant … through the Sacrament of Holy Orders (who then) will be inserted into the mystery of Christ who made Himself the ‘deacon’ or ‘servant of all.’ The diaconate will commit them to follow Jesus and His attitude of humble service sharing and embracing their whole way of thinking and acting in fulfilling their various diaconal tasks.”
Bishop Rhoades honored the men for their four years of deacon preparation, study, and testing, along with their very supportive wives. The Rite of Ordination showed the shared determination of the soon-to-be deacon husbands as their wives sat behind them and participated in the Scripture readings and the offertory.
In speaking to the candidates, Bishop Rhoades said, “There is no holiness without humility.” He referred to the late Pope Benedict XVI who was “always a gentle and humble shepherd.” These deacons as “our brothers will participate in the Church’s ministry of the Word as evangelists and teachers. They will have leadership roles as evangelizers in their parishes.” He encouraged them “to continue to study and grow in the knowledge of the faith, especially reading and praying with the Scriptures.” He said, “Think of the Levites in the first reading (Numbers 3:5-9). They guarded the meeting tent, the tabernacle of the Lord in the desert. They assisted the priests in the ministry and were a foreshadowing of the Church’s order of deacons. You are being ordained to bring (to those in need of Christ’s healing) the hope of the Gospel and the Love of Jesus Christ.”
Before Mass, while the candidates helped each other get vested in their albs, there was a joyful brotherhood shared between them as they had come to the commencement of their four-year journey together. This brotherhood of joy continued as they received with anticipation from Bishop Rhoades their long-awaited specific parish assignments.
At the end of Mass, Bishop Rhoades declared, “We now conclude with the rite of ordination, praying for our 18 brothers about to receive a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit in the Sacrament of Holy Orders.”
After the Mass and a joyful group photo of the new and previous deacons with Bishop Rhoades, the newly ordained men received their various parish assignments. A reception followed.
The Path to the Deaconate
Each of the 18 newly-ordained deacons have wonderful stories of their discernment and journey to Holy Orders and a dynamic anticipation of how they can help others build their faith for Heaven.
A few of them shared their stories with Today’s Catholic.
Deacon Andy Oross was invited by his wife, Teresa, to consider becoming a deacon. They were both ministering already at Christ the King Parish in South Bend. He held adult education classes while teaching at St. Joseph High School, while his wife directed the parish’s Order of Christian Initiation (formerly RCIA). Deacon Oross would like to encourage more men to consider the diaconate vocation. He said, “We are all called to ‘die to ourselves’ as growing in holiness never is a finished process.” He expects to serve at least 10 hours per week at Christ the King.
Deacon Dr. Stephen Reed, M.D. has had a close relationship with Father Jim Shafer, his former pastor at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish in Fort Wayne. Deacon Reed was looking for a spiritual director as he felt the Lord was calling him forward to do more but did not know to what. He, however, had gotten the thought to consider becoming a deacon and simultaneously had arranged a luncheon meeting with Father Shafer. Father Shafer had just been transferred to St. Joseph Parish in Garrett and had gotten a letter from the bishop asking that the pastors consider asking men from their parish to become a deacon. Father Shafer then asked Deacon Reed to become a deacon. And in Deacon Reed’s words, “I was speechless. What a divine coincidence!” Deacon Reed said he was also helped by another friend, Jim Kitchens.
Deacon Reed also wishes to “encourage people to a personal prayer life, reading of Scripture and the Catechism, and to fall in love with the sacraments.” As a doctor and throughout his medical career, Deacon Reed has prayed with his patients and shared Scripture. After patients and staff realized his four-year deaconate path, he said they approached him even more for spiritual support. He will minister with another new deacon, Deacon Robin Slocum in his home parish of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton. Deacon Reed serves as an intervention cardiologist at Lutheran Hospital in Fort Wayne as well as its affiliate in Warsaw, Lutheran Kosciusko Hospital.
Deacon James Summers, Jr. first began to consider the deaconate during a discussion on a pilgrimage to Father Augustus Tolten’s shrine in Quincy, Illinois. Later, Deacon Mel Tardy of St. Augustine Parish assisted in his discernment. Deacon Summers encourages all of us to “open our hearts to the workings of the Holy Spirit and see our roles to evangelize the Word and spread God’s Love.” He indicated that each of us are expected to be doers of the Word. He is excited to help people realize the real Church and to encourage them to learn, for example, from Father Mike Schmitz’s “Catechism in a Year” offering. Deacon Summers is ‘retired’ but serves on several boards and will be serving at his home parish of St. Pius X in Granger with two other new deacons, Deacon Philip Hayes and Deacon Harry Verhiley.
Harry Verhiley was “inspirited by Jesus who is the exemplar deacon who came to serve” as reflected in the homily by Bishop Rhoades. Deacon Verhiley said that Jesus’ full offering as a deacon is shown by Him on the crucifix, which demonstrates the fullness of His love. Deacon Verhiley indicated that the deaconate cross he wears shows Jesus wearing a towel like the one He wore at the Last Supper. He said that both in his time in the Holy Land and while he prostrated on the St. Pius X floor in front of the altar, he asked the Father for gifts he would need and felt that many saints came upon them and blessed and instructed the deacons. He asked the Father to take away his stony heart and replace it with Jesus’ Sacred Heart so as to love others he serves as Jesus loves. Deacon Verhiley also mentioned that he plans to “spend an hour in adoration each day in the chapel before morning prayer adoring Jesus.” He said that he is filled with great joy and fulfillment. He is thankful that he has been assigned to his St. Pius X Parish. He baptized his 12th grandchild at the noon Epiphany Mass. He is a fifth-year teacher of freshmen theology at St. Joseph High School in South Bend and will participate in World Youth Day in Portugal this summer. Previously, he worked for 17 years in the Diocesan Development Office.
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