FORT WAYNE — Focusing their vocation to become ministers of God’s word, 19 men who have completed two years of diaconal formation were instituted by Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades into the ministry of lector Jan. 24 during a Mass at St. Matthew Cathedral, South Bend.
This important step in the candidates’ formation focuses on their vocation to become ministers of God’s word, Bishop Rhoades said. He noted the appropriateness of celebrating their institution as lectors on Sunday of the Word of God, designated last year by Pope Francis to take place on the Third Sunday in Ordinary Time. It is a reminder of the importance and value of Sacred Scripture for the Christian life.
It was also appropriate to celebrate the rite in the co-cathedral of St. Matthew, the sacred author of the first Gospel, the bishop said. He asked the holy evangelist, the secondary patron of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, to intercede for Daniel Avila, Joseph Brown, Steven Burkins, John Burzynski, Joseph Cochran, Roger Dinius, Curt Feece, Edward Fox, Philip Hayes, Raymond Krouse, Thomas Labuzienski, Orlando Miranda, Andrew Oross, Maximo Ortega, Michael Plenzler, Stephen Reed, Robin Slocum, James Summers, Harry Verhiley and also Robert Lortie, who was quarantining and could not be with his brothers in formation for the rite.
“Our deacon candidates, who today will be instituted as lectors, have a special duty to grow in their knowledge and love of the Scriptures,” the bishop began. “My brothers, the word of God is indispensable in your formation for the diaconate since you will be ordained ministers of that word. In your own spiritual life, one of the pillars must be your contact with God’s word.
“You need this contact in order to grow in holiness,” he continued. “I encourage you not only to be diligent in your study of Sacred Scripture in your classes, but to be diligent in reading and meditating on the word of God in your daily prayer. Before reading or preaching the word of God to others, we must first be hearers of that word, allowing God’s word to illumine our minds and fill our hearts. We must dwell within the word and allow it to form us so we take on the mind of Christ.”
He presented each candidate with a Bible and commissioned him to be faithful in handing on the word of God. They would do so not only as lectors at Mass, he told those present, but also in catechesis and later in preaching.
“All of this presupposes that you are devoted to the Scriptures, that you nourish your lives by your faith-filled reading of the Bible, your study of God’s word, and your prayer with the Scriptures. You must learn to love the word of God that you will read and teach,” he told the men.
The Gospel for Word of God Sunday recounted the beginning of Jesus’ ministry of preaching. In it, St. Mark says that “Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God, the good news that “this is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand.”
“The arrival of the kingdom calls for a response,” said the bishop. “After Jesus announces that the kingdom of God is at hand, He exhorts us to respond. What is this response? Jesus tells us: ‘Repent, and believe in the Gospel.’
“Without conversion, one cannot enter the kingdom of God,” he explained. “Central to Jesus’ ministry is His invitation to sinners to conversion and entrance into His kingdom. Our Lord said: ‘I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.’ In His words and works, Jesus reveals the boundless mercy of the Father and the vast ‘joy in heaven over one sinner who repents.’”
Addressing the men, he said: “God-willing, in two years you will be ordained as servants in this kingdom. You will become deacons of the Church, the community of faith, the community of salvation, which is “on earth the seed and beginning of God’s kingdom.
“All of us are called to live every day in the kingdom of Jesus, to bear witness to Him and His Kingdom by our words and works, and to do so with joy. We’re called to repent and to believe in the Gospel, which is something continual and not just once and done.”
Immersion in the word of God through prayer and study is essential for the candidates’ future service as deacons, he said, since they will be called in their ministry to lead others to live in God’s kingdom.
“You are generous men who desire to serve Christ and His kingdom. God is calling you to dedicate yourselves to His kingdom. You have the love and support of your wives in embracing this vocation and I thank them for their wonderful generosity.” In a year or so, the next step for the men will be the Rite of Acolyte.
Following the Mass, Burzynski recalled that the bishop had charged them to be faithful and prudent in their dissemination of the word of God, and that they were charged to do so not only as lectors, at Mass, but also to throughout the parish in teaching situations such as RCIA or children’s classes — and also to bring the word of the Lord to the wider community, being “faithful in handing on the word of God so that it may grow stronger in the hearts of His people and that would be everyone from within our parish and community.”
Miranda said he felt great joy at receiving the Bible from Bishop Rhoades as part of the rite.
“What this means for me today is that I can live the word of God in my heart and spread the word to the people that I encounter every day. I can share the love of God with them through the word, so they can live the joy of the Gospel the same way I live it. … It’s just the beginning of the journey the Lord has for me to be this humble servant for His people.”
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