By Timothy Johnson
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Two brothers, Matthew M. Coonan and Terrence M. Coonan, Jr., were ordained as transitional deacons on Sunday, April 25. They are now just a year from being ordained to the priesthood. It was a “doubleheader” as the deacons’ father, Terrence Coonan, Sr., quipped after the Mass.
As deacons, Matthew and Terrence will be dedicated to the service of the altar, the Word and charity. Many of the faithful from St. Vincent Parish, Fort Wayne — the deacons’ home parish — as well as friends of the Coonan family and Sisters of St. Francis of Perpetual Adoration made the trip to Columbus, Ohio, for the celebration of the Ordination to the Order of Deacon in St. Turibius Chapel at Pontifical College Josephinum. Bishop John M. D’Arcy, bishop emeritus, was the principal celebrant.
During the Rite of Ordination, Matthew and Terrence were called by the Church to serve God’s people. Each confirmed his presence, readiness and willingness to serve. Pontifical College Josephinum Rector and President Father James A Wehner testified to the worthiness of the candidates.
In his homily, Bishop D’Arcy noted that this is the Year for Priests. The yearlong celebration, he said, commemorates a great parish priest — St. John Vianney. And the weekend of April 25 was celebrated by the universal Church to pray for vocations.
Bishop D’Arcy encouraged the faithful to pray that more good men of quality — like the deacon candidates — “will follow them.”
Bishop D’Arcy recalled the words of Pope Benedict XVI when he visited the United States: “It is more important to have good priests than many priests. And that is a credit to our diocese that we have two young men after the heart of Christ the Good Shepherd.”
The bishop said that the Coonans’ vocations stemmed and were nourished in the family — parents, siblings, grandparents — and also the parish, especially St. Vincent de Paul Parish in Fort Wayne, the Coonans home parish.
In the Sunday Gospel of the day, the Good Shepherd lays down his life for the flock. Bishop D’Arcy noted the hired hand may leave the sheep, but the shepherd lays down his life.
Bishop D’Arcy said the new springtime of the Church — promulgated by Pope John Paul II — has so many signs and so much promise. “He did not say that it was the end of evil,” Bishop D’Arcy related, because we know from the Gospel that both the wheat and the weeds grow together. Satan is implanted in the weeds.
Bishop D’Arcy said that we know the Coonan deacons are not “hired hands” but “shepherds who would lay down their lives for the sheep.”
During the diaconate rite, the candidates made a public commitment to celibacy. Each candidate declared his intention to undertake the office of deacon by seeking ordination, offering humble and loving assistance to the bishop, proclaiming the mysteries of faith as taught by Christ, deepening his commitment to ecclesial prayer and by a continuing renewal of life in the example of Christ. Each candidate also pledged his obedience and respect to his bishop.
As the deacon candidates laid prostrate on the sanctuary floor of St. Turibius Chapel, the Litany of Saints was sung by the choir and congregation.
Then Bishop D’Arcy laid hands on each, a gesture that signifies a special outpouring of the Holy Spirit, by which men are configured to Christ in Holy Orders.
The prayer of consecration completed the act of ordination. After the prayer of consecration, the deacons were invested with the stole and dalmatic — the outer garment that symbolizes the diaconate order. Deacon Matthew was vested by Father Mark Gurtner and Father Jake Runyon. Deacon Terrence was vested by Msgr. John Kuzmich and Father Gary Sigler.
The deacons were conferred the Book of the Gospels and received a greeting of peace from the bishop.
At the end of Mass, the deacons spoke. Deacon Terrence related that the day was not about his brother or himself, “this is all about Jesus and His Church and how Jesus loves you and calls specific individuals to lay down their lives for you. So Jesus has asked my brother and I over many years, to think about, to prepare for this day of laying down our lives — as we did on this floor — for all of you. So give all praise and thanks to God for His call, because although he asks us to give a little, He returns so much more. …”
Deacon Matthew spoke next. He too wanted to put the focus on the Lord.
“It’s about the amazing love of God,” Deacon Matthew said. “If the Lord does not build a house, in vain do its builders labor. So we are builders for the Lord, but it is ultimately He who builds the house. We allow it to happen and to be done even through us.”
Deacon Matthew asked, “Why would a man dedicate his life freely choosing celibacy, prayer, obedience, service to Christ in His Church?
He noted, “The world does not understand. But to us who have encountered the intense, the immense profundity of God’s love, we understand why. Because when we encounter the love of the Father, the love of Christ crucified for us, everything changes. Life is no longer out of us, but it is of the Lord and building up His family here on this earth. And so, when the call comes from the Lord to follow we respond joyfully. …”
After the ordination, the deacons’ father, Terrence, Sr., said, “It’s been a privilege to watch these things unfold.” He spoke of the Gospel reading where Mary “treasured these things.” Terrence and his wife, Theresa, also said they have treasured this journey for their sons.
Terrence said of his sons, having heard their closing comments, he “recognized how far they’ve come in their journey. We are excited and humbled.”
The new deacons’ grandparents, William and Loretta Coonan, described their joy and said they were elated.
William Coonan told Today’s Catholic, “It made me a better Catholic. It brought me closer to the Church.”
For more photos from the ordination visit the photo gallery.
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