Christopher Lushis
Freelance Writer
June 13, 2017 // Diocese

Eleven instituted to ministry of acolyte

Christopher Lushis
Freelance Writer

“Make your life worthy of your service at the table of the Lord and of his church.” It was with these words that Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades formally instituted each member of the newest class of acolytes for the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend on June 10.

While the ceremony signified one of the customary steps on the path toward ordination, this particular Mass of installation  was the first class of acolytes to be uniquely tasked with the mission of serving Hispanic communities throughout the diocese. For the 11 men, representing seven parishes, all of their training, coursework and examinations have been administered in Spanish as they prepare for ordination to the diaconate in service to Hispanic Catholics.

The final stage of preparation, the institution as acolytes — meaning “attendant” in Greek —  indicates the new role each of these men now have to serve at the altar in a special way.

Bishop Rhoades, who celebrated the Mass entirely in Spanish, emphatically stressed the importance of devotion to the Blessed Sacrament for sustaining fruitful ministry.

Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades offered 11 men spiritual guidance during a Mass on June 10, as they began the climactic steps toward their ordination to the diaconate next June. “Brothers, in the last year of your preparation for diaconal ordination, I cannot think of any better advice than for you to take time for prayer before the Blessed Sacrament,” he said. After Mass, the new acolytes gathered for a photo on the steps to the sanctuary of the cathedral with Bishop Rhoades, concelebrating priests and deacons. From left, in the front row, are: Fred Everett, Ricardo Garcia, Jose Ruvalcaba, Juan Campos, Christian Nieves, Giovani Munoz, Bishop Rhoades, Alejandro Garcia, Marco Castillo, Victor Sandoval, Blas Olayo and Huberto Vasquez. In the back two rows are Deacon Patrick Hake, Deacon Mel Tardy, Deacon Jim Fuchs, Deacon Jim Tighe, Father Constantino Rocha, Deacon Dave Elchert, Father Tony Steinacker, Msgr. Robert Schulte, Father Evaristo Olivera, Deacon Bill Gallagher, Father Kevin Bauman, Deacon Stan LeMieux, Deacon Bob Byrne and Deacon Jim Fitzpatrick.

“In the Eucharist, Christ gives himself to us and we welcome him. The existence of the church would be unthinkable without the Eucharist. In this Mass with the institution of acolytes, we remember that the Eucharist carries meaning to all the different activities of the church. It offers us contact with God. The Eucharist is the most sacred presence of Christ in the church. It is truly the source and summit of all the ministries and apostolates of the church.”

As acolytes, their responsibilities will include assisting priests and deacons in the Mass, especially by arranging the altar before consecration, purifying sacred vessels and serving as extraordinary ministers of holy Communion. They will also participate in making the Eucharist present by exposing and reposing the Blessed Sacrament for adoration and bringing Communion to the sick and homebound.

“It is a great privilege to distribute the holy Eucharist, the new manna, to the faithful,” Bishop Rhoades stated. “As you know, as acolytes, you must show the greatest reverence for the most holy Eucharist with your behavior, your attire and the way you handle the body and blood of Christ.”

Huberto Vasquez, in the foreground, and 10 other men who together comprise the diocesan Hispanic Diaconate Formation program, line up in prayer just before Bishop Rhoades institutes them as acolytes.

Signifying an outward and concrete sign of his new role within the liturgy, each man dressed for Mass in a white alb to indicate his servant role at the Eucharistic feast. Up until this point in their formation, including this past year while ministering as instituted lectors, the men have dressed simply as lay members of the church. Remarking on this change, new acolyte Fred Everett shared: “wearing the alb provides a more tangible, visible sense of taking your next step on the road toward diaconate.”

Giovani Muñoz, another of the instituted acolytes, shared his excitement to take on this new role of service. “Through the ministry of lector, I was able to understand more deeply the great responsibility of proclaiming the word of God. This penetrated my mind and heart and changed my way of seeing and appreciating life from the levels of husband, father, friend and member of a community of faith. Now, this ministry of acolyte brings the Eucharist to the center of my life. The very sacrifice of Christ was sealed on the altar of the cross, therefore it means joining my own life to the sacrifice of Christ the Redeemer in every Mass, which continually increases my love and devotion for him.”

Everett further recounted his joy and gratitude for those who have been instrumental in the formation process and spoke on how it has impacted his own faith journey. “Having a dialogue with your spiritual director, your spouse, and those in the program provides a beautiful affirmation that this is what your vocation is — that I am exactly where I should be. It actually brings your family closer because of the commitment and promise to obedience. While you don’t know where that will take you, with trust you are open to God’s will and just move forward. It is nice to have the sense that this is the path where God wants me right now.”

José Ruvalcaba expressed his gratitude for the opportunity to deepen his commitment to the Lord through the diaconate preparation and his excitement regarding the honor of serving at the altar. “This formation, even though difficult at times, has been a great experience. I have found a great group of men that have so much love for God and for his Church. Becoming an acolyte, to be instituted with the responsibility to guard the Body and Blood of Christ; I can’t help but feel a sense of unworthiness to be given this responsibility.”

He continued, “Often, I wonder, what am I doing here? I have so much to learn and to change in my life, that the thought of soon becoming an ordained minister in the Catholic Church is overwhelming. I’m not worth of this privilege. However, what gives me much hope is remembering that if Christ was able to use a donkey to carry him triumphantly into Jerusalem, I trust that He can use me to take Him to all who are in need of Him!”

After the homily, each new acolyte placed his hands over a chalice in front of Bishop Rhoades, indicating both his intention to serve and the commission from the church to bring the Eucharist to the faithful. Four of the new acolytes then presented the gifts for consecration.

Bishop Rhoades concluded the Mass by reminding the men that celebrating Mass in the Cathedral reminds us of the patroness of the diocese depicted in the stained-glass window in the sanctuary: the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The bishop encouraged the newly instituted acolytes to be devoted to Mary immaculate, the woman of the Eucharist, in their final year of preparation for ordination.

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