As the Church’s first deacons were appointed to minister to its members in the Acts of the Apostles, so too are modern-day deacons called to serve others. On May 21, five men were called to service as Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades ordained them to the Sacred Order of the Diaconate at St. Matthew Cathedral in South Bend, an anointing that will remain with them through their lives. Brian Florin, Bobby Krisch, David Langford, Jacob Schneider and Ryan Timossi happily entered into this calling, taking a major step toward priesthood.
Infusing a bit of humor into his homily, Bishop Rhoades began by speaking about the first reading, stating how he worried about the deacon candidates choosing the calling of Jeremiah rather than Isaiah. “…Jeremiah, as we heard, resisted and tried to excuse himself.”
Jeremiah claimed to be too young to serve God, and the bishop said he hoped that “none of these men will respond like Jeremiah and try to excuse themselves when I ask them after this homily whether they are resolved to be ordained, and say ‘not really, Bishop. I’m too young. I’m really not ready.’”
Laughter met this remark before Bishop Rhoades launched into the heart of his homily: reminding the five men to trust in God in their life’s work. “My sons, the Lord will confirm your vocation today when I lay my hands on your heads. He will touch your souls with His power and grace. Despite your youth and your weaknesses, He is calling you and will be with you to strengthen and guide you.”
He then posed a question to them: What is the purpose of having deacons?
“Very simply, because the Son of God became a deacon! Diakonia is a central aspect of the mystery of Christ. Jesus Himself said: ‘I am among you as one who serves.’ Through His service, Jesus revealed to us the mystery of God’s love. As deacons, you will represent and accomplish the mission of Christ’s love for the Church.”
To that end, deacons need to evangelize, to give fully of themselves, Bishop Rhoades continued. He cautioned them, however, that while there is great joy in this, there will be trials as well.
“My sons, you will encounter challenges, struggles and even suffering for standing up for the truth of God’s word because there are so many lies present in the world today. You accept the cross today – it’s not an optional part of the Christian life nor especially of the life of the ordained. You can only bear the cross if you remain in Christ and His love. If you are faithful to prayer, you will have the strength to carry the cross; you will have the inner joy and peace of friendship with Jesus; and your ministry will bear good fruit.”
He concluded his homily by speaking about the saints whose feast fell on that day – St. Christopher Magallanes and companions, martyrs of the persecuted Church in the Cristero War in Mexico in the 1920s. Most of them were priests who refused to leave their people without the Eucharist. Bishop Rhoades said, “Remember that they were once ordained deacons and never stopped being deacons. They were men of truth and love who walked in the footsteps of Jesus Christ. They did not stop courageously exercising their ministry when religious persecution intensified in Mexico. … May these holy martyrs be models of faith and courage for you as deacons and later as priests.”
Throughout the ceremony, the deacons physically demonstrated in bodily gestures the humility of their call; that their lives are not their own but are now given for the good of all. Individually, each man knelt before the bishop three times: first to declare their intention to fulfill their role as deacons and to promise obedience to Bishop Rhoades and his successors, then for the laying of the hands and lastly for receiving the book of the Gospels. As one, they also knelt before the bishop for the prayer of ordination.
The most powerful display of their willingness to serve humbly came as they laid prostrate before the tabernacle while the congregation sang the Litany of Supplication over them, asking God for His blessings and for the intercession of the saints to aid them in their ministry.
Each candidate chose who would vest him at the Mass, and the five vesting clergy were Father Zak Barry (Deacon Langford), Deacon Brian Isenbarger (Deacon Krisch), Father Benjamin Landrigan (Deacon Schneider), Monsignor William Schooler (Deacon Florin) and Deacon Jim Tighe (Deacon Timossi).
After the Mass, Deacon Krisch, celebrating with his parents John and Mary and extended family members, spoke about his joy and happiness. He is eager to begin his summer assignment at St. Mary of the Annunciation, working with Father Bob Van Kempen.
Ruminating on the promises of faithfulness and service he so recently made, he recalled how he felt as he lay before the altar. He said, “I’m literally laying down my life on the sanctuary floor, at the altar of Jesus Christ, and this is where it all flows from is the altar. With the intercession of the Blessed Mother and the saints as well, it was so beautiful and so powerful. Like Bishop said, it is going to be difficult, but with God’s grace, all of it is possible and without God’s grace, none of it is possible.”
Different words that Bishop Rhoades spoke lingered in Deacon Langford’s mind after the ordination. He stated that the reality of his vocation would set in “when I see, like the bishop said in the second half of the prayer of ordination, the fruits of being a deacon, that yes, I was ordained a deacon.”
In the meantime, “I’m just so happy,” he said, beaming.
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