Smiling faces and hearty hugs abounded at the ordination of Deacons Brian Isenbarger and Mark Hellinger by Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades May 22 at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, Fort Wayne. The faces of family, friends and the many priests and religious sisters in attendance to celebrate the momentous occasion beamed with happiness.
The Mass began in jubilant song. The cathedral choir led the congregation in “All Creatures of Our God and King” while Bishop Rhoades, the two candidates and several seminarians who assisted in the ceremony processed to the altar.
Deacon Paolo Degasperi proclaimed the Gospel and presented the candidates for the diaconate to Bishop Rhoades. The candidates, in turn, professed their readiness to assume the role of service of a deacon.
The readings from Jeremiah, Acts of the Apostles and the Gospel of Matthew shared a collective message of God sending forth disciples to go and do His work in the world.
“God, the master of the harvest, has heard the prayers of the faithful of our diocese for laborers for His harvest,” said the bishop. “He has called Mark and Brian to be these laborers in His vineyard, and they have freely and generously answered that call.”
He spoke to the deacon candidates, encouraging them in their vocation and urging them to never neglect their prayer life, but to always turn to Jesus and His mother, Mary, both for solace and as models of virtuous lives. The bishop reminded them that the diaconate is a call to service and addressed the challenges they would face in their future priesthood.
“Mark and Brian, you are being called in a particular time and place in the history of the Church and of the world, a time and place with particular needs and challenges. Like in the time of Jesus, there are many who are hurting and troubled. You are called to be close to them and to bring them the loving tenderness of God.
“In the confusion of today’s culture, many wander about like sheep in search of grass that can satisfy their hunger and water that can quench their thirst, he continued. “They are hungry and thirsty for meaning and purpose in life. They are hungry and thirsty for truth and for love. Without guidance, many travel along paths where the grass is scorched; paths that do not lead to refreshing streams – paths of relativism, materialism, consumerism and hedonism. These paths really lead nowhere except to emptiness, boredom, sadness and even despair. Mark and Brian, you are called to lead people as good shepherds along the path of Jesus – the Way, the Truth, and the Life.”
He concluded with his hope that the two men will rest in the Lord and draw strength from Him.
“I pray the Lord blesses you with joy and that you will joyfully serve Him and His Church. With Mary, may your spirit always rejoice in God our Savior!”
After the homily, the candidates promise their obedience to the bishop and his successors. During one of the most powerful points of the ceremony, they laid prostrate before the altar as a sign of humility and a total giving of themselves while the Litany of Supplication was sung over them. The litany recalls all the saints down through the centuries who have given their own lives, both physically and spiritually, to nourish the Church and her people. The prayers of the congregation called upon those holy men and women to intercede for the candidates as they begin their ministry.
Through the imposition of his hands and the prayer of ordination, Bishop Rhoades ordained Hellinger and Isenbarger. Then the deacons were vested with the diaconal stole and dalmatic, with the assistance of a person each had chosen. Deacon Hellinger chose Deacon Jim Kitchens to vest him, stating that through his service to St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish, Fort Wayne, he has “been a really good witness to me of what a deacon is.” Deacon Isenbarger was vested by Deacon Logan Parrish, a friend and soon-to-be priest.
The new deacons were presented with the Book of the Gospels, symbolizing one of their tasks of service: proclaiming the Gospel during Mass, a privilege reserved for them and for priests. After this, the bishop bestowed the kiss of peace upon them, welcoming Deacon Isenbarger and Deacon Hellinger into the ministry of the diaconate. They assisted the bishop in preparing the altar for holy Communion, remaining at the bishop’s side during consecration.
Bishop Rhoades thanked all attendees, both those who attended in person and those communing via livestream, for their prayers for the new deacons. He also expressed his gratitude for those whose efforts made the day successful and memorable.
With the ceremony concluded, the jubilant congregation filed outside to congratulate the new deacons and share heartfelt sentiments of goodwill and embraces.
Deacon Hellinger conveyed extreme pleasure at the occasion of his ordination. “I’m very excited to get into ministry down in Decatur especially. It’s just pure joy.” He thanked his home parish of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton for the abundance of prayers and support he has received from them through the years of his formation.
Overjoyed and a bit overwhelmed, Deacon Isenbarger said of the day, “I feel surrounded by so many people who love me. The love of the Lord, I felt, was just poured out today. It probably won’t hit me until next week that ‘Wow, this just happened.’ I’m just trying to process everything.”
The men will complete summer assignments at parishes named for Mary: Deacon Hellinger will serve at St. Mary of the Assumption in Decatur and Deacon Isenbarger will assist at St. Mary of the Annunciation Parish in Bristol. In the fall they will return to seminary for another year of education prior to ordination to the priesthood.
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