Christopher Lushis
Freelance Writer
May 22, 2019 // Bishop

Two lay down lives to imitate Christ in Sacred Order of the Diaconate

Christopher Lushis
Freelance Writer

Click here for more photos by John Martin and Nate Proulx

“Our diocese rejoices today that these two young men, Daniel and Stephen, are being ordained as deacons of the Church.  Our priests and deacons rejoice that we will be blessed with two more workers in the vineyard of the Lord. Dan and Stephen’s parents, along with their families and friends, rejoice today that Dan and Stephen will receive an outpouring of God’s grace in being raised to the order of the diaconate.”

With elation, Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades praised the courageous witness of seminarians Daniel Koehl and Stephen Felicichia, who freely laid down their lives for Jesus Christ and the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend in their ordination to the Sacred Order of the Diaconate.

The men were formally presented to Bishop Rhoades by Deacon José Arroyo Acevedo, who will be ordained to the priesthood on June 1. Diocesan vocation director Father Andrew Budzinski affirmed that the candidates were sufficiently prepared and disposed to serve the Church as ordained ministers.

Recalling the words of Christ, Bishop Rhoades emphasized the Gospel requirement of sacrificial love for the successful spread of the kingdom of God.

“Jesus said: ‘Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit.’ Jesus is conveying a message about Himself; He died so that we might have eternal life. At the same time, Jesus’ words were also a message for His disciples, leading them to lay down their lives in fruitful imitation of Him.

“Today Dan and Stephen will receive an outpouring of God’s grace as they say ‘yes’ to the call of the Lord to ordained ministry in His Church. They place their lives in the Lord’s hands, promising Him obedience and making a permanent commitment to celibacy for the sake of the kingdom of heaven.”

He continued, “From this day forward, they will belong to Christ in a special way. They will seek Him, be at His disposal, walk with Him, and live with Him. They will live in the mystery of His Cross and Resurrection and enter, in a very real way, into the mystery of the grain of wheat. The life and ministry of the ordained is a particular way of discipleship, of taking up the cross. It is giving one’s life in loving service ‘just as Christ loved the Church and handed Himself over for her.’ Stephen and Dan are choosing not to live life for themselves. They are choosing to serve God and those to whom God sends them.”

Following their promises of celibacy and obedience to Bishop Rhoades and his successors, the two candidates laid prostate on the floor of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, a literal sign of offering their lives for Christ, as those present chanted the Litany of the Saints. Bishop explained the significance of this dramatic action, which emphasizes the humility necessary for following Christ faithfully.

“Lying on the ground, Dan and Stephen recognize their own inadequacy and weakness. They know that they need God’s grace to be His good and faithful servants and that they need the prayer of the Church, the prayers of the Church on earth and of the Church in Heaven.”

After the invocations, the men knelt before the bishop, who laid his hands upon them and offered the Prayer of Ordination. The new deacons then were vested with the outward signs of their new ministry: the diaconal stole and dalmatic. Both men then received the Book of the Gospels, symbolizing the task of the deacon to proclaim the Gospel in liturgical celebrations and to preach the faith of the Church in word and deed.

Bishop Rhoades reminded them to approach the Word with a humble and prayerful heart, humbly listening in prayer for the direction of the Holy Spirit.

“Remember that you will proclaim the word as ministers, as servants, as sharers in the prophetic authority of Christ and the Church. The Holy Spirit guides the Church in the proper interpretation of the Scriptures, so in your preaching and teaching, you are to transmit the Gospel in its fullness, docile to the living Tradition of the Church and to her Magisterium.”

Highlighting their additional role as ministers of the altar, the bishop further expressed: “You will help the faithful participate more fully, consciously and actively in the eucharistic sacrifice. You will be ordinary ministers of baptism, preside over public prayer, assist at and bless marriages, bring Viaticum to the dying and conduct funeral rites. Your service of the liturgy is a call to sanctification, to your own growth in holiness. There should be a deep unity between the exercise of your ministry and your spiritual life. And, of course, the Holy Eucharist has the truly central place in the ministry and spiritual life of the ordained. In this diaconal year leading up to your priestly ordination, I especially encourage your prayer before the Blessed Sacrament because it is in the Eucharist that we truly learn from Christ to lay down our lives, to love as He loved, to enter into the mystery of the grain of wheat, the mystery of Our Lord’s death and resurrection.”

Bishop Rhoades concluded by highlighting their role as “ministers of charity” as integral to their service of the word and the liturgy.

“We must always remember, as our Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI said so strongly: ‘Love for widows and orphans, prisoners, and the sick and needy of every kind, is as essential to the Church as the ministry of the sacraments and preaching of the Gospel.’” Bishop Rhoades also entrusted the men to Mary under her title “Handmaid of the Lord,” reminding all those who were present that “Mary gave herself wholeheartedly to the service of the Lord and in her humility was raised up to heaven. May she intercede for you, that you may be faithful and holy servants of the Lord!”

Following Mass, Deacon Koehl, who has been assigned to St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish in Fort Wayne for the summer, expressed his appreciation and excitement as a newly ordained minister. “At our rehearsal last night, Father Andrew preached about the permanence of the sacrament, the solidity of Christ in us, emphasizing “Christ the servant.” I have a lot of peace, and I’ve never had this much joy — and it’s only just beginning!”

Deacon Felicichia, assigned to St. Thomas the Apostle in Elkhart, also shared his enthusiasm and gratitude as he undertakes this new role.

“It’s amazing! It is wonderful and very peace filling, I am very grateful to the people of Fort Wayne, to my parents, family and for the prayers of the diocese. Please keep us in your prayers!”

Photos by John Martin and Nate Proulx

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