By Tim Johnson
SOUTH BEND — Newly-ordained Deacons Benjamin Muhlenkamp and Jacob Meyer are one step closer to ordination to the Priesthood next year.
Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades ordained the two men to the order of the diaconate May 14 at St. Matthew Cathedral in South Bend. They will minister for a year as deacons before their ordination to the Priesthood on June 2, 2012.
Bishop Rhoades began the Mass by thanking all those who attended, but especially the deacon-candidates’ parents — Kurt and Julie Meyer, and Gary and Mary Agnes Muhlenkamp — because the home is the seedbed of vocations. Also present were Bishop Emeritus John M. D’Arcy and Father James A. Wehner, rector of the Pontifical College Josephinum, where the deacons attend seminary.
May 14 marked the Feast of St. Matthias, apostle and martyr. The Book of Acts relates how St. Matthias was chosen to replace Judas Iscariot, the apostle who betrayed Jesus. Bishop Rhoades, in his homily, explained that “the one chosen would become, along with them, ‘a witness to Christ’s resurrection.’ This was their mission, the mission of Matthias and the other apostles. This is also the mission of the Church, which we can rightly call ‘the community of the Resurrection.’ This is our mission and the mission of our two candidates for ordination, Jacob and Ben.”
In explaining their role as ministers of God’s word, Bishop Rhoades said, “Jacob and Ben will proclaim the crowning truth of Christianity: that ‘Jesus Christ is truly risen.’ This proclamation of Easter is at the core of the Gospel they will preach.”
Bishop Rhoades said, “The Church’s mission of evangelization is the proclamation of the One who died on the cross and rose again on the third day to save the world. Jacob and Ben will be ordained to bring the Risen Jesus to all those whom they will serve, especially to the poor, the sick, the suffering, the lonely and the outcast. They are called to bring the Gospel of salvation to sinners, to help them to die to sin and to be renewed by Christ who came that we might have life and have it to the full.”
Bishop Rhoades spoke on the passage of St. John’s Gospel, “It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain.”
He told Meyer and Muhlenkamp, “The Lord who calls you to the priesthood, today consecrates you as deacons, servants – servants of the Gospel, servants of the sacred liturgy, and servants of charity. He also calls you ‘friends,’ with whom He shares His special relationship with the Father, friends whom he loves even to the point of dying on the cross for you.”
Bishop Rhoades continued on the meaning of friendship: “Jacob and Ben, you have experienced Christ’s love and friendship. He has revealed to you His heart. Today He gives you the power, through Holy Orders, to speak in His name. He entrusts His truth to you. He appoints you to go and bear fruit. This is the dynamism of the life of an apostle. It is the dynamism of the life of the deacon, of the priest, and of the bishop. Yes, we savor our friendship with Jesus, yet this friendship was given to us so that it might also be shared with others. It is meant to bear fruit, fruit that endures.”
The bishop explained that the two men make their solemn promise that day to live a celibate life. “You do so as a response to God’s call and as an expression of your love for Christ and your self-giving for the sake of His kingdom,” Bishop Rhoades said.
He added, “I encourage you today to be resolved to remain in Christ’s love, through daily personal prayer and daily Mass, meditation with the Sacred Scriptures, and adoration of the most Holy Eucharist. If your ministry is to bear fruit that endures, your knowledge and love of the Lord needs to grow and deepen through the years.”
And the bishop encouraged the two to love the Church in imitation of Jesus, the Bridegroom, who gave His life for His Bride, the Church. “It is in and through the Church that we receive the saving Gospel of Christ,” Bishop Rhoades said. “The Church hands on to us the teaching of the apostles in all its purity, integrity and power. My sons, you are called, as St. Paul teaches us, not to preach yourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord. You are called to do so with courage, like St. Matthias, who died as a martyr of the Church, and like Sts. Stephen and Lawrence and so many other holy deacons who were faithful witnesses of the Risen Jesus.”
The Rite of Ordination itself is rich with meaning and symbolism. After the chanting of the Gospel, came the Election of the Candidates, whereby candidates are formally chosen for ordination and become referred to as the elect. The two candidates were presented to the bishop by Msgr. Bernard Galic, director of the Office of Vocations for the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend and pastor of St. Aloysius Parish, Yoder. Msgr. Galic testified to their worthiness, after which Bishop Rhoades formally accepted them to be ordained as deacons.
After the homily, the elect declared their intention to assume the responsibility of the office of deacon, and promised obedience and respect to Bishop Rhoades and his successors. During the Litany of Supplication, the candidates laid prostrate on the floor of St. Matthew Cathedral while the intercession of the Saints and Angels was invoked.
After the litany, Bishop Rhoades laid his hands on the head of each of the elect in accordance with the apostolic tradition. Then, with the elect kneeling and with hands outstretched, Bishop Rhoades solemnly recited the Prayer of Ordination.
The newly ordained were then invested with the stole and dalmatic — the proper liturgical attire of the diaconate. They were also handed 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 then bestowed the traditional liturgical gesture known as the fraternal kiss of peace, and thereby welcomed the new deacons into their ministry. The other deacons present also welcomed the newly ordained.
Outside the steps of St. Matthew Cathedral, Deacon Meyer could only describe the day as an amazing gift. He could not stop smiling. As a deacon, he looks forward to “entering more deeply into the love of Christ, through His Word — the proclamation of the Gospel. It’s really an opportunity, a grace to go into this and know that this is the first step of giving my entire life. So today I promised everything over to our Lord, and from here on out, it’s all His.”
Deacon Muhlenkamp told Today’s Catholic that he felt excellent about the day. When asked what he looked forward to the most while serving his diaconate, he said, “Just being with the people, being able to talk and preach to the people, but just being more involved in the parish life.”
Bishop Rhoades appointed Deacon Meyer to serve at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish, Fort Wayne, and Deacon Muhlenkamp will serve at St. John the Baptist Parish, Fort Wayne, this summer. In the fall, they will return to the Pontifical College Josephinum in Columbus, Ohio, to finish their seminarian studies.
A reception followed at the St. Matthew School gymnasium.
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