SALT LAKE CITY — Deacons, priests and Bishop Oscar A. Solis processed into the Cathedral of the Madeleine on Jan. 31 as the choir sang, “Servants of God, bless the Lord, praise the Lord, praise and exult him above all forever. Alleluia.”
The antiphon by Peter Latona was particularly apt for the Mass at which Bishop Solis ordained five men to the diaconate: Jeff Allen of St. Vincent de Paul Parish, Jeremy Castellano of the Cathedral of the Madeleine, Robert Cowlishaw of St. Francis Xavier Parish, Tom Devereux of St. Mary Parish, and Greg Werking of St. Thomas More Parish.
The word “deacon” comes from the Greek word “diakonia,” meaning servant. In the Roman Catholic Church, deacons are ordained by the bishop and may proclaim the Gospel, baptize, assist the priest in the celebration of the Eucharist, witness marriages and preside at funerals.
“Christ is sending you to be his disciples, not as glorified altar boys, not as liturgical decorations on the altars, neither are you sent to become wanna-be priests; you are called to be servants,” Bishop Solis told the men during his homily. “Serve with humility of heart. Be generous in offering your lives in service. Learn to set aside your personal agenda and instead attend to the very needs of the Church and the people of God you are called to serve.”
The Scripture readings for the Mass at which the Rite of Ordination of Deacons was celebrated emphasized the theme of service. The first reading, Acts 6:1-7, described how the first deacons were chosen “to serve at table.” In the second reading, 1 Peter 4:7b-11, St. Peter urged each person who has received a gift to “use it to serve one another as good stewards of God’s varied grace.” The Gospel reading, John 14:15-21, recounts Jesus telling his disciples to keep his commandments.
Bishop Solis began his homily by expressing gratitude on behalf of all in the diocese to the five deacon candidates for responding to God’s call “to give your lives willingly for the love of God and service of the Church.” He also thanked their spouses for “journeying with you in your years of formation, giving their love, their time and talent in order to help you prepare for this special moment in your life.”
The ordination of the five men, whom he named individually, “is a tremendous blessing for our Church,” Bishop Solis said.
During the Rite of Ordination, the bishop lays his hands on the candidate and recites the prayer of ordination, as described in the first reading. The men receive from the Holy Spirit an indelible character of the sacred Order of Deacons to help carry out the mission of Christ and the exercise of the threefold service of deacons: the service of the Word, of the Eucharist and of charity, “to be carried out in the spirit of Christ, who came into this world not to be served but to serve,” Bishop Solis said.
Touching on the Scripture readings for the Mass, Bishop Solis pointed out that the second reading “urges those called to live in a manner worthy of the call they have received as followers of Christ,” while the Gospel reading offers the assurance “that you will not be alone; he will send the Holy Spirit to be with you and be united with him so that you and Christ and God will be only one: one in mission, in proclaiming the Gospel of love and salvation to the world.”
Proclaiming and preaching the Gospel “requires more than learning and good technique because you are not proclaiming yourselves, you are proclaiming the Word of Christ,” Bishop Solis told the men. He urged them to speak Christ’s teachings with fidelity, to know the Word of God and to know Christ. He told them to read and meditate on the Word. “Read it with your heart, with love for the Word of God and for the people who are going to listen and receive his Word,” he said.
Preaching, serving at the altar, celebrating the Sacrament of Baptism and officiating at weddings and funerals “all contribute to the building of the Church, the Body of Christ,” the bishop said, but the Eucharist must be the foundation of the deacon’s ministry because it is the source and summit of the Christian life.
The deacons also must not “get stuck at the altar” but instead should go to the peripheries to serve those who suffer, the hungry, the homeless, addicts, refugees and immigrants, the bishop said. He quoted Pope Francis to this effect, ending with the plea, “Help make our parishes field hospitals, that those hurting and suffering will feel God’s mercy and compassion.”
During the Rite of Ordination, the men promised to discharge the office of deacon with humble charity, to hold fast to the mystery of faith with a clear conscience and to program the faith in word and deed, to deepen their spirit of prayer, and to conform their way of life to the example of Christ. They then prostrated themselves before the altar as the Litany of Supplication was sung. Bishop Solis then laid his hands on the head of each candidate individually, then recited the Prayer of Ordination.
Afterward, each man was invested with a stole and dalmatic, the vestments of a deacon. Finally was the Handing on of the Book of Gospels, during which each candidate knelt before the bishop, who placed into their hands the Book of Gospels, and recited, “Receive the Gospel of Christ, whose herald you have become. Believe what you read, teach what you believe, and practice what you teach.”
Bishop Solis also gave a blessing for the wives of the new deacons.
Concelebrating the Mass were Msgr. Colin F. Bircumshaw, vicar general; Msgr. J. Terrence Fitzgerald, vicar general emeritus; Father Martin Diaz, rector of the Cathedral of the Madeleine; Father Ken Vialpando, vicar for clergy; and numerous priests of the diocese.
Deacon George Reade was deacon of the Mass. Numerous deacons assisted.
After the Mass, the newly ordained deacons greeted well-wishers, elation visible in their smiles. Werking said he felt as though he were floating. His first thought after ordination was, “I need to pray more, because I’m grateful and humbled,” he said.
Similarly, Allen said, “I’m so blessed that I have this opportunity. I can’t wait to get started … doing God’s work.”
Parish Assignments for the Newly Ordained Deacons
Jeff Allen, St. Vincent de Paul
Jeremy Castellano, St. John the Baptist
Tom Devereux, St. Mary
Robert Cowlishaw, St. Ann
Greg Werking, Blessed Sacrament