SALT LAKE CITY — On Nov. 23, the Cathedral of the Madeleine in Salt Lake City was filled with joyful people, with their hearts open and their spirits rejoicing, as they awaited the arrival of 19 special men to celebrate the Rite of Candidacy.
The Most Reverend John C. Wester, Bishop of Salt Lake City, presided at the Mass and Rite of Candidacy ceremony for the 19 men who now are candidates for the permanent diaconate ministry.
The Admission to Candidacy rite offered each of the candidates the opportunity to publicly express his intention to receive ordination as a permanent deacon.
At the beginning of the ceremony Bishop Wester, together with the pastors of the parishes to whom the new candidates belong and a number of already-ordained permanent deacons, welcomed all the attendees to the ceremony.
The parishes to which the new candidates belong are St. Francis of Assisi, the Cathedral of the Madeleine, St. Catherine of Siena/Newman Center, St. Joseph, St. Rose of Lima, St. Elizabeth, St. George, Sts. Peter and Paul, San Felipe, St. Andrew, St. John the Baptist and St. Florence Mission.
"It’s very important that we are all here together in this very important part of the journey for the permanent diaconate of these 19 men," Bishop Wester said. "The Church of Salt Lake City rejoices today as we call these 19 men to be elected as candidates to the sacred order of the permanent diaconate. We pray for these men and their families in this new phase of their formation process for the service of the Church."
The diaconate is one of several ministries that Christ institutionalized in the Church, Bishop Wester said.
"In them we can together collaborate for the good of the Body of Christ through the sacrament of the orders. … By the Holy Spirit the deacons are selected to the order and image of Christ," he added.
"Today, that you are presented here as candidates to the sacred orders – this is a great gift for the Church. … Your presence here is a great gift for us; you are saying ‘I love you’ to God," said Bishop Wester. "You are here standing in front of God and declaring your willingness to service. In today’s world there is a lot of selfishness; you hear ‘I want, I want to have, I want, I want…,’ but it’s very important to remember that you are here today to do God’s work and you are here as candidates to declare your intentions of serving and doing God’s will and to serve our Church."
During the ceremony, the name of each candidate was called. Each man then answered "Here I am." Then, one by one they went to the altar, finally surrounding it, to recite the Creed and Prayers of the Faithful and to express their commitment and willingness to serve in the Church and to continue their formation.
"United by the love of Christ and strengthened by the Holy Spirit, you have chosen to manifest in public your desire to give yourselves to the service of God and the people of God. ... I ask you, do you want to keep preparing yourselves for the ministry of the Church through the Holy Orders? ... Do you want to build your spirit so you can faithfully serve Christ?" Bishop Wester asked.
"Yes, we want this," responded the candidates.
"The Church joyfully receives your answers," said the bishop.
The deacons’ wives then were asked to come forward and join their husbands. Speaking directly to the wives, Bishop Wester related how they will support their husbands as they continue formation with them, and he asked if they were willing to continue to provide support. The response was "I am."
The diaconate candidates will now spend three years studying many aspects of the Catholic faith as well as gaining practical experience. They are under the guidance of Father Eleazar Silva, pastor of Sacred Heart Parish in Salt Lake City, who is the director of academics for the Spanish-speaking diaconate program; and of Deacon Drew Petersen, the program’s overall director.
The permanent diaconate is an ordained ministry; the men may be married. They perform various sacramental functions such as weddings without a Mass, funerals and baptisms; they also assist at the Eucharistic liturgy.