SALT LAKE CITY — Five men who have responded to God’s call to serve the local Church as deacons took the first formal step on Feb. 3 as they underwent the Rite of Admission to Candidacy for Ordination as Deacons.
Bishop Solis presided at the Mass, which was concelebrated by Msgr. Colin F. Bircumshaw, vicar general; Msgr. J. Terrence Fitzgerald, vicar general emeritus; and several priests of the diocese. Assisting were numerous deacons of the diocese.
“We are gathered in the spirit of faith and family, united in the mission of evangelization in our local Church in the State of Utah,” Bishop Solis said in his introductory remarks, adding that it was a day of celebration.
In his homily, Bishop Solis pointed out that the term “deacon” comes the Greek word “diakonia,” which means service or ministry. The ministry of deacon is not part-time employment or a profession, but rather “a mission of service out of love for God and one another,” he said, quoting the Plenarium of the Sacred Congregation for the Clergy.
“My dear friends, as you seek admission to the Order of Deacons, you enter a process of formation oriented towards the ministry of service, towards servanthood marked by a selfless and humble life of service in helping build the body of Christ. It is not about personal ambition but learning to be God’s servant. Jesus calls you to a different ethic that honors service rather than power. And a true servant will sacrifice for the sake of others in the name of Christ. He challenges you to begin living by the rule of His Kingdom – to be last and the servant of all,” the bishop said.
He urged the five men to follow Jesus’ example and seek to serve rather than be served, and to listen to the advice St. Paul gave in the day’s second reading (Eph. 4:1-7, 11-13): “to live in a manner worthy of the call you have received, with humility, gentleness, patience and spirit of unity.”
Bishop Solis also asked the candidates to take advantage of the opportunity their studies offer to learn more of the Church’s teachings, and to make the most of their formation so they become able partners in the mission of evangelization.
“For you to accomplish this, be people of prayer with tremendous love for the Holy Mass, dedication in praying the Liturgy of the Hours and a strong devotion to our Blessed Mother and the saints,” he said.
After the homily, the five men were called forward individually. They were asked if they are resolved to complete their preparation so that in due time they will be prepared to assume ministry in the Church and to prepare in mind and spirit to give faithful service to Christ through the Church. They all responded, “I do.”
The wives of the deacon candidates then were called forward and asked if they were willing to help their husbands continue to minister to the Church. They all responded, “I do.”
The men will continue their formation for several years; their ordination date is projected to be in 2020.
The diaconate, which was established in the early Church, was restored around the world after Vatican II. The Diocese of Salt Lake City has been ordaining deacons since 1976.
Since then, “in a very significant manner, the ministry of deacons has become accepted and expected in its own right, beyond the need for deacons to be of assistance in a setting where there is a lack of sufficient numbers of priests,” said Msgr. Colin F. Bircumshaw, vicar general. “These five deacons [who are in formation] will, first of all and foremost, help to fill in the diaconal ministry around the diocese, which has become an integral part of the Church’s ministerial presence, as older deacons need to be replaced. Each will bring his own personal gifts to the specific ministry of service – Liturgy, Word and Charity – that is specific to deacons.”