By Peter Finney Jr., Clarion Herald
In ordaining eight men to the transitional diaconate May 19 at St. Louis Cathedral, the final step before ordination to the priesthood, Archbishop Gregory Aymond said the new deacons should be the voice of the church in caring for those on the margins of society.
“The word deacon comes from the Greek, and it means serving God by caring for others,” Archbishop Aymond at the Mass of Ordination.
Saying the rite of ordination is virtually unchanged from the days of the early church 2,000 years ago – when the apostles called forth men of strong faith and reputation and prayed over them and laid hands on them to invoke the power of the Holy Spirit – Archbishop Aymond said that unbroken tradition is vital to carry out the church’s mission.
“Interestingly, almost 2,000 years later, we look for the same exact qualities in men whom we will ordain to the diaconate,” the archbishop said. “We want men who are of faith. We want men who know the Lord Jesus. We want men who are respected by the community, and we desire for men who are humble enough to serve at the table or wherever else they’re called.”
The archbishop ordained seven men for the Archdiocese of New Orleans – Deacons Douglas M. Busch, Daniel S. Darmanin, Andrew O. Gutierrez, Daniel C. Okafor, Leon K. Poche Jr., Andrew C. Rudmann and Damian P. Zablocki. Brother Ton Huu Dang was ordained as a transitional deacon for the Missionaries of Faith.
Human face of Christ
The archbishop said the ministry of deacon has three major components: deacons must be “the human face of Christ as the minister of charity”; they must be “the voice of Christ by teaching and preaching”; and they are given “the responsibility and the privilege of leading others in prayer.”
“It is our hope, my brothers, when others see you they will see a Jesus whose heart is filled with charity,” Archbishop Aymond said. “You will be sent by Christ to be his arms and his heart and his hands for many, but especially for those who are in need. Yes, all of us as baptized Christians are called to a life of charity. But the deacon in the church is the one who leads us in charity, who leads us in caring for others. In many ways, they do this in a radical way.”
Because breaking open the Word of God is so important in offering spiritual food to people, Archbishop Aymond stressed to the new deacons that they carefully prepare their homilies and pray for inspiration.
“Please never preach without prayer and without preparation,” he said. “When we do so, we sort of test God by saying, ‘Oh, I’ll just wing it. So, God you have to do all the work.’ Enter into prayer and preparation so that you can feed people from your heart and your hands. … We have to make sure that we don’t get in the way of God’s word. And it’s truly his word.”
The men also made three promises: they will be men of prayer, be obedient to the bishop and live a life of celibacy.
“We value marriage; it is a sacrament of the church and a very important part of our church, family life and marriage,” the archbishop said. “But you, my brothers, are willing to remain single to give your entire life to the ministry of Christ, and you have no other responsibilities – no others except to live out the ministry of Jesus Christ as a servant. You’re not a bachelor. You’re committed – and deeply, deeply committed – to Christ and to his church.”
After the 100-minute liturgy, each of the new deacons said they were thankful in different ways for what they had just experienced.
- Deacon Busch: “Certainly, I felt the outpouring of the Holy Spirit that brings peace and joy to my heart.” He mentioned a special blessing he intends to offer people who ask for it: “This is from the Book of Numbers, Chapter 6, verses 24-26: ‘May the Lord bless you and keep you; may the Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you; may the Lord be kindly to you and bring you peace.”
- Deacon Darmanin: “I am feeling a lot of emotion, but certainly joy is at the very top.” Asked what struck him the most during the Mass, he said, “Probably when I laid prostrate and allowed the saints to come down upon me and everyone was praying. It was a sense of both calmness and receiving the Spirit. … It’s a beautiful joy and a beautiful gift. It’s both exciting and tears of joy. And, as the archbishop said, ‘Let’s get to work.’”
- Deacon Gutierrez: “I think it’s unbelievable. At the end of the ceremony, I looked back at the cathedral and I saw ‘Glory and Honor to God.’ We have those two words written in Latin: Glory and Honor. That’s all I’ve been praying about – that this be a moment for God’s greater glory. When the archbishop himself gave me the sign of peace, he said, ‘Welcome to the rank of orders.’ That was like his fatherly love and presence. It was a touching moment, for sure.”
- Deacon Okafor: “I feel very happy and excited about the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on me and my brother deacons. It was something we’d been looking forward to. … When we were having the Litany of the Saints, a lot of things were coming into my mind. I remembered in a special way my friend who is in London who asked me to pray for him. I also asked God to give me the special grace to live out my vocation.”
- Deacon Poche: “It was just the overall liturgy, being close to God and to the church, just having those kinds of memories of my wedding in the past (to his late wife Maureen) and thoughts of my wife. I know that she’s praying for me, and we’re in it together.”
- Deacon Rudmann: “It was very exciting, and I was trying to get focused, trying to find a center, trying to find peace, and I didn’t think it was going to happen until everything began, and all of a sudden, once I processed in, joy came, peace came, and I was really able to enter into it. The most moving moment – and I was told to look for this – was when you are prostrate on the ground and you hear the whole church pray for you. It’s like this reverberation. I really got the sense that I was in the heavenly liturgy. I’m not alone, and all these people are praying for me so I can serve them.”
- Deacon Zablocki: “It was miraculous. (What most impressed me was) the Litany of the Saints, because you realize you are called to fall in line with all those people in the history of the church who made a sacrifice of their life and a gift of their life for everyone around them to God.”
Peter Finney Jr. can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.