It has been almost a year since I was embraced by the Church in the Sacrament of Holy Orders. On May 24, 2014, I was ordained a Permanent Deacon through the laying on of hands by our Bishop James V. Johnston. The Sacrament was made even more special in that it took place in my home parish of Our Lady of the Lake in Branson, Missouri with my parish community present. A personal discernment journey that began in 1992 transitioned into action and acceptance into formal formation in August 2008, and provided its first fruit with my ordination in May 2014. Since then, I have continued with my one-year obligation of post ordination studies. Of course, in reality, our faith formation never has an end – it is a life-long journey.
I have received many blessings of thanksgiving over this neophyte year. I have been busy assisting Father Rick Jones, pastor of Our Lady of the Lake Catholic Parish, in a variety of ways and am blessed to often take part in the celebration of Masses and assist in the administration of the parish.
Among the many blessings that have come my way was a trip to Italy last August. While there, I was able to assist at Mass every day and even gave two homilies. Another special part of that trip was a visit to the Vatican to view the incorrupt body of Pope St. Pius X, the patron saint of the Springfield-Cape Girardeau diocese.
Locally, a highlight of my first year as a Deacon came about this past December, when I was privileged to assist Bishop James V. Johnston at the dedication Mass for the newly rebuilt St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Joplin, Missouri, after the original church was destroyed by a tornado in 2011. Other joys include; I have assisted at four weddings, with the first being that of my college-aged Godchild, who was received into the Church on Easter 2014 and married the week-end following my ordination. And, I have baptized seven children, comforted a few families with vigil rosaries for their deceased loved ones, and had the tearful honor of serving and giving the homily for my own father upon his death on All Souls Day.
I have been asked on more than one occasion what moved me to answer God’s call to the permanent diaconate. I tell people it took God’s never ending love, his gentle whisper, and one strong bolt before I finally felt worthy to say “yes”. The funny thing is, one never feels worthy to answer God’s call. God doesn’t call for perfection in the person. He will perfect the called. It is prayer that moved me to the diaconate; not in the sense that I was praying for a response from God, but the joy I could offer up in prayer on behalf of my parish family and all of God’s people asking for prayers. As a Deacon, I have the privilege to bring the prayer petitions of the people to God at each Sacrifice of the Mass. I can’t think of a greater honor.
It took this stubborn person 16 years before saying yes to the possibility of being an ordained servant of the Church. Fortunately for me, God has patience. I am still a work-in-progress and I always will be, but I promise the Church to run the good race.
In closing, I ask you to keep in prayer all of our men and women who are discerning a consecrated life to the Church, including our 16 seminarians for the priesthood and our six men who are currently in formation to the permanent diaconate. May God continue to grant them peace, fortitude and grace.