Thirteen men, diaconate candidates, lay prostrate on the floor before the altar in the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, Savannah, during the Ordination liturgy and Mass offered by BIshop Gregory J. Hartmayer, OFM Conv. May 19. Photograph by Paul H. Camp
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Thirteen men ordained to the Order of Deacon for ministry in the parishes of the Diocese of Savannah

Originally Appeared in : 9811-5/24/18

Bishop Hartmayer’s homily for the Diaconate Ordination 2018

 

My dear brothers and sisters, today, the Diocese of Savannah is blessed to have 13 candidates presenting themselves to be ordained to the Order of Deacon.

 

I welcome Bishop Boland, the priests, deacons, consecrated religious, seminarians, family and friends of these candidates and all who have come here to witness this joyful celebration.

 

I would like to especially welcome Father Gabriel, Rector of St. John the Baptist Cathedral in Gboko Diocese in Nigeria and Father Augustine, Secretary of Catholic Education for the same diocese in Nigeria who have come here as the representatives of Bishop William Avenya, the bishop of Gboko, Nigeria. Also, I welcome Father Alfredo Hernandez, the Academic Dean of St. Vincent de Paul Regional Seminary in Boynton Beach, Florida.

 

My dear candidates, at first there were seven who were first prayed over and then had hands imposed on them. Luke goes on to say, “the Word of God continued to spread, while at the same time the number of disciples in Jerusalem enormously increased.”

 

And as you know, Stephen, one of the seven deacons, was stoned to death outside the walls of Jerusalem because he was a disciple of Jesus Christ.

 

The Apostles assured the first deacons that when they act out of love, the Spirit of God will be with them in their struggles to find the words and the courage to confront evil and hurt, to challenge those who threaten to harm them and those they loved.

 

All of us have seen this kind of perseverance: in parents who continue to love their sons and daughters despite the messes they make of their lives; in couples who will not quit on each other but work together to mend their marriages; in those quiet, committed souls who do their jobs conscientiously not because of the money or demanding supervisors but because they know their work matters.

 

The Order of Deacon provides you and the Church an opportunity to benefit from the Grace of the Sacrament.

 

The Church needs your diaconal ministry just as it required that of St. Stephen and the other deacons in the early days of the Church.

 

The diaconal ministry of Stephen helped to prevent the exclusion of the poor widows and children, an exclusion that was taking place on the basis of a difference in culture and language in society, and it was affecting the life of the Church through unawareness and insensitivity of its human membership.

 

My dear Sons, we are faced with the same challenge and the same need for diaconal ministry where the busyness of our society often propels us towards basic insensitivity and unawareness. This, too, often leads to our own adoption of a passive attitude whereby people become simply problems that are insoluble on their own terms.

 

Jesus uses diaconal ministry to save us from abandoning people because they are misunderstood by us as problems that are too difficult for us to resolve on our own terms.

 

My brothers, the Servant of Jesus is not primarily a psychologist, social worker or counselor. The Servant of Jesus is one who, like his master, goes out to the poor, the lowly, the rejected, those in the shadow of death.

 

And he does so, not at a distance, but through identification: He becomes poor with the poor; he suffers with those who suffer; he enters into the hopelessness of the desperate in order to convince them that ‘nothings can ever come between them and the love of Jesus Christ.

 

As Pope Francis reminds us in Evangelii Gaudium:

“Any Church community, if it thinks it can comfortably go its own way without creative concern and effective cooperation in helping the poor to live with dignity and reaching out to everyone, will also risk breaking down, however much it may talk about social issues or criticize governments. It will easily drift into a spiritual worldliness camouflaged by religious practices, unproductive meetings and empty talk.”

 

Peter and Theodore, while today you are ordained a deacon so that you might make the transition towards priesthood, the diaconal quality of your ministry, namely, care for the poor, care for those persons in the margins, care for those persons overlooked, care for those who suffer violence, concern for those without a clear voice, care for persons threatened by isolation and exclusion from the common good because of existing differences in language and culture is not transitional in the sense that it never goes away.

 

Despite its transitional character, your diaconal ordination has its own unique integrity that will be necessary for your future priestly ministry. The diaconal ordination will strengthen you in the command of Our Lord “to serve and not be served” that must imbue your personal character, your human formation and your priestly identity so that Christ’s Grace more clearly might be seen in the administration of the sacraments and not obscured by the seduction of entitlement.

 

Today, Peter and Theodore, you will also make a solemn vow to live a celibate life: to share your love with Christ and his Church. Be generous with your love but be strong and chaste. Call upon Mary, the virgin mother of God and Joseph, her most chaste spouse, and do not forget their example of faith and courage. Mary simply said, even in her moment of doubt and uncertainty, “I am the servant of the Lord”.

 

All 13 of you will become ministers of the altar. You will proclaim the Gospel, prepare the sacrifice and distribute the Lord’s Body and Blood to the faithful.

 

Furthermore, it will be your duty, at the bishop’s direction, to exhort believers and unbelievers alike and to instruct them in holy doctrine. You will preside over public prayer, administer Baptisms and assist and bless Marriages, bring the Eucharist to the dying and conduct funeral rites.

 

During the ordination rite, you will promise to celebrate the Liturgy of Hours ‘for the Church and for the whole world.’ You cannot be a servant in the spirit of Jesus unless you ‘pray constantly,’ unless you give yourself to a regular contemplation of the beauty that has appeared in the incarnation.

 

In praying the Liturgy of Hours, day in and day out, you will be drawn into intimacy with the Lord. You will find yourself more and more conformed to the image of Christ.

 

My dear Sons, prayer is not optional for Jesus’ minister. It is your lifeblood, your source of inspiration; it is an indispensable support. If, throughout your life, you want to be a minister who radiates the message of the Gospel... never stop praying.

 

You are called to proclaim the Gospel and help people hear the story as their own, using the particular gifts God has given you. Connect life to faith. Proclaim the gospel from your heart, your strength and your experience. Saint Paul reminds us “to use our different gifts in accordance with the Grace that God has given us.”

 

The love that you share with the People of God is the same love that Christ offered you in giving you a vocation. Never doubt that it is Christ who has called you, it is He who has chosen you... not you who has first chosen Him. This love you know intimately...He offers it to you on a daily basis through the Grace of your ordination.

 

May God who has begun this good work in you, bring it to fulfillment.

 

See pages 8&9 for more photographs from the Ordination. A gallery is also available online here.

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