In the left side of the photo, diaconate candidates stand before being called to the altar for institution as lectors. Seated in the right side of the photo are the diaconate candidates who received their admission to candidacy. Photo by Sarah Routh.

23 Diaconate candidates take steps towards becoming Deacons

Originally Appeared in : 9826-12/20/18
A total of 23 men from around the Diocese of Savannah gathered in the front pews at Immaculate Conception Church in Dublin for a Mass celebrated by Bishop Gregory J. Hartmayer, OFM Conv. Dec. 8. 
Diaconate Formation in the Diocese of Savannah is a five-year program which is divided into three phases. The first year is intended for discernment and prayer to determine whether the candidate is fully prepared to pledge to serve as a deacon. Those selected to continue the process after the first year will complete three years of academic studies through St. Leo University. The classes are conducted one weekend per month in Dublin in addition to a summer internship during each of those years. In their fifth year, candidates study pastoral formation and practicum. Once all requirements are met, the candidates are ordained by Bishop Hartmayer.
The group is led by Deacon Kelley Culver who is a permanent deacon in St. Michael Church in Fort Gordon and serves as the Director of Diaconate Formation for the Diocese of Savannah.
“Today is an installation for two of the classes . . . one to candidacy, their first real step if they finish their aspirancy here . . . they’re in their second year,” said Deacon Culver. “The other group is finishing their third year of diaconate, so they’ll be installed as lector, the first of the ministries that they’re installed. In a year they’ll be installed into the ministry of acolyte.”
Eleven men were installed for admission to candidacy, meaning they received a formal acceptance of their candidacy from the Church. The Diaconate Formation Class of 2022 includes: Daniel Gillian; Miguel Gutierrez; William Johansen; John Leonard; JJ McKinney; Joseph Mullins; Jesse Murga; Tony Romero; Chris Sadowski; Van Truong; and Philip Wehner.
Twelve men were installed as lectors, differentiating them from the typical reader because they are officially assigned to read the readings in a permanent way. The Diaconate Class of 2020 includes: Ben Ernst; Robert Fritts; Mark Girardeau; John Johnson; Kevin Knight; Keith Liner; Orlando Lopez-Camuy; Terrance Mermann; Mario Rabusin; DeWayne Tillman; Hoang Tran; and Eric Windmoller.
Prior to the installations, Bishop Hartmayer delivered a homily in which he expressed his gratitude to the wives and children of the candidates.
“Your role is vital in the preparation and the effectiveness of your husband and your father’s formation,” Bishop Hartmayer said.  “Your loving and prayerful support will only strengthen your husband and your father’s perseverance and further discernment of his vocation to the office of Deacon.”
Bishop Hartmayer then addressed the candidates and recognized the work and sacrifice that goes along with the formation process.
“As your Bishop I can’t be any happier to see you come forth and stand when your name is called to say I am present, I am here, I am answering the call I feel in my heart I have received and to continue in the work, grace of formation and discernment as the years continue,” said Bishop Hartmayer. “Perhaps more than ever before, the Church needs you.”
John Johnson of St. Teresa Church in Albany is a member of the Diaconate Class of 2020 and was installed as Lector during the Mass. Johnson expressed his gratitude for the gift of the diaconate ministry and his eagerness to serve.
“I consider the [diaconate] formation a journey toward betterment of my faith . . . it’s grown stronger throughout the months and years, especially from time spent with my brothers in the class,” Johnson said. “I’m honored to have been chosen for this particular ministry and will always do my best.”
Deacons from throughout the Diocese who were ordained May 19, 2018 were present and spoke on their decision to become deacons, discussed their favorite part of the calling, and offered advice for the candidates.
“I wanted to thank the Lord and give my life to the Lord in thanksgiving for all the blessings he’s given me,” said Deacon Bernie Bosse from St. Mary’s Church in Americus. “Have faith in the Lord and let him guide you in your ministries and your life and you’ll be in good hands.”
Deacon Reginald Russell from St. Peter Claver Church in Macon said, “I was raised in this diocese, I’m from Macon, and I’ve always served the church and I’ve always felt that there was something more that I could do to contribute to the Body of Christ, the people of God.”
“My favorite part of being a deacon is reading the Gospel and preaching because when I’m reading the Gospel those are the actual words of Jesus, so I like to make sure that when I read, they understand it’s not me . . . it’s the Lord himself who’s speaking,” said Russell.
Sarah Dixon Routh is a frequent freelance contributor to the Southern Cross. She and her husband, Lehman, are members of Immaculate Conception Church, Dublin.
Watch a video of the installation below:

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