Diocesan deacons ordained in Rome

VATICAN CITY - Archbishop John J. Myers of Newark, N.J., ordained 33 men from the Pontifical North American College to the diaconate Oct. 4 in St. Peter's Basilica.

Hundreds of family members, friends and students filled the pews at the Altar of the Chair in St. Peter's as they watched the joy-filled liturgy rich in symbolic tradition.

Those attending the Mass included U.S. Cardinal Edwin F. O'Brien, grand master of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulcher of Jerusalem and a former rector of the U.S. seminary in Rome; a number of U.S. bishops; and John McCarthy, who has been named Australia's ambassador to the Vatican.

Two of the new deacons studying at the college are Australians and were ordained for the Archdiocese of Sydney. The 31 Americans were ordained for 29 different dioceses across the United States, including Nicholas Barnes and Brendan Bartlett from the Arlington Diocese.

The men processed into the basilica to the sounds of the "Laudate Dominum" ("Praise the Lord").

Archbishop Myers, a former student at the college and chairman of its board of governors, delivered the homily.

He recalled being in Rome during the last sessions of the Second Vatican Council, which, he said, put renewed emphasis on the Word of God, which the new deacons will be called upon to preach and explain.

"We Catholics did not always value the Word of God as we should have. The Second Vatican Council and the authentic renewal to which the Holy Spirit called the church changed that," he said.

Those who are called to serve the church as ordained ministers are part of "a great office" whose limits are set "by our failure to love as Jesus loved," he said.

"Who we are and what we have become is like a 'sounding board' against which the word of God reverberates. We must always remember that it is God's word and not our own," he said.

The reality of being human means being "limited, weak and sinful," and therefore, the church's ministers must remember they are dependent on God's help for fulfilling their mission. They must stay "in contact with the living and public proclamation of the church," he said.

That kind of contact with the living presence of the Lord, with the church's living faith and traditions, "purifies and corrects" the minister's experience, he said. As God's servants are personally transformed, so too will those they serve.

During the ceremony, the deacon candidates made the promises of celibacy, prayer, and obedience. All the new deacons are preparing for ordination to the priesthood.

Several family members in the pews wiped tears from their eyes when the candidates went one by one to the bishop, knelt before him and placed their hands between the hands of the archbishop during their promise of obedience.

The men then prostrated themselves on the floor, in a sign of humility and prayer, as the congregation knelt and sang the litany of the saints.

After the men were ordained deacons, they put on a deacon's stole and vestment called the dalmatic.

The ordination Mass was held on the feast of St. Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of the college's deacon class of 2012. In his homily, Archbishop Myers said the way St. Francis lived his life "helped the word come alive in people's hearts and minds and lives."

He said what St. Francis said then is "timeless and appropriate for each of us today: 'Preach the Gospel at all times, and when necessary, use words.'"

© Arlington Catholic Herald 1970