On ordination day, bishop calls deacons to life of service

| Jonathan Liedl | December 7, 2015 | 1 Comment
From left, Michael Kraemer, Tim Hennessey, Paul Buck, John Shearer, Martin Meyer, Kim Jensen and Eric Gunderson listen to Bishop Andrew Cozzens talk about their ministry as deacons during the ordination Mass. Dave Hrbacek/The Catholic Spirit

From left, Michael Kraemer, Tim Hennessey, Paul Buck, John Shearer, Martin Meyer, Kim Jensen and Eric Gunderson listen to Bishop Andrew Cozzens talk about their ministry as deacons during the ordination Mass. Dave Hrbacek/The Catholic Spirit

With family and friends filling the pews of the Cathedral of St. Paul in St. Paul Dec. 5, seven men were ordained permanent deacons for the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.

The Mass was one of joy and thanksgiving, but it also prompted sober reflection on the large responsibilities given to the newly ordained, who join about 175 other permanent deacons in the archdiocese.

“The purpose of this ordination is to allow you to give your life as a ransom for the Church, to allow your life to be taken by God and used as he desires,” said Bishop Andrew Cozzens, the archdiocese’s auxiliary bishop, during his homily.

Ordained were Paul Buck of St. Henry, Monticello; Eric Gunderson of Epiphany, Coon Rapids; Tim Hennessey of St. John the Evangelist, Little Canada; Kim Jensen of St. Stephen, Anoka; Michael Kraemer of St. Alphonsus, Brooklyn Center; Martin Meyer of Mary, Mother of the Church, Burnsville; and John Shearer of St. Agnes, St. Paul.

The permanent diaconate ordination was the archdiocese’s first since 2010, following a restructuring of the local formation process.

Permanent deacons are ordained ministers who may be married prior to ordination and, unlike transitional deacons, are not preparing to enter the priesthood.

Bishop Cozzens explained that upon being ordained, deacons participate in a special way in Christ’s “diakonia,” or ministry of service.

This includes serving at the altar during Mass, which Bishop Cozzens encouraged the new deacons to do as often as possible.

“Only exceptional reasons should keep you from serving at the altar at daily Mass,” he said, reminding those gathered that the first seven men ordained in the Acts of the Apostles were selected to serve at the table.

The new deacons were also called upon to be “heralds of the Gospel” and to serve the poor and the sick on behalf of all the faithful, but also not to forget their responsibilities to their wives and children.

“In fact, this should be the first place you fulfill your mission,” Bishop Cozzens said of the deacon’s home.

The bishop also reminded the ordained of their “grave responsibility” to live a life of virtue in accordance with Christ’s will. Doing so would allow them to be pliable instruments in the Lord’s hands, he said, inspiring others to sanctity. Failing in this regard, he added, could cause scandal and lead the flock astray.

The bishop’s call for self-giving service took shape symbolically when the candidates lay prostrate on the floor before the altar during the litany of the saints. Soon after, they knelt before Bishop Cozzens, promised him obedience, and were ordained to the diaconate as the bishop laid hands upon them.

“I’m glad that he [Bishop Cozzens] is holding us to high standards,” said Deacon Jensen, who, along with the other new deacons, will continue with six more months of diaconate formation. “It sets the bar high for us, and I want it to be like that.”

But new deacons also acknowledged that the way forward won’t necessarily be easy, and they won’t be relying upon their strength alone.

“I know there will be sacrifices for Christ and his Church, so I need to pray a lot and stay close to Christ,” Deacon Buck said. “This is his Church and his diaconate, and I’m here to serve him in whatever capacity.”

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  • Charles C.

    I’ve always wondered why there was an age limit on entering the formation program. It would seem that a case by case determination would be the way to go.