Catholic Key Associate Editor
KANSAS CITY — This was only the opening act.
On May 21, Bishop Robert W. Finn ordained four men to the transitional diaconate at St. Thomas More Parish.
Next fall and winter, as many as four more men will be ready for the same ordination to a last, major step before ordination to the priesthood.
And next year, they could all be ordained to the priesthood, marking the largest number in decades of ordinations to the diocesan priesthood in a single year.
This day, however, belonged to newly ordained deacons Kevin Drew, Benjamin Kneib, Ian Murphy and Sean McCaffery, Bishop Finn told a congregation that numbered in the hundreds for the 90-minute liturgy.
And the bishop was assisted at the altar by Deacon Louis Farley, exactly one week to the hour before his ordination to the priesthood on May 28.
“We have heard their names: Kevin, Benjamin, Sean, Ian,” Bishop Finn told the congregation in his homily. “They have stood before us, ‘present,’ to indicate their readiness to serve. I have claimed them for the church in the name of Jesus Christ, and you have confirmed that call, ‘Thanks be to God.’”
Though this ordination differs from ordination to the permanent diaconate in that it is a transition to the priesthood, Bishop Finn told the four men and the congregation that there is nothing temporary about the ordination or the rank of deacon.
“Your lives are about to be changed forever as you receive a new sacrament, Holy Orders, in the rank of deacon,” he said. “The blessed grace of your diaconate will begin to shape you more perfectly in the image of Jesus.”
It is also a special call to which each of them were responding, Bishop Finn said.
“How is it that these four dare to come for this office in the church today except that they have heard their names called by the Lord himself,” he said.
“Kevin, Ben, Sean and Ian, from your mothers’ wombs God has known you, called you, readied you with his grace for this moment,” the bishop said.
“This is a summons to service, after the example of Jesus Christ, and you have said ‘yes’ to this extraordinary call,” he said.
Bishop Finn also reminded them that the call to serve as ordained ministers is a “privilege” and “not an acclamation of earthly greatness or status.”
“You must be, as St. Peter reminds us, ‘good stewards of God’s varied grace,’” he said, quoting from the liturgy’s second reading from 1 Peter 4: 7b-11.
“The deacon preaches ‘with the words of God.’ The deacon serves. ‘Let it be with the strength that God provides.’ The deacon is the minister of charity, and the apostle reminds us of the primacy of love in our ministry: ‘Above all,’ he says, ‘let your love for one another be intense, because love covers a multitude of sins,’” Bishop Finn said.
But it won’t always be easy, he reminded them.
“There may be moments, dear candidates, when you wonder how you will carry out these challenging responsibilities,” the bishop said.
“Keep love first,” Bishop Finn said. “While we must never neglect the work of preparing well, your generous service in sincere charity will open your heart to the Holy Spirit and he will use you well.”
He urged the men he was about to lay hands upon to “nourish yourself with God’s word, given to us not only in Sacred Scriptures, but also in the church’s magisterium” or teaching authority.
“Nourish yourself daily with the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ offered up for us in the Eucharist,” Bishop Finn said.
“Meet the Lord frequently in the Sacrament of Penance. This is so important I if you are to grow in the holiness of life required by your sacred ministry,” he said.
“Pray each day the Liturgy of the Hours for the salvation of the entire world,” the bishop said.
“Let your devotion to Mary, our mother and queen, and to St. Joseph, patron of the universal church, and all your holy patrons deepen your love for our Lord Jesus Christ. Ask them to guide you in your sacred ministry on a path toward heaven,” Bishop Finn said.
“Apply yourself to the ministry of deacon and to your remaining formation so that very soon, you will be ready to present yourself to the church for ordination to the priesthood,” he said.
Bishop Finn thanked the parents, family and friends of each of the four men “for the gift of life and faith and love that has helped our brothers hear God’s call and answer with generosity and trust.”
He also asked the entire congregation to “pray for our brothers that they may persevere in this call.”
“Knowing that this ordination begins their final preparation for ordination to the priesthood, pray that they may carry out their duties in such a way that they will grow each day in love for Jesus Christ, in love with his church, and with a greater zeal for preaching God’s word, for administering the sacraments, and for inspiring and guiding us all by sound teaching and example,” Bishop Finn said.
Deacon Kevin Drew has been assigned to assist at St. Andrew Parish in Gladstone until he returns to Kenrick Seminary in St. Louis to complete his final year of study.
Deacon Benjamin Kneib has been assigned to St. Elizabeth Parish in Kansas City until his return to Kenrick Seminary.
Deacon Sean McCaffrey has been assigned to St. Peter Parish in Kansas City.
Deacon Ian Murphy has been assigned to Co-Cathedral of St. Joseph until his return to Kenrick Seminary.