By Kevin Kelly
Catholic Key Associate Editor
ST. JOSEPH — It’s not that they had no choice or free will, Bishop Robert W. Finn told four new transitional deacons and the congregation that witnessed their ordinations May 18 at the Co-Cathedral of St. Joseph.
But it was still Jesus who chose them to be his ordained servants, and theirs was the faith-filled response: “Yes.”
“Today, we pray earnestly with and for these four men,” Bishop Finn told the congregation who came to witness the ordinations to the transitional diaconate — a major step toward priestly ordination in another year — of John Fitzpatrick, Leonard Gicheru, Daniel Gill, and Eric Schneider.
“God has called them from eternity, but Jesus is choosing them now, today, through his church,” Bishop Finn said.
“Their consecration within the Sacrament of Holy Orders begins as he appoints them for a mission that will require their entire lives,” he said. “And we know that Jesus is going to fortify them with nothing less than his friendship, his love and his supernatural grace.”
Bishop Finn especially thanked the families of the men for helping them hear and respond to the vocation God has called them.
“Faith has been at work throughout the lives of these men, and their families have special joy in seeing their sons and brothers come forward,” Bishop Finn said.
He also reminded the soon-to-be ordained that God will continue to be with them every step of the way.
“God has readied you with his grace for this moment,” Bishop Finn said.
“You have studied and prepared. You are men of prayer. You have lived with integrity and faithfulness. You have exercised charity,” he said.
“Your lives are about to be changed forever as you receive a new sacrament, Holy Orders, in the rank of deacon,” Bishop Finn said.
“For you, today is a vital step toward priesthood, and yet even when — please, God — you are ordained to the priesthood, you will always be deacons,” the bishop said. “We must never forget that we are ‘diaconos,’ servants of God and heralds of the Gospel.”
The diaconate is its own special call, Bishop Finn said. It is one of service at the altar in proclaiming the word, and in one of performing acts of charity in the name of the bishop and pastor.
And it is a call that must be done “in such a way that you will recognize them as disciples of Him who came not to be served, but to serve,” Bishop Finn said, quoting the text of the Rite of Ordination of a Deacon.
“Dear friends,” Bishop Finn urged the congregation, “pray for our brothers that they may persevere in this call.
“Knowing that this ordination to the diaconate begins their final preparation for ordination to the priesthood, pray that they may carry out their duties in a way that they will grow 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.
Bishop Finn urged the four men to stay close to Jesus through prayer and the sacraments.
“Nourish yourself daily with God’s Word given to us not only in the Sacred Scriptures but also in the church’s magisterium,” he said.
“Fortify yourself with the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, offered up to us in the Eucharist,” the bishop said.
“Meet the Lord frequently in the Sacrament of Penance. This is so important if you are to grow in the holiness required of your sacred ministry,” the bishop said.
“Pray each day the Liturgy of the Hours for the salvation of the entire world,” he said.
“Let your devotion to Mary, our mother and queen, and to St. Joseph, patron of the Universal Church, and all your 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.