For Deacon Jayson Becker the journey’s end is in sight

Newly ordained Deacon Jayson Becker, assists Bishop James Johnston, Jr., toward the conclusion of the Liturgy of the Eucharist, Dec. 18, at St. Thomas More Church. Also at the altar is Father Adam Johnson, diocesan Vocations Director. (Marty Denzer/Key photo)

By Marty Denzer
Catholic Key Associate Editor

KANSAS CITY — As the mid-December sun went down over south Kansas City, cars filled St. Thomas More Church’s parking lot and their occupants filled the church to celebrate both the annual gathering of the Serra Club and the ordination of seminarian Jayson David Sebastian Becker to the Transitional Diaconate. Christmas Day was one week away and joy filled the church Dec. 18.

Deacon Jayson was thrilled to be elevated to the diaconate at the Serran gathering; “They walk with us, seminarians,” he said, “the whole way to ordination. So, it was fitting.”

A native of Muscatine, Iowa, in the Quad Cities area on the state’s eastern edge, he grew up in what he described as a “loving Catholic home,” with a family who often prayed the rosary together. He recalled getting the first inkling that he was being called to the priesthood at age 9 or 10, but not spending much time thinking about it. Jayson grew up, graduated from high school and began working. He was also dating. He fell in love, proposed and was accepted. “All was going along smoothly until we sat down to set the date.” He linked his hands together, then slowly pulled them apart. “The relationship just sort of dissolved.”

Over the next years, he resumed dating and fell in love twice more, got engaged twice more and both times, the “relationship dissolved.” Jayson “went on a dating fast, and got back in touch with God. That’s when I heard him call me again to the priesthood.” But he still wasn’t completely sure.

He enrolled at Western Illinois University, a non-traditional student who worked full-time while going to school, and graduated in 2007. While serving as a deputy first-responder, he answered an emergency call, slipped on ice and broke his leg in five places. “I was in a cast from hip to ankle, so there wasn’t a whole lot I could do. I asked my dad to run by my place and get my Bible, so I could read it.”

While all this was happening, Jayson’s aunt, Franciscan Sister Mary Joseph of Peoria, Ill., died. “After she died, out of the blue one day I heard her say to me, ’One day you’ll have to answer to God for not answering his call!’” That was in 2009. He dithered a bit more, then made up his mind. In early 2010, the 38-year-old entered Mount St. Mary’s Seminary, intending to be a priest for the Diocese of Peoria. But as he attended classes, prayed and meditated, something didn’t feel right.

“I went on a Rosary Walk,” he said, “and told Mary, ‘You know me better than anyone else. Tell me what I should do, and I’ll follow your guidance.’” He waited for an answer, and it wasn’t long before it came. An aunt in Lee’s Summit wrote Jayson and suggested he check out the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph and its then-vocation director, Father Richard Rocha, and then-administrative director, Father Greg Lockwood.

Jayson drove to Kansas City, met with Fathers Rocha and Lockwood, and that summer left “lickety split” for Holy Apostles Seminary in Cromwell, Conn., the seminary to which this diocese sends older seminarians. There he met seminarians Timothy Leete and William Fox, who were ordained to the Transitional Diaconate in May 2017.

Deacons Leete and Fox assisted Bishop Johnston at Jayson’s ordination to the Transitional Diaconate, and numerous priests and seminarians were also in attendance. Although as yet unvested, Jayson was seated near the priests in the pews for the first part of the Mass.

Bishop Johnston lays hands on the candidate’s head in ordaining him Deacon.

As well as Jayson’s family and friends and the Serrans, members of the Knights and Dames of Malta, the Knights and Ladies of the Holy Sepulcher, Knights of Columbus and the Knights of Peter Claver were also in attendance.

Father Adam Johnson, now diocesan Vocations Director, presented the candidate to the Bishop, who questioned him, and then announced that Jayson was chosen for the Order of the Diaconate.

While Jayson lay prostrate on the floor, the Litany of the Supplication was sung.

The Bishop explained the Deacon’s role — “helping the bishop and his priests in the ministries of the Word, of the altar and of charity — showing themselves … servants to all.” As such, he will proclaim the Gospel, prepare the sacrifice, and distribute the Body and Blood to the faithful. He will, at the bishop’s direction, instruct people in holy doctrine, preside over public prayer, administer Baptism, assist at and bless marriages, bring Viaticum to the dying, conduct funeral rites and perform works of charity in the bishop’s or pastor’s name. With God’s help, he will go about all his duties in such a way that he is recognized as a disciple of him who came not to be served, but to serve.”

Jayson was admonished to “exercise your ministry committed to the celibate state … Compelled by the sincere love of Christ, living this state with total dedication, you will bring yourself more closely to Christ, with an undivided heart. You will free yourself more completely for the service of God and man and minister more effectively the work of spiritual rebirth. Firmly rooted and grounded in faith, you are to show yourselves chaste and beyond reproach before God and man, as is proper for the ministers of Christ and stewards of God’s mysteries.”

Following the ancient ritual, Bishop Johnston laid his hands on Jayson’s head, consecrating him with the Prayer of Ordination, then Deacon Jayson was vested in the stole, worn over the left shoulder, and the dalmatic, by his father, Deacon James L. Becker of Muscatine, Iowa. The new deacon knelt before Bishop Johnston, who handed the Book of the Gospels to him, reminding him: “Receive the Lord whose herald you have become. Believe what you read. Teach what you believe. Practice what you teach.”

Deacon Jayson then proceeded to assist at Mass.

The annual Serran dinner and a reception for the new Deacon followed in the parish hall.

Deacon Jayson later said he is “tickled, delighted to be a part of this diocese, and humbled by the way God works. I am content and excited to be finishing up at Holy Apostles.” Deacons Leete and Fox are also returning to Holy Apostles to complete their final semester. All three anticipate being ordained priests this coming May.

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Monday
July 16, 2018
Newspaper of the Diocese of Kansas City ~ St. Joseph