Eighteen accepted into the 21st Diaconate Class

Class 21 deacon candidates in formation (and spouses): Joe and Donna Arnone, Mike and Jamie Casteel, Andre and Prisca Fontcha, Juan and Zulema Garcia, Jim and Kathy Hall, Randy and Susie (not pictured) Holtman, Richard and Stephanie Isaacks, Carl and Marilyn Johnson, Julio and Joselina (not pictured Lara, Corey and Sonja Morgan, Mark Nold, Juan and Claudia Rodriguez, Raymundo and Onelys Sanchez, Jordan and Jessie Schiele, Rick and Amy (not pictured) Schwind, Dave and Becky Talken, Sergio and Mariana Diaz Ulloa, Sal and Beth Valldeperas.

By Marty Denzer
Catholic Key Associate Editor

KANSAS CITY — In the beginning there were seven, chosen by the Apostles, in the first year after the birth of the Church at Pentecost, to serve and care for the poor, pray, preach and help spread the Gospel when the Apostles were unavailable. Those men, including St. Stephen, the first deacon, were charged with the feeding and distributing charity to Greek widows and other downtrodden people living in or near Jerusalem. The word “deacon” comes from the Greek diakonos, meaning “servant.”

Around the fifth century, a decline in numbers of deacons was noted. By the Middle Ages, the only Catholic men serving as deacons were those in their final year of study for the priesthood. It wasn’t until 1967, following the Second Vatican Council (1962-65) that Pope Paul VI called for the reinstatement of the permanent diaconate in the Catholic Church. In May 1968, the U.S. bishops petitioned the Holy See to authorize restoration of the diaconate in America, in order to complete the hierarchy of the sacred orders, enrich and strengthen the ministries of the diaconate and to enlist a new group of competent men in the active ministry of the Church, among other goals. The Pope agreed to their petition in Sept. 1968.

In the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, diaconal formation was ongoing until 1984, when it was discontinued. Formation and ordination of permanent deacons was reinstated in 1998. The formation program gradually expanded to four and one-half years of formation, plus ongoing post-ordination formation, a big change in the diaconate compared with pre-1984.

According to Deacon Paul Muller, Director of the diocesan Diaconate Program, there are 74 deacons in the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph. He said there are 50 Deacons in active ministry, 5 Deacons of retirement age but with the approval of Bishop James Johnston, Jr. are still active in some ministries, 14 Deacons fully retired, 4 Deacons on loan to other Dioceses and 1 Deacon who is inactive but not yet retired.

On June 22, 18 aspiring deacons of the class of 2021 were accepted by Bishop Johnston, during the Rite of Candidacy at St. Patrick Church in Kansas City. In prayer before the Liturgy of the Word, he asked that the candidates would “be ardent, yet gentle, ministers of the Gospel.”

The First Reading, Jeremiah 1: 4 – 9, fittingly says, “… But the Lord answered me, “Do not say ‘I am too young.’ To whomever I send you, you shall go, whatever I command you, you shall speak. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you …” Then the Lord extended his hand and touched my mouth, saying to me, “See I place my words in your mouth!”

And the Gospel, Matthew 9: 35 – 38,  reminds, “Jesus went around to all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and curing every disease and illness. At the sight of the crowds, his heart was moved with pity for them because they were troubled and abandoned, like sheep without a shepherd.  Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is abundant, but the laborers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest.”

Before reading the “very instructive homily” for the Rite of Candidacy, Bishop Johnston spent a few moments speaking to the aspirants in his own words. He harkened back to the Gospel reading saying, “First, I want to express a word of gratitude. Jesus, in the Gospel, implored us to seek laborers for the harvest and the great work of his kingdom. You 18 aspirants here for candidacy are in part, an answer to a prayer! Thank you for attending to God’s call in your life and responding with faith … I know you responded with some trepidation, maybe some hesitancy, aware of your own weaknesses. … thinking, ‘I’m not sure I have what it takes but I believe God is calling me nonetheless and will give me gifts to use.’ And so, you responded with faith, with hope and with love to the Lord’s calling.”

Raymundo and Onelys Sanchez followed by Joe and Donna Arnone enter the church as the RIte of Candidacy begins. (Marty Denzer/Key photo)

“God’s call, what we refer to as a vocation, is a mysterious thing. A vocation emerges in our lives at time and in ways we cannot fully explain, which is way it needs testing, it needs time and why it must advance through stages.” He offered the analogy of climbing a great mountain. “We know from the great mountains that are climbed, in order to do so, it must be done in stages. and very often mountain climbers will go up to what can be called the first base camp making the next part of the climb. You might say that in your journey to your vocation, this is getting to first base camp before making the next leg of your journey.

“…The journey is not without risks. … Think of St. Stephen, the first deacon, who was stoned to death. Being a deacon could get you killed in the first centuries. Think of St. Lawrence of Rome. Think of others who weren’t deacons, like St. Thomas More and St. John Fisher, the only bishop in England who would not succumb to King Henry VIII’s wishes. We celebrate their feast day today (June 22). And there are martyrs for their faith today, in China.

“It’s important to realize when you follow Jesus, there is a certain amount of risk, danger if you take him seriously, because Jesus came into this world to supplant the kingdom, the kingdom of the world, and inaugurate the new kingdom, the kingdom of God. Jesus Christ is the Way, the Truth and the Life. That’s what’s so attractive about … his kingdom.

“So, brothers, as you reach the first base camp, we are grateful for your faith, for your courage, and for your desire to serve the son of God, Jesus of Nazareth.” Bishop Johnston then read the rest of the Homily for the Rite of Candidacy.

The homily was followed by the Calling, Examination and Acceptance of the Candidates. As their families and friends watched, the men were called and questioned by the bishop as to their willingness and readiness to serve as required of them. All answered, “I do.”

Permanent deacons are ordained ministers of the Catholic Church who exercise a ministry of liturgy, word and charity. Deacons are ordained as a sacramental sign to the Church and to the world, of Christ, who came “to serve and not to be served.” The entire Church is called to serve, and in virtue of his sacramental ordination and through his ministries, the deacon is to be a servant in a servant-church. Many earn faculties to preach homilies at Mass. Preaching by deacons at Mass has increased in recent years Deacons serve in parishes, hospitals and diocesan agencies, among other areas. Many continue to work full-time jobs and balance family lives and professions with their ministry as a deacon.

The Candidates are:

Joe Arnone, Nativity of Mary Parish
Mike Casteel, St. Gregory Barbarigo Parish
Andre Fontcha, St. James Parish, Kansas City
Juan Garcia, St. Mark’s Parish
Jim Hall, Twelve Apostles Parish
Randy Holtman, St. Gregory Barbarigo Parish
Richard Isaack, St. John LaLande Parish
Carl Johnson, Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish
Julio Lara, St. Anthony Parish
Mark Nold, St. Aloysius Parish, Maysville
Jordan Schiele, St. Anthony Parish
Rick Schwind, Church of the Good Shepherd Parish
David Talken, St. Margaret of Scotland Parish
Sal Valldeperas, Visitation Parish
Raymundo Sanchez
Sergio Ulloa,
Holy Cross Parish
Corey Morgan, St. Sabina Parish
Juan Rodriguez, St. James Parish, Liberty

Deacon Muller said later that if all continue the 18 candidates will be ordained permanent deacons on June 11, 2022.

A reception followed in the church hall.

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Friday
July 19, 2019
Newspaper of the Diocese of Kansas City ~ St. Joseph