Celebrating a solemn Mass of Ordination to the Diaconate at St. Patrick Cathedral in Harrisburg on Nov. 5, Bishop Ronald Gainer told the two seminarians receiving the sacrament that as they take on the threefold service of ministry of the Word, of the Altar and of Charity, their personal holiness is indispensable.
“Recall the words Jesus spoke to his disciples at the Last Supper, proclaimed in today’s Gospel: ‘You are my friends if you do what I command you. I chose you; you did not choose me. I appointed you to go and bear fruit that will last,’” he told Matthew Morelli and Peter Quach, addressing them during the homily.
“This friendship with Jesus, which he has initiated and to which he has called you, must be the heart and the goal of your personal holiness,” the bishop said.
Deacon Morelli is a native of St. Joan of Arc Parish in Hershey, and Deacon Quach is a member of Holy Family Parish in Harrisburg. As they prepare, God willing, for ordination to the priesthood next spring, they will serve in their diaconal ministry where they have been canonically assigned: Deacon Morelli at St. Patrick Parish in Carlisle, and Deacon Quach at St. Joseph Parish in Mechanicsburg.
The order of deacons can be traced to the Acts of the Apostles, to several young men chosen to correct the injustice of an unequal distribution of food for those in need. Today, deacons assist in the Ministry of the Word, the Ministry of the Altar and the Ministry of Charity; offer instruction on the Church’s doctrine, preside over public prayer, baptize, assist at marriages, bring viaticum to the dying, and conduct the funeral rites of the Church.
“By the grace of this sacrament, the deacon is empowered to incarnate that Christ-like service in his own life, and to challenge the rest of us to serve more authentically, more willingly,” the bishop said. Addressing the candidates, he told them, “You will exercise this sacred ministry in a transitional way as you continue your formation toward ordination to the sacred priesthood, but this commission to selfless service must abide with you always.”
Receiving this sacrament, the new deacons also embrace the state of celibacy, which, the bishop said, must be understood in the context of the virtue of chastity.
Celibacy is freely embracing a life of chastity, he said. “It does not mean that you live the rest of your lives as a solitary figure, aloof and detached from human relationships,” he told the candidates. “Rather, as one who desires to grow in Christ’s love and to radiate that love, you are determined to allow the selfless, chaste love of Christ to govern all your relationships.
“Today, you are being given the capacity to perform the diaconal ministry through sacred ordination,” Bishop Gainer told them. “However, the manner in which you exercise your ministry will, in large part, depend upon your personal holiness.”
Deacon Morelli and Deacon Quach are completing their formation at Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, Md., and St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Overbrook, Pa., respectively.
By Jen Reed, The Catholic Witness