by Marc and Julie Anderson
LEAWOOD — For the 2014 class of transitional deacons, the unofficial colors were crimson and bue. Each of the five ordinandi either attend or graduated from the University of Kansas in Lawrence.
It was, as Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann noted in his homily, a proud day for the “Catholic Jayhawk nation.”
Through the ancient ceremony of the laying on of hands, Archbishop Naumann ordained Gerard Alba, Jonathon Dizon, Dan Morris, Matthew Nagle and Daniel Stover as deacons on May 17 at Curé of Ars Parish in Leawood.
Although they shared con- nections to the St. Lawrence Catholic Campus Center and the University of Kansas, at first blush they had little else in common.
One earned a doctorate in physics. Another was born and raised across the Pacific. A third served as the lead designer for the Kansas City Royals Hall of Fame. The fourth man taught world history and coached sports at a Catholic high school, and the fifth serviced annuity contracts.
In a Mass rich in symbolism, Deacon Morris singled out the Litany of the Saints as the most humbling aspect of the liturgy.
“All vocations are lived out in the context of a family or community,” said Deacon Morris. “Ultimately, this family is what we know as the communion of saints.
“During the Litany of the Saints, you feel in a particular way the presence of those who pray for and support you in your vocation — especially friends and loved ones that have gone before you. Having lost my mother, this was a very powerful moment for me.”
Deacon Nagle agreed.
“I’ve always liked that the candidates prostrate themselves before God while the church prays for them and prays [that] the saints may intercede for them,” he said.
“It has always reminded me what the sacrament of holy orders is all about: Ordination — especially ordination to the diaconate — is about laying down our lives in service to Christ’s church.”
The title “deacon” comes from a Greek word meaning “servant” or “minister.” Within the church, deacons are ordained men who assist priests in preaching, baptizing, witnessing marriages, distributing Communion and presiding at funerals. They do not hear confessions or celebrate Mass.
Deacons can be either permanent or transitional. Those headed toward ordination to the priesthood are known as transitional deacons. Tradition teaches the diaconate was established through the ordination of seven men — Stephen, Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas and Nicholas of Antioch — for the task of serving the poor and distributing alms (Acts 6:1-6).
Deacons also served at the table, preached and administered baptisms, as recorded in Acts 7:2-53 and Acts 8:38. It is precisely some of these same functions for which the deacons themselves are most looking forward to now.
“While we are limited to what we can perform in terms of sacramental ministry, bringing babies into the Catholic Church and claiming them in the name of Christ is a very special gift and privilege,” said Deacon Nagle. “Preaching is also a unique ministry because Christ speaks through you.”
Deacon Stover concurred. “As a transitional deacon, I am probably most looking forward to baptizing babies,” he said. “New babies are already such a joy. Their parents gave them life and can do so much to make it wonderful for the child. It would be really exciting and humbling to help give them baptism that opens the door to eternal life with God.” Each of the five deacons credited their families with being instrumental in their vocation journeys.
Deacon Dizon’s mother Susan had what the archbishop called the longest commute to the ordination, traveling from Quezon City near Manila, the capital of the Philippines.
“My whole family has been really supportive since my journey to the priesthood began five years ago,” said Deacon Dizon.
“It really helps that every single one in the family is a practicing Catholic, because they understand the joys and the sacrifices that come with serving God,” he continued. “Overall, they’ve just been very appreciative and vocally encouraging with regard to myjourney….I am who I am now because of them.”
Deacon Alba also discussed the importance of his family, saying, “My family has made such a great impact in my life, especially in how I live and experience God and his love for me. My parents, Gerry and Grace, are very faith-filled people who raised us to put God first before everything else — to love him and to put our complete trust in him.”
Before they return to the seminary to complete their studies in the fall, the deacons will undertake these summer ministry assignments: Deacon Dizon to Holy Spirit Parish in Overland Park; Deacon Alba to Holy Trinity Parish in Lenexa; Deacon Morris to Good Shep- herd Parish in Shawnee; Deacon Nagle to Christ the King Parish in Topeka; and Deacon Daniel Stover to St. Patrick Parish in Kansas City, Kan.