by Joe Bollig
KANSAS CITY, Kan. — In the world of Catholic celebrities, theologian Scott Hahn is a rock star — an evangelizing heavyweight with the pulling power of a black hole.
Recently, Hahn rocked the house in the archdiocese at the fall 2015 Deacon Convocation held Aug. 8 at Savior Pastoral Center in Kansas City, Kansas.
It wasn’t any surprise that — between the sessions and before and after lunch — Hahn was constantly asked to pose for selfies and sign books by the permanent deacons, deacon candidates and deacon aspirants.
Hahn teaches at the Franciscan University of Steubenville in Steubenville, Ohio, and the St. Vincent Seminary in Latrobe, Pennsylvania. He is the author of many books, articles and audio recordings.
“He’s incredible,” said John Langer, a new deacon aspirant, and a member of Christ the King Parish in Topeka.
“I’ve always wanted to meet Scott Hahn, and I’ve [now] had that opportunity and a chance to talk with him,” he continued. “He’s an incredible speaker and a unique gift to the Catholic Church and all Christians.”
No less excited were the men who had already met and heard Hahn multiple times.
“This is the fourth opportunity I’ve had to listen to Scott Hahn over the last 10 years,” said Deacon Michael Hill, a member of the Cathedral of St. Peter Parish in Kansas City, Kansas.
“Every time, it’s usually a different subject [and] brings a lot of thought to my mind,” said Deacon Hill, ordained four years ago. “I’ve got six pages of notes from just the two sessions we’ve had. . . . It’s really making me see things differently than I had before.”
Hahn handed a hefty mantle to the more than 100 deacons, candidates and aspirants who attended: To be a deacon is to be in the vanguard of the new evangelization.
His three talks treated the new evangelization, Scripture and the Mass, and the sacrament of reconciliation, but the theme of the new evangelization ran throughout them all.
The new evangelization is the reevangelization of the baptized and sacramentalized for a deepening and ongoing conversion, the reigniting of a Holy Spirit-fired faith in the faithful that realizes a relationship with Jesus that is both personal and covenantal.
“Pope Francis has taken it to a whole new level — like he is the new evangelization HD — or as a friend of mine puts it, ‘he is the new evangelization on steroids,’” said Hahn. “He has really taken this to a whole new level by going to World Youth Day in South America and focusing on the joy of the Gospel.”
This joy of the Gospel and of the Lord is crucial to the new evangelization, and deacons play a role, said Hahn.
“We can see how the joy of the Lord is precisely what we need as well,” he said. “I’m convinced that this is the master key that will unlock the doors of the new evangelization — not only in your diaconal ministry but also in your own homes and, most importantly, in your own hearts.”
Two studies have shown that fathers have a profound effect on the religious practices of their children.
“If the new evangelization fails to focus on the family in general — and fathers in particular — it has a great probability of failure,” said Hahn.
Meeting and hearing Hahn was a large part of the convocation, but not the only one. In a sense, it was the “debutant” event for the newly formed third group, or cohort of deacons — the aspirants in the deacon program.
“The process for this started right about a year ago this time when I was informed that a new cohort was being formed,” said Langer. “It’s kind of surreal. I can’t believe I’m here.”
“The process of going through the application [process] and preparing for this stage and the interviews, you really have to be very humble with it,” Langer continued. “You’re not sure if you’re going to be selected or not. The fact that I’ve been selected is surreal. It’s hard to believe God has allowed them to select me. I’m very happy for that.”
Dave Crisswell, a deacon candidate from St. Patrick Parish in Kansas City, Kansas, said the convocation was a great opportunity for the three cohorts to mix, enjoy fraternal fellowship and share some wisdom with the aspirants.
“A lot of the guys we learned from and were mentored by through our first year of aspirancy are here,” said Crisswell, who began formation three years ago.
“They gave us confidence to discern whether or not this was the calling for us. Now, we’re in that role of helping other guys who are just coming into the aspirancy, to help them not be so intimidated. It’s kind of an intimidating thing. I tell them to just take it a month at a time.”
One of those “elder brothers” is Deacon Hill.
“For the new ones, it’s the same thing I told the guys who are candidates right now,” he said. “Trust the process. The process works. Pray, reflect and study.”
“If it’s coming very easy for you and you seem to be led this way, it’s God probably speaking that little whisper in your life,” Deacon Hill continued. “If things are hard and you can’t seem to make time to study, you have job conflicts — roadblocks in your way — maybe it’s not now. Maybe it’s later or maybe it’s no.
“Prayerfully consider that and talk to your pastor, spiritual advisers and other trusted people to make sure you are doing what God wants you to do.”
Deacon convocations are held yearly near the feast of St. Lawrence, a martyred Roman deacon of the third century. The candidate and aspirant cohorts will continue to meet monthly for formation weekends. They will take separate classes, but pray and take their meals together.
The 19-member candidate group has two years before ordination, and the 21-member aspirant group is at the start of a five-year formation process before ordination.