by Marc and Julie Anderson
TOPEKA — It’s the foundational ministry for those ordained to be servant leaders in the Catholic Church.
That’s how Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann explained the role of deacons at a Mass celebrated on May 21 at Christ the King Church, Topeka. During the Mass, the archbishop ordained Colm Larkin, George Rhodes and Tim Skoch as transitional deacons. Next year, the three men will be ordained priests.
During the ordination rite, the men knelt before the archbishop, promising obedience to him and his successors. But it was through a separate step that he actually ordained the men to the office of deacon. During what is called the laying on of hands, the archbishop invoked the power of the Holy Spirit to consecrate or set aside the men for service to the church in a variety of ways.
As deacons, the men will proclaim the Gospel, preach homilies and teach in the name of the church. Additionally, they will baptize people, lead the faithful in prayer, witness marriages, conduct funerals and assist priests at Mass.
After the laying on of hands, the three men were vested with the dalmatic and stole, both symbolizing their new office. Assisting in the investiture were Father Trevor Lontine; Father Anthony Mersmann, associate pastor of Holy Cross Parish in Overland Park and chaplain of Bishop Miege High School; and Father Joseph Walsh.
Finally, the new deacons received the Book of Gospels from the archbishop as he exhorted the men: “Receive the Gospel of Christ whose herald you have become. Believe what you read, teach what you believe and practice what you teach.”
In his homily, the archbishop discussed the role of deacons within the church.
“The ordained ministry, properly understood,” the archbishop said, “is all about service. It is not about titles and honors, recognition, vestments or power. It’s about being a servant to the people of God. It is a call to lay down one’s life in love for the bride, which is the church.”
After Mass, the newly ordained deacons summarized their emotions.
“It’s very exciting. It was beautiful just to be consecrated for service to the church and to definitely promise my yes to God. He’s been generous to me, and it’s just a chance to try and be generous the way he’s calling me to,” said Deacon George Rhodes.
“I think one of the things I’m looking forward to most is preaching homilies. You know, deacons have always been charged with preaching the Gospel,” he said. “That is not a light task, and there’s quite the lineage of people who have been doing it for 2,000 years, dating back to the apostles. So, that is a beautiful office and responsibility that I’m looking forward to participating in to the best of my ability.”
“I’m very grateful to God for my vocation,” Deacon Skoch said, adding he’s particularly looking forward to baptizing children.
In fact, while at the Easter Vigil celebration at Holy Angels Church in Basehor, he was invited to sing the Exultet.
“It’s one of my favorite prayers,” he said, “and after that, a couple asked me to baptize their son two weeks after this ordination.”
When asked how he felt now that the big day of his diaconate ordination had arrived, Deacon Larkin said, “Just joyful. It’s surreal that what I’ve been studying for six years has finally happened. It’s the beginning. This isn’t the capstone. I’m being sent out on mission now. It’s just very beautiful.”
During the ordination rite, Deacon Larkin said he was particularly touched in a profound way as he and the other two newly ordained deacons lay prostrate while the congregation intoned the Litany of the Saints.
“It was just a very intimate moment speaking with the Lord,” he said. “Everyone around you was praying for you, and you were just laying there, talking to Jesus, giving your life up.”
And like Deacon Skoch, he, too, is looking forward to baptizing children and drawing the faithful closer to Christ, especially through the sacraments.
“I can’t wait to be back home and be with the people I’m called to serve,” he said.