Four ordained transitional deacons
The four seminarians who replied “present” last Saturday made more than a physical transition from their pew to the sanctuary, Bishop Carl A. Kemme said, their simple acknowledgment had spiritual consequences beyond their understanding.
Jesus Bañuelos, Matthew Cooke, Caleb Kuestersteffen, and Miles Swigart, replied to the bishop after their presentation as candidates for ordination to the transitional diaconate.
“By saying this, you announce to God and to us that you are ready and willing to be radically conformed to Christ, the servant of all, that you are willing to be present for all that that will entail and encompass,” he said, adding that he made the same promise 38 years ago at his priestly ordination.
A new beginning
Their response and movement to the altar indicated a new beginning, the bishop said, “a new way of being and a new way of living out your baptismal call to discipleship, stewardship, and evangelization, now and forever radically ordered to ministry and service in the church for the building up of the Body of Christ. By saying and doing this, you are announcing that you are available now and until the day you die for whatever the church through her bishops indicate as God’s will for you.”
Their responses indicate an understanding to pray for the faithful, to be present to them, to be men of prayer and not doing so begrudgingly, he said.
Recalling their reply, Bishop Kemme said they would be present for the time, effort, and energy it will take to prepare for and preach the Word of God, and to undertake preaching that does not bore the people of God, but inspires, uplifts, moves them for mission, and bears great fruit.
What their answer means
He also said their response means they will be present for:
• All forms of service, even the most humble and selfless, that are called for on any given day.
• The assignments that I and my successors will propose to you, assisting the bishops and your brothers in the presbyteral order in the pastoral care of the people entrusted to us, as weak and sinful as we are.
• To a daily dying to oneself and to live solely for God and his church.
That daily self-denial, the bishop added, means the newly-ordained transitional deacons will be called to be:
• Present to live celibate chastity and obedience for the remainder of your entire life, forsaking all others and preferring to be the Lord’s friends in this world, and from that friendship to live in union with him in true and sustaining intimacy.
• Present for obedience and respect to me and my successors, subordinating your own plans and dreams to God’s will and plan for you as discerned by the church.
• And finally to be present in this new apostolic age to embrace your share of the hardship which the Gospel entails, which by doing so will offer a courageous, authentic, and humble witness to all.
Prepare to suffer
Bishop Kemme said given the times in which we live, “those who are serious Christians should, I think, prepare for much suffering which may involve rejection and even persecution in the future for we now live in a time and in a culture that is becoming increasingly hostile and inimical to our way of life and the Gospel we preach, the Gospel of truth, beauty, and goodness.
“But let us not fear this suffering for we have with us always the one who has shown us how to suffer and how to live in anticipation of the victory of the martyrs.”
Bishop Kemme asked the four men to be willing to offer everything and surrender all for the glory of God and for the sanctification of their souls and those of the people they will be called to serve. “All of this and so much more is powerfully contained in that one all-embracing and thought-provoking word you have uttered today and will continue to give to Christ each day of your ministry.”
A call to love
Jesus’ words in the Gospel, the bishop said, are a challenge, a call, and a promise: “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”
Jesus is addressing you, Bishop Kemme said to the ordinandi.
“You are my friends if you do what I command you. I no longer call you slaves, because a slave does not know what his master is doing. I have called you friends because I have told you everything I have heard from my Father. It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name he may give you. This I command you: love one another.
“To all of this,” the bishop said, “be present now and until you take your place in the Kingdom of Heaven.”