By Celine Klosterman
OTTUMWA — A step closer to the priesthood, Deacon Anastacio Ponce Vidaña said he’s grateful for the opportunity God has given him to serve the Lord’s people.
Ordained a transitional deacon at St. Mary of the Visitation Church Aug. 20, Deacon Ponce, 33, told The Catholic Messenger he would strive to be wise, humble and an example of God’s love.
Bishop Martin Amos celebrated the seminarian’s ordination Mass, which about 200 people attended, including Deacon Ponce’s mother and stepfather from his home state of Veracruz, Mexico. At Deacon Ponce’s request, the ordination took place at the church that he considers his adopted home parish.
In his homily, Bishop Amos told the seminarian that “through the laying on of hands and the words of ordination, you will enter the order of deacons and share in the ordained ministry of Jesus the high priest.”
A deacon does not receive the imposition of hands unto priesthood, but unto ministry, the bishop said.
“This new function, this new gift is a gift unto ministry, and St. Paul said of that gift it should be used for service.”
The ministry is in service of the Gospel, liturgy and works of charity, Bishop Amos said. In service of the Gospel, “you will proclaim the Gospel at Eucharist, preach and teach. You must continue your studies, especially of the Scriptures, but also of theology if you are to preach and teach authentically.”
In service of the liturgy, Deacon Ponce’s ministry includes being an ordinary minister of holy Communion and the proper minister of the chalice, the bishop noted. “In addition, you will be an ordinary minister of the sacrament of baptism, serve as the Church’s witness at the sacrament of marriage and preside at funeral rites outside of Mass. You are also to pray the Liturgy of the Hours for the Church.”
Underlying the deacon’s ministry of charity is “a call to your own simplicity of life, having particular concern for the voiceless, and working with parishioners to help them become more involved in such ministry.”
Bishop Amos later re-emphasized to Ponce that the seminarian had received a gift. “True, you have personally responded to that gift, but it is a gift nonetheless given to you not for yourself, but for the whole body of the Church.”
After the homily, Ponce promised faithful service, obedience and lifelong celibacy as an ordained minister of the Catholic Church. He lay prostrate during the litany of supplication, then knelt as Bishop Amos laid hands on him and prayed for the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
Deacon Ponce was then vested by Father Hernan Cuevas, a former classmate at Mundelein Seminary in Mundelein, Ill., and now a priest of the Archdiocese of Chicago. Bishop Amos handed the deacon the Book of the Gospels, telling him, “Receive the Gospel of Christ, whose herald you have become.”
Deacon Ponce later prepared the eucharistic gifts and altar, and served as an ordinary minister of holy Communion.
After Communion, a smiling Father Bernie Weir, pastor of St. Mary of the Visitation, told the congregation he’d put the deacon right to work during a baptism ceremony that afternoon.
The ordination Mass brought tears to the eyes of Deacon Ponce’s mother, Caritina Vidaña Muñoz, who attended with her husband, Raul Garcia Salgado. Witnessing her son make this milestone was especially meaningful after seeing him spend 12 years in school, including seminaries in Mexico, she said in Spanish as he interpreted.
Deacon Ponce said after Mass that his initial nervousness had given way to happiness. He said he looks forward to eventually celebrating the sacraments, especially the Eucharist, after being ordained a priest June 23, 2012, at Sacred Heart Cathedral in Davenport.