By Barb Arland-Fye
ROME — Seminarian Corey Close spent some restless nights this past year awaiting his ordination to the transitional diaconate and contemplating the promises he would make at that time. But the night before his Oct. 6 ordination in St. Peter’s Basilica, he slept contently, confident of God’s call to the priesthood.
“The Mass itself was pure joy. I had the biggest smile on my face. I can say it was the happiest three hours of my life,” Deacon Close said Oct. 10 by telephone in Rome. “I felt no restlessness. This is where I’m supposed to be and this is what God wants me to do.”
Deacon Close was among 35 seminarians of the Pontifical North American College in Rome ordained by American Cardinal William Levada, S.T.D., prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith.
Nearly 300 priests, including one other cardinal and 11 bishops, concelebrated the Mass. Among them were Bishop Robert Gruss, formerly of the Davenport Diocese who now serves as bishop of the Diocese of Rapid City, S.D.; Father Tim Sheedy, pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Bettendorf; and Father Jason Crossen, pastor of Ss. Mary & Mathias Parish in Muscatine and St. Joseph Parish in Columbus Junction. Also present at the ordination Mass were Deacon Close’s parents, Wayne and Heidi Close, and his grandmother, Clara Mueller, along with about 30 people from the Davenport Diocese.
In his homily, Cardinal Levada explained that in the diaconate “the Church grounds all ordained ministry in the threefold structure of the ministry of the Word, of the liturgy, and of charity. These three ministries correspond to revelation and faith, by which the Word of God who is love is preached and handed on in the Church.”
During the ordination rite, the deacon candidates promised to live a life of prayer, celibacy and obedience to their diocesan bishop. They prostrated themselves in a gesture of humility and supplication. Afterward, Cardinal Levada conferred the sacrament of holy orders. The newly ordained deacons were then vested in the stole and dalmatic.
Bishop Gruss vested Deacon Close, having accepted the invitation to do so before being appointed a bishop this past spring. He was serving as vocations director for the Davenport Diocese when he first met the future deacon, and then served in leadership at the Pontifical North American College where he encouraged the younger man to study.
“It was an honor to vest Corey. I am very proud of him,” Bishop Gruss said. “I brought him in as a seminarian and have been part of his journey for the past six years. His time at NAC (North American College) has changed him and it has been a great experience. He has grown a lot through the experiences afforded him here. It is always a gift to watch young seminarians mature into dedicated men giving their lives away to the Lord and to his Church.”
Deacon Close described the experience as a joy, noting the faith journey both men have traveled since first meeting. “Bishop Gruss put the stole on me and the dalmatic and he had this big smile and said, ‘You look like a deacon.’”
Receiving the Book of the Gospels from Cardinal Levada during the ordination rite also impacted Deacon Close. “This is the saving message for the whole universe. To proclaim that message, to bring that saving message to people is very humbling,” he said.
He had the opportunity to proclaim the Gospel at his thanksgiving Mass the following day inside Clementine Chapel, the Chapel of St. Peter. “It is a privileged place for Mass in the basilica. St. Peter’s bones are literally right behind the altar,” the new deacon said.
Bishop Gruss presided at the Mass, concelebrated by Frs. Sheedy and Crossen and Msgr. Joseph Hanefeldt, Deacon Close’s spiritual director at NAC. Participating in the Mass were the deacon’s parents, grandmother and pilgrims from the Davenport Diocese. He appreciated their presence and was especially thankful to his parents for bringing him up in the Catholic faith and modeling service to others.
Diocesan accountant Sheryl Lackey, who was among the pilgrims in Rome, observed:
“I know in my heart that Deacon Corey will serve our bishop and the Diocese of Davenport superbly and most humbly.”
Deacon Close joins recently ordained Deacon Anastacio Ponce in the transitional diaconate. Both men anticipate being ordained to the priesthood June 23, 2012.