By Barb Arland-Fye
DAVENPORT — The Davenport Diocese welcomed 14 new deacons to ordained ministry in a joyous celebration at Sacred Heart Cathedral on July 13, the first of its kind in over a decade. Among the 14 are 12 married men who will serve permanently as deacons and two men who are seminarians anticipating ordination to the priesthood next year. The 12 members of Deacon Class VI are the first permanent deacons to be ordained since 2002.
Bishop Martin Amos ordained all 14 men, marking a milestone in his 6-1/2-year ministry as eighth bishop of the Diocese of Davenport. “I’ve been able to follow them for the full time of their formation. As the years went on, it became more personal for me; they have taken on names and personalities …they are well-formed and informed.”
Because seminarians are ordained as deacons before being ordained priests, Kevin Anstey and Bob Cloos entered the diaconate with permanent deacons Mark Comer, Derick Cranston, Robert Glaser, Mitchell Holte, Daniel Huber, Edwin Kamerick, David Krob, Dennis McDonald, John Osborne, David Sallen, Robert Shaw and John Wagner.
The sheer number of deacons to be ordained presented logistical challenges, such as how to arrange the men during the Litany of Supplication. This time, 14 men lay prostrate at the foot of the altar — a striking image of servants in humble adoration for the Lord.
In his homily, Bishop Amos reflected on deacons as icons of Jesus. “You do not look at a religious icon, you look through an icon. They are a means of encounter, not ends in themselves or just for decoration.” The word icon, the bishop explained, comes from the Greek word for “image.”
“In Genesis God wrote an icon of himself in us. God created man in his image; in the divine image he created him, male and female he created them. So we are icons of God. At baptism, God has written an icon of Jesus in each one of us. And since God is infinite, the icons he has written are of infinite variety. Today, for the 14 of you, and for the Church, God continues the process of writing icons. The sacrament of Holy Orders marks you with an imprint, a character which cannot be removed and which configures you to Christ who made himself the ‘deacon’ or servant of all.”
He noted that “all of the things that you will do as a deacon could be done by someone else: preaching, baptizing, marrying, giving instructions, working with the poor. But you are THE deacon of Jesus the Servant.”
One by one, the deacon candidates knelt before Bishop Amos to make the Promise of the Elect, ensuring faithful service and obedience as ordained ministers of the Catholic Church. Each one looked Bishop Amos in the eye, as he held their hands in his, and responded “I do.” He responded: “May God who has begun good work in you bring it to fulfillment.”
That was an especially powerful moment for several of the deacons, they said afterwards.
Following the Litany of Supplication, Bishop Amos laid hands on each man’s head and prayed for the gifts of the Holy Spirit so “they might be strengthened by the sevenfold gift of [God’s] grace for the faithful carrying out of the work of the ministry.”
Then, the men lined the length of the sanctuary in preparation for vesting as deacons with stole and dalmatic. Wives of the married men and family members of the seminarians presented the vestments to clerics who assisted the new deacons.
After being vested, each new deacon, in turn, was handed the book of the Gospels. The bishop said to them: “Receive the Gospel of Christ, whose herald you have become. Believe what you read, teach what you believe, and practice what you teach.”
Some 30 previously ordained deacons approached their new brothers in ordained ministry to share the Sign of Peace.
During the Liturgy of the Eucharist, newly ordained Deacons Dennis McDonald and John Osborne assumed the role of deacons of the Mass from Deacons David Montgomery and Jeff Schuetzle. Like the unfolding of a flower, it was a seamless transition. The two senior deacons stood in the recesses of the sanctuary to assist the new deacons, if needed. (Concelebrating the Mass were approximately 30 priests of the diocese and some visiting priests.)
“From the Acts of the Apostles, it seems the seven deacons took care of the table — supplying for the needs of the poor, especially the widows and orphans. It then moved also to the altar table and they became servants there as well. And then to the table of the word — preaching and teaching,” the bishop had said in his homily.
Serving at the altar, “was very humbling,” Deacon McDonald said. “I tried very much to stay in the moment and not be so concerned about what might come next, but to enjoy the beauty of the Mass and what was going on.”
Deacon Anstey said he didn’t realize the full impact of his ordination until the end of the Mass when Deacon Frank Agnoli, director of Deacon Formation, shared appreciation for all who had a part in the celebration and the journey leading up to it. “When Deacon Frank actually said ‘Deacon Kevin,’ my heart went crazy — to hear that for the first time,” the seminarian said.
“The whole thing, from start to finish, was amazing,” said Deacon Cloos. “I struggled to stop from tearing up. It just felt so right. I can’t imagine doing anything else.”
By Barb Arland-Fye