By Barb Arland-Fye
The Catholic Messenger
DAVENPORT — Four years into deacon formation, nine men from the Davenport Diocese celebrated a milestone during Mass on June 11 at St. Paul the Apostle Catholic Church. They were instituted into the ministry of acolyte, the final rite celebrated before ordination a year from now, God willing.
The members of Deacon Formation Class VII know that ordination to the permanent diaconate is not a given; it’s not a reward for the hard work of discernment, studies and service. But the rite in which Bishop Martin Amos instituted them as acolytes gave each a palpable sense of their calling.
According to the church’s law and practice, the instituted acolyte is called to serve at the altar, including assisting the priest and deacon with the care of the sacred vessels and distributing Communion as an extraordinary minister if needed (GIRM #98). This role is distinct from the typical parish server or extraordinary minister of Communion. These men now exercise their ministry in a permanent way.
“Discernment and formation can be exhausting — and exhilarating — work,” said Deacon Frank Agnoli, diocesan director of Liturgy and of Deacon Formation. “A lot of blood, sweat, and tears — and ink — has been spilled over the last four years. OK, not blood literally — but the men who were instituted as acolytes, and their families, have put their whole selves into this journey — and they have grown in remarkable ways because of it. Yet, the truth is that ordained ministry is a calling, not something one can earn. In the end, it is the Holy Spirit who calls and equips for ministry. We will see whom the Spirit calls to Holy Orders in 13 months.”
The newly instituted acolytes are Steve Barton (wife Rosie), of Holy Family Parish, Davenport; Dan Freeman (wife Judy), of St. Andrew Parish, Blue Grass; Tom Hardie (wife Mary), of St. Anthony Parish, Knoxville; John Jacobsen (wife Tracey) of Sacred Heart Cathedral, Davenport; Chris Kabat (wife Julie) of St. Wenceslaus Parish, Iowa City; Joe Rohret (wife Tammy) of St. Peter Parish, Cosgrove; Mike Snyder (wife Patty) of Our Lady of Lourdes Parish, Bettendorf; Lowell Van Wyk (wife Denise) of St. Mary Parish, Pella; and Joseph Welter (wife Katie) of Newman Center/St. Mary Parish, Iowa City.
At the conclusion of his homily, Bishop Amos advised the deacon candidates “to deepen your understanding of what you do and so conform yourself more fully to Christ and his sacrifice. As you show reverence to the Lord’s eucharistic body, you must show a sincere love and reverence for Christ’s mystical body, God’s holy people, especially for the weak and the sick.”
During the rite that followed, each deacon candidate, dressed in a white alb, knelt before Bishop Amos who handed them the bread (or wine) to be consecrated. He reminded them: “Make your life worthy of service at the table of the Lord and of his church.” At the close of the intercessions, the bishop blessed the books and pyxes that the acolytes will use to bring Communion to the homebound, sick and dying.
Reflections from deacon candidates instituted into the Ministry of Acolyte
Steve Barton: “It’s a miraculous day filled with grace. I have the privilege to serve at the altar.” Being instituted into the ministry of acolyte “is a major step toward what I hope is ordination as a deacon. Every step along the way, from the Rite of Candidacy to the Rite of Lector last year to the Rite of Acolyte this year, has been filled with grace and leads us to where God calls us.”
Dan Freeman: “We had a retreat today on the Eucharist. I think that’s why each one of us entered the (deacon formation) program, because of what the Eucharist means to us. To have the retreat was a reaffirmation of that. We talked about Christ’s sacrifice and our sacrifices and what leads to our fulfillment.” When he was distributing the precious blood of Christ to people in the congregation, Freeman said it was hard not to tear up. “It made my heart swell.” The closing song, “Hear I Am, Lord,” “has a special meaning to me. I pray that I will answer the call in the way God wants me to serve him.”
Tom Hardie: “This was a great day. The reflection we did this morning with Father Thom Hennen helped us focus on the Eucharist and how it is the center of our lives. We form ourselves close to the Eucharist and to Christ and in service to others.” He said he felt an emotional “dart to the heart” during the intercessory prayers. “It’s a big milestone. I’m looking forward to next year.”
John Jacobsen: “It’s one more step on the journey. Having the support of the community there (at the Mass) was beyond words, especially in this parish where I had been a member for so long.”
Chris Kabat: “It was a really good year of formation that’s becoming more and more real every day. With the ministry of acolyte being focused on the Eucharist … He (Christ) is our nourisher, our source and our strength. We’ll be relying on him to guide and to nourish and strengthen us as we go through this last year of formation and God, willing, ordination in a year.”
Joe Rohret: “We had a wonderful retreat on the Eucharist which led to this celebration with the bishop. … To kneel in front of the bishop and have him pray for
you and talk to you” seemed almost surreal. “I’m looking forward to the last year, to see what’s coming, what’s next gets you excited.” He also appreciates “the way the whole diocese has embraced this class. It’s wonderful. Bishop Amos has taken the time to be with us and gives us a lot of encouragement. I’m happy for my brothers (deacon candidates), their wives and kids. It’s been a journey for the families.”
Mike Snyder: “Like all of the steps, this is a very humbling day; it’s a very humbling feeling to be instituted as an acolyte. It’s another step, hopefully, toward ordination in another year.”
Lowell Van Wyk: “All of those steps — being instituted as candidate and as lector and now as acolyte helps me to put the ministry of the diaconate in perspective. These ministries flow from the Eucharist, and are a reminder of our calling to serve others — with love.”
Joseph Welter: “We’re instituted in a special way for this ministry, not only to serve at the altar, but to be of service to others. It’s a privilege and a gift.”