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The enduring power of relationships between friends, wives and husbands and parents and children were deeply woven into the June 23 ordination of 16 men as permanent deacons and two men as transitional deacons at SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis. (Related story: Transitional deacons see witness in permanent deacons)
A new deacon was vested with the dalmatic—a deacon’s outer vestment—that had belonged to a friend who was a deacon, but died six weeks after being ordained in 2008.
A father was ordained just in time to witness the wedding vows of his daughter in two weeks.
And on the morning of the ordination, the wife of that new deacon gave him a new wedding band that symbolized the spiritual deepening of their marriage.
The latest class of permanent deacons is the second in the history of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis. The first deacons were ordained by Archbishop Emeritus Daniel M. Buechlein in 2008. (See that coverage here)
Bishop Christopher J. Coyne, apostolic administrator, who ordained this class of deacons, said he spoke to the archbishop the night before the ordination.
“He called me last night with his regrets that he is not able to be here with us in this cathedral,” Bishop Coyne said. “But he is certainly here with us in prayer.”
Deacon Frank Roberts, a member of St. Andrew Parish in the Richmond Catholic Community, felt that his deceased friend, Deacon Ronald Stier, was with him during the ordination Mass. (See a photo gallery from the ordination, taken by Sean Gallagher)
Deacon Stier, from Richmond, was a member of the archdiocese’s first class of permanent deacons. He died of cancer six weeks after his 2008 ordination and two days after he blessed Deacon Roberts and Deacon James Miller, also of the Richmond Catholic Community, before the pair attended their first weekend of classes in the deacon formation program.
Deacon Roberts wore his friend’s alb as he processed into the cathedral on June 23. Fathers Todd Riebe and Stanley Herber later put Stier’s dalmatic on him.
“When they put it on me, I could feel his presence,” Deacon Roberts said. “I’m quite anxious [to start ministering]. I just hope that I can serve … with half the dignity that Ron did.”
Donna Stier, the widow of Deacon Stier, is confident that the two new deacons from Richmond will serve the Church well.
“This has been a very bittersweet day to see all the deacons from Ron’s class and all the wives,” she said. “I’m just so glad that I could be here to share this with Frank and Jim. It brings back a lot of good memories. Frank and Jim will be very good deacons.”
Joyce Roberts, Deacon Roberts’ wife of 53 years, was also moved by her husband’s decision to wear the dalmatic of their friend.
“That is very precious to us,” she said. “He teared up when he was vested. I kind of teared up when he did, too. We think a lot of Ron.”
Although they have been married for more than half a century, Joyce Roberts said that her husband becoming a deacon has given them new blessings.
“It’s broadened our interest in Christ and brought us closer together in prayer, [a closeness] that we didn’t have before,” she said.
Bishop Coyne thanked the wives of the new deacons during his homily and described them as “partners” in their husbands’ ministry.
He also spoke about how the sacramental ministry of the new deacons will be closely connected to their ministry of charity.
“Consecrated by the laying on of hands that comes down to us from the Apostles, and bound more closely to the altar, they will perform works of charity in the name of the Lord God,” Bishop Coyne said. “With the help of God, they are to go about all these duties in such a way that you will recognize them as disciples of him who came not to be served but to serve.”
The permanent deacons will minister in parishes and in the broader community at such places as jails, hospitals and nursing homes.
They will baptize, witness marriages and preside over funeral services. At Mass, they will be able to proclaim the Gospel and preach, but may not serve as celebrant or consecrate the Eucharist.
In the ministry of the word, deacons teach the faith and serve as pastoral counselors.
The deacons’ ministry, however, will be focused on charity.
Laura Wagner had a second-row seat in the cathedral as she watched her father, Deacon Rick Wagner of St. Pius X Parish in Indianapolis, be ordained.
In two weeks, she will stand with her father at St. Pius X Church in Indianapolis as she and Joey Garcia, her fiancé, exchange wedding vows.
“Seeing the relationship of my mom and dad grow [through the deacon formation program] has kind of inspired us to make sure that our relationship is Christ-centered,” said Laura, a third-grade teacher at Little Flower School in Indianapolis.
“With him just being ordained, it’s a tremendous witness,” Garcia added. “It sort of sets the bar for us who are trying to be witnesses to other people through our marriage.”
Deacon Wagner said he was “thrilled” that the couple planned their wedding date with his ordination in mind.
“But I’m a little nervous about my first wedding being my daughter’s,” he said.
Before making his way to the cathedral for the ordination, Deacon Wagner and his wife, Carol, spent time in prayer at St. Pius Church. During that time, she gave him a new wedding band.
“It has three braids on it because God’s always been a part of our marriage,” Carol said, holding back tears after the ordination. “But now we are really braided together.”
Deacon Kerry Blandford, archdiocesan director of deacon formation, was proud of the 16 men ordained to the permanent diaconate, and had great expectations for their future ministries.
“I hope they go out there and change the world,” Deacon Blandford said. “That’s what they’re here for, to be Christ’s hands in the world. And these guys are certainly capable of it.”
(For more information on the permanent diaconate in the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, log on to www.archindy.org/deacon.) †