We learn in chapter six of the Book of Acts: when the original Apostles needed help distributing food to widows of the fledgling Christian communities, they laid hands on seven “reputable men, filled with the Spirit and wisdom” to assist them. Thus was established the sacramental Order of Deacons.
The word deacon derives from the Greek word diakonos, which means “one who serves.”
On Saturday, April 22, this ancient tradition continued on, when Most Rev. Gerard Battersby, auxiliary bishop of Detroit (and former Sacred Heart vice rector) placed hands upon Sacred Heart seminarians James Houbeck, Mark Livingston, and Christopher Muer. The third-year theologians thereby became the newest members of the Holy Order of Deacons for the Archdiocese of Detroit. Archdiocesan seminarian John Maksym, who is studying at Pope St. John XXIII National Seminary in Boston, was ordained a deacon along with his brother Detroiters. The ceremony took place in Sacred Heart’s main chapel before a congregation of family members, friends, and fellow seminarians.
Ordination to the diaconate is a decisive step for a seminarian on his pilgrimage toward the priesthood. At Sacred Heart, a man about to enter his fourth and final year of theology receives diaconal ordination in the spring. During the ceremony, he accepts the liturgical vestments of alb (white robe), dalmatic (ornamental over-vestment), and stole (scarf), while publically committing to a life of “celibacy for the kingdom.”
Deacon Houbeck, Deacon Livingston, Deacon Muer, and Deacon Maksym are considered “transitional” deacons at this point, since they intend to move on to priestly ordination, ideally in spring 2018. (A “permanent” deacon is a single or married man who does not intend to become a priest.) The seminarians may use the prefix “Rev. Mr.” as they take up new duties of service. They may deliver homilies at Mass, baptize children, and officiate at marriage and funeral ceremonies. The may preside at prayer services such as Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament. They may bless a religious object such as a medal or crucifix.
In particularly, deacons are called to charitable service to the community, for example assisting the sick and needy, visiting the imprisoned, and catechizing the faithful. What they cannot do is celebrate Mass, hear confessions, and sacramentally anoint the sick, acts reserved to a priest, or confer the Sacrament of Confirmation, an act reserved to a bishop.
Diaconal ordinations of Sacred Heart’s now-fourth-year theologians will continue on throughout the spring. Fadie Gorgies and Bardeleon Jaddou will be ordained on April 30 for the Chaldean Eparchy of St. Thomas the Apostle (Bardeleon will take the new name of “John”). Diocese of Lansing theologian John Machiorlatti will be ordained on May 13, while on May 19, Stephen Blaxton and Adam Maher will be ordained for the Diocese of Saginaw.
Dustin Larson will become the Diocese of Marquette’s newest deacon on June 2, followed by Joshua Erikson’s ordination for the Diocese of Steubenville on June 3, and Brian Mulligan and Thế Hoang’s ordination for the Diocese of Winona on June 23. Fellow theologian Rev. Mr. Ruben Campbell has already received diaconal ordination for the Companions of the Cross religious community, on March 25.