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Archbishop Ordains Seven New Deacons ‘Not to Be Served, but to Serve’

Seven Sacred Heart students ordained to the permanent diaconate on October 6.

by Dan Meloy

Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron stood at the pulpit of the Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament, looking at the seven men who had just completed the Election of the Candidates during the Diaconate Rite of Ordination on Oct. 6.

Archbishop Vigneron had already asked witnesses whether each man was deemed worthy of the responsibilities of the office of the diaconate, and received an affirmative answer.

After the election was finished, Archbishop Vigneron began his homily, making clear what he expected from the seven men who were called “not to be served, but to serve.”

by Dan Meloy

“I would ask you from this day forward, remember two important ritual gestures,” Archbishop Vigneron told the men. “One, that you are entrusted with the Gospel. You don’t own this book; you are trustees like all the rest of us, to share this great news about Jesus Christ. Every time you read the Gospel at Mass, think of this day and how this task is entrusted to you.

“Second, you are now particular servants of the chalice, a role that belongs to the deacon, who stands by the priest and presents the chalice of the Precious Blood of Jesus Christ,” Archbishop Vigneron continued. “Oh, how I hate it when people talk about, ‘Oh, I’m going to take the wine.’ It’s not wine. It is the Precious Blood of Jesus Christ; nothing less than what came out of His wounds and His heart on the cross.”

Sharing the Gospel message and offering the saving grace of Jesus to the world is now the vocation of Deacons Hector Anaya-Bustos, Regis Buckley, Tommaso Caporuscio, Donald Esler, Jeffrey Loeb, Leo Maciolek, and Gregory Willoughby, who were ordained by Archbishop Vigneron and called to be servants in preaching and living out the Gospel message.

During his homily, Archbishop Vigneron acknowledged that the rite of ordination is as ancient as the Church itself. Mirroring the seven new deacons’ ordination, the second reading from Acts 6:1-6 also chronicled the appointment of seven men to serve as deacons by the apostles.

Almost 2,000 years later, Archbishop Vigneron declared, Detroit’s deacons are continuing the mission of Stephen, Philip and others who served as the first deacons of the Church.

“When the Scriptures are read, especially the Gospel at Mass, it is our story. The great deeds that are recounted and narrated there have not ceased, because they are still happening now,” Archbishop Vigneron said. “As I have tried to capture in my pastoral letter after the Synod, we are in the 29th chapter of the Acts of the Apostles. The Book of Acts ends with a 28th chapter, with Paul in house arrest, preaching the Gospel boldly. St. Luke ends the book without finishing the story, because the story of the Church’s mission, the work of evangelization, continues with every age.”

That work of evangelization, particularly of being a deacon and assisting the priest and accompanying the laity, isn’t a separation or a “siloing” of tasks that are different from others in the Church, Archbishop Vigneron explained. Rather, the role of deacon is an essential part of extending charity to all the Church.

The charity deacons are called to practice is more than just altruism or good deeds, but a specific ministry of extending the grace of Jesus Christ into the world in word and deed.

A deacon’s role is “to be a witness in a particular way to the whole people of God,” the archbishop said, “to those you serve in the parishes, the hospitals, the prisons and to those in the priesthood that you serve alongside. You are always engaged in this ministry of charity; never lose sight of that fact. You are proclaiming, by your charity, that Christ has died, Christ is risen and Christ will come again. 

“Otherwise, there is a danger, as we in the Christian community go about healing the sick, caring for the poor and being attentive to the imprisoned, that we are engaging in a kind of progressive program for building a utopia. Our work of charity, our work of love, has the Holy Spirit as its soul. Jesus laid down his life for his friends; it was a paschal charity, a crucified and risen charity.

“So please, brothers, when you’re engaged in this ministry, whenever you lead others in this ministry, never cease, as explicitly as possible, to give your witness to Christ crucified,” Archbishop Vigneron said.

After the elect made their promises to the archbishop to fulfill the duties and obligations of the office of the diaconate, the Litany of Supplication was sung as the candidates lay prostrate before the altar.

When the litany concluded, the deacons rose and one by one approached Archbishop Vigneron, who laid his hands on them to ordain them.

The archbishop then handed each man the Book of the Gospels, instructing each deacon to “receive the Gospel of Christ, whose herald you have become. Believe what you read, teach what you believe, and practice what you teach.”

“In great humility and joy we thank our God, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, for carrying us through our years of formation and education,” said Deacon Greg Willoughby, who spoke on behalf of the ordination class at the end of Mass. “During that time we have gained much comfort in the words which our Lord spoke through the great prophet Isaiah when he said, ‘Do not fear, for I am with you.’”

On behalf of the entire diaconate class, Deacon Willoughby thanked the deacons’ wives, families, pastors, teachers, formation leaders and Archbishop Vigneron for guiding them along the way.

“There is a verse from Proverbs which reads, ‘As iron sharpens iron, so does one man sharpen another,’” Deacon Willoughby said. “This exemplifies the way in which so many men and women have molded, sharped and reinforced in us to answer what God is calling us to be.”

After Mass, Ann Buckley, wife of Deacon Buckley, gave witness to the formation process as a time of growth for both the deacon candidates and their wives, including courses and sessions in which the couples learn and participate together.

“We grew spiritually together, and our prayer life was bumped up,” Ann Buckley said. “We always prayed together, but now it’s on a deeper level. We serve together, reaching out to heal the brokenness of families and just being open to whatever the Lord tells us. The role of the wife of a deacon is a simple one, to bring joy and hope and to be by our husbands’ side, bringing that joy to the world.”

Near the end of his thank-you address, Deacon Willoughby acknowledged Pope Francis’ call for deacons to be servants to the world’s poor. Echoing Christ’s words that the poor “will always be with you,” Deacon Willoughby said the deacons must likewise always be ready to serve.

“If the poor must always be there, then we must always have deacons, who have been ordained for service and not for glory,” Deacon Willoughby said. “In this 50th anniversary of the (reinstitution of the office of permanent diaconate), this newly ordained, blessed band for joyful missionary disciples are ready to serve the Archdiocese of Detroit, ready to follow the leadership of the Archdiocese of Detroit with great joy and humility. For the permanent diaconate class of 2018, I say, ‘thank you.’”

At the end of Mass, Archbishop Vigneron announced the newly ordained deacons’ parish assignments:

  • Deacon Hector Anaya-Bustos: National Shrine of the Little Flower Basilica, Royal Oak
  • Deacon Regis Buckley: St. Albert the Great, Dearborn Heights
  • Deacon Tommaso Caporuscio: St. Anastasia, Troy
  • Deacon Donald Esler: St. Edith, Livonia
  • Deacon Jeffrey Loeb: St. Isidore, Macomb Township
  • Deacon Leo Maciolek: St. James, Novi
  • Deacon Gregory Willoughby: St Therese of Lisieux, Shelby Township

Dan Meloy

Dan is a staff writer for the Archdiocese of Detroit.

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Sacred Heart Major Seminary is a Christ-centered Catholic community of faith and higher learning committed to forming leaders who will proclaim the good news of Christ to the people of our time. As a leading center of the New Evangelization, Sacred Heart serves the needs of the Archdiocese of Detroit and contributes to the mission of the universal Church.