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"You have answered"

Six soon-to-be Sacred Heart graduates are ordained permanent deacons for the Archdiocese of Detroit.

by Mary Kay McPartlin

On Sunday, October 21, six Sacred Heart Major Seminary students were ordained to the permanent diaconate by the Most Reverend Allen H. Vigneron, archbishop of Detroit, at the Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament. Rosario (Russ) J. Ortisi, Peter Lynch, David Casnovsky, Lawrence Paczkowski, Charles Pace and Tracy Esper received the Sacrament of Holy Orders, under the celebratory watch of their family and friends.

In his homily during the Mass of ordination, Archbishop Vigneron explained the importance of the powerful moment when the six men would transition from being laypersons of the Church to clerics. “You will be configured to Jesus Christ, specifically in this order, configured to Jesus Christ in his being a servant. A servant to the Church and to the world.”

The permanent diaconate is one of three branches of ordained ministry in the Catholic Church, which also includes priests and bishops. The three ministries were designed to work together to care for God’s people.

by Mary Kay McPartlin

“It is an ancient office where the origins can be found in the Acts of the Apostles, with the order being fully restored by Pope Paul VI. The three areas of service to which permanent deacons are especially called to are ministers of the Word, ministers of the Liturgy, and ministers of charity and justice,” said Deacon Kevin Breen, associate director for permanent deacons for the Archdiocese of Detroit and a member of Sacred Heart’s alumni board. “Permanent deacons are able to assist in parish ministries, which may include pastoral counseling, Sacramental preparations, prayer, and support groups—as well as assisting the priest/pastor with all the normal liturgical celebrations. Permanent deacons cannot pray Mass, or perform the Sacraments of Reconciliation or the Anointing of the Sick.”

The education the men receive from Sacred Heart Major Seminary prepares them for a life of service to the Church. “The formation process for either priestly formation or permanent diaconate formation is built upon the four dimensions of formation: human, spiritual, intellectual, and pastoral,” Deacon Breen said.

As ordained deacons, the six men will minister within their assigned parishes as well as work in the community. “Many permanent deacons are also involved with and encouraged to participate in specialty ministries outside the parish which may include prison ministry, chaplains for hospitals, nursing homes, hospices, and serving the poor and the marginalized,” said Deacon Breen.

“Christ continues his work in our midst … God speaks about what God will do. In the prophet Jeremiah, he talks about how this vocation you have to the diaconate is his idea. You respond, and perhaps like Jeremiah you have hesitated from time to time, but this is mysterious and very personal from you and your creator, and you have answered,” Archbishop Vigneron said in his homily.

For those discerning whether God is calling them to the permanent diaconate, Deacon Breen said, “Discernment for the permanent diaconate vocation is a journey, and not a race. If you are married, talk to your wife, talk to your pastor, talk with an active deacon in the area, talk with a spiritual director, take a class or two at the seminary, call me to inquire about an 'information night,' and finally, pray, pray, pray!"

If you're interested in learning more about the permanent diaconate in Detroit, contact the Archdiocese of Detroit's Office of Clergy and Consecrated Life at 313-596-7151 or visit

Mary Kay McPartlin

Mary Kay McPartlin is a Catholic freelance journalist who writes from Maumee, Ohio.

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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.