JOHNS ISLAND — Twenty-two men were given a mission to share God’s love through their work in the permanent diaconate on May 19.
During their ordination at Holy Spirit Church, Bishop Robert J. Baker thanked the men and their wives for stepping forward in service to the church. He also spoke to them about the theme of Pope Benedict XVI’s encyclical, “Deus Caritas Est,” God is love.
“Pope Benedict reminds us that the entire activity of the church is an expression of a love that seeks the integral good of men and women,” Bishop Baker said. “ ‘Love,’ the Holy Father says, ‘is … the service that the church carries out in order to attend constantly to man’s suffering and his needs, including his material needs.’ The church exists, says the pope, for one reason: to educate people in love and bring them to spiritual maturity. ‘The church is a community of people who believe in the God of Jesus Christ and who commit themselves to implement in the world the commandment of charity which he left them.’ ”
Bishop Baker said the clergy’s effectiveness in any ministry was dependent on remaining in Christ’s love. He told the group that they could strive to achieve this through daily prayer, Mass, Liturgy of the Hours, devotions and meditation.
“If we do not hear God tell us he loves us, we will have trouble communicating the Gospel of love to other people by our words and especially our lives,” he said.
Bishop Baker said the diaconal ministry embraced many tasks and responsibilities.
“Principally, it is a call to love as Christ has loved us,” he said. “It is an invitation first to experience his love so you may share it in diaconia, in loving service. Today, in the call to the diaconate and in your ordination, you experience the embrace of the love of the Father in the person of Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit, the author of love. Welcome that embrace and remain always in the love of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Great good will come from your ministry if you do so every day of your life.”
It takes four years of study and preparation to become a deacon and ordinations are held every five years.
Permanent deacons can be single or married and once ordained, can assist a priest in the administrative and pastoral care of Catholics including baptizing infants, distributing Holy Communion at Mass and to the sick, witnessing marriages in the absence of a priest, and presiding at funeral services outside of the Mass.
At the ordination, Bishop Baker also thanked Msgr. Martin T. Laughlin, pastor of Holy Spirit, and Msgr. Joseph R. Roth, “who labored diligently with Father (Edward) Fitzgerald in guiding and directing the candidates to this day of their ordination.”
Msgr. Roth, vicar general and director of the diaconate program for the Diocese of Charleston, indicated the bishop’s words would not go unheeded with this group of deacons.
“It was nice to see such a prayerful group,” he said in an interview. “We have done a lot of practice with the Divine Office. Without prayer there is not life in the clergy.”
He said he looked forward to their services in the parishes. One particular ministry that will benefit greatly from the diaconate is the diocese’s outreach to prisons.
“We needed prison ministry badly,” Msgr. Roth said. “I am thrilled about it. We needed these people who really want to serve.”
After the Mass, Deacon Robert Starr of St. Michael Church, Garden City, was elated.
“It felt like water from a waterfall rushing into still water below,” Starr said. “It was an awesome feeling.”
Starr said he looked forward to settling in to parish work. He said Father Raymond Carlo will have him focus on working with people ages 18 to 55. His wife, Susan, director of youth ministry at St. Michael, said the couple will continue to work enthusiastically.
“We’re like a tag team; it will be business as usual,” she said.
Their daughter, Abby, age 18, said she was proud of her father.
“It’s pretty cool seeing him up there on the altar,” she said. “He’s very dedicated to it. It’s something he really wanted to do.”
Deacon Carl Johnson, of St. Martin de Porres in Columbia, was inspired in his vocation by his brother, William, who is a deacon in New Jersey, and the late Deacon Rowland Thomas from St. Martin de Porres. The formation process determined the truth behind his vocation and after the ordination, Johnson told The Miscellany he was relieved he had made it.
“It’s been a long experience,” he said. “It has had its trials and tribulations; and with the help of the Holy Spirit, I got there with the class. There were times that I thought about stopping, but the power of the Holy Spirit prevented it.”
He said he can now look forward to serving the church in any capacity without hesitation.
The other new deacons are: Thomas Berney, Stephen Burdick, Richard Campana Sr., Mario Cardenas, John Heuser, Robert Hookness, Matthew Houle, Michael Kulungowski, P. Charles LaRosa Jr., Paul Mahefky, Charles Olimpio, Raymond Perham, Jerome Remkiewicz, Steven Rhodes, Lawrence Roberts, J. Wescoat Sandlin, Robert Smith, John Stetar, David Thompson and Gregory Weigold.
To learn more about the diaconate contact Msgr. Joseph R. Roth, PA, VG, at 120 Broad St., Charleston, S.C. 29401, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.