For Dcn. Jim Hostutler, May 6 was a day of joy and of fatherly pride as the veteran deacon in the Diocese of Phoenix watched the second-oldest of his seven children, Kevin, be ordained as a permanent deacon in the Archdiocese of Baltimore.
A son following his father into the Catholic Church’s first of three ranks of the clergy occurs from time to time but it is not common.
“As far as I know we’ve never had a father/son team of deacons in our diocese,” said Dcn. Doug Bogart, associate director of education and formation for the diocese’s diaconate office. “I only know of one Phoenix deacon whose father was also a deacon, but he was not of our diocese.”
Permanent deacons serve at the pleasure of the bishop or archbishop, who assigns them to a parish. According to the Phoenix Diocese’s Directory of Policies and Procedures for Deacons, the permanent deacon works with the pastor to perform functions in three basic areas: liturgical, ministerial and charitable. He exercises his ministry in areas such as religious education, baptisms, weddings and funerals outside of Mass, visiting the sick and proclaiming the Gospel and preaching the homily during Mass.
“He was 16 when I was ordained. When I went through (training), it was a three-year program. Now it’s five.”
Both father and son agree that Kevin’s decision was not so much influenced by his dad as it was Kevin’s own sense of a call to become a deacon.
“I feel like I have always had that call. For me, it wasn’t a matter of ‘if,’ but of ‘when,’ Kevin, 48, explained prior to Saturday’s rite.
The CEO of a software company in Columbia, Maryland, Kevin and his wife, Coleen, have been married 26 years. They have been raising five children, four of whom were baptized by their grandfather. With the two oldest out of college and the two youngest in high school and junior high, he felt it was the right time.
“My dad being a deacon helped inform more than motivate. He was always a great example of service, always active in the Church serving in different capacities,” Dcn. Kevin added.
On Saturday, as his son lay prostrate on the altar at the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen in Baltimore alongside seven other soon-to-be deacons, then kneel before Archbishop William E. Lori and receive his vestments, Dcn. Jim said he was filled with joy.
“It was phenomenal. I was even dry-eyed through the whole thing. It brought back my memories of when I was ordained 31 years ago. I videotaped him receiving the Book of Gospels. I was sitting right up in front.”
His son reflected on that same moment.
As [the archbishop] hands [the Book of the Gospels] to us, he says, ‘Believe what you read, teach what you believe, and practice what you teach.’ To me that’s always been a really good way to sum up how you live the life of a deacon,” Dcn. Kevin Hostutler said.
“We’re clergy, but we’re in the world. We’re closer to the people in the laity. How do you live the faith as deacon, husband, father — I think it’s important to keep all those contexts integrated.”
During his homily, Archbishop Lori referenced the responsibilities these men were about to take, advising them: “Before you assist at the altar of the Lord, distribute holy Communion or baptize, or preside at a wedding, funeral or a prayer service, spend time in prayer, contemplating how close the risen Lord draws near to us.”
The archbishop also urged the new deacons not to “attempt to go it alone. Look to your families and fellow deacons for support and guidance.”
Dcn. Kevin will serve at his home parish of St. Louis in Clarksville, Maryland where four others are also assigned. This marks the fourth new deacon for the parish in the last six years.
Dcn. Jim Trant, director of the Diaconate for the Phoenix Diocese, said he and his colleagues were “overjoyed” that Dcn. Hostutler’s son was becoming a permanent deacon. “We’re really pleased and blessed. It’s just wonderful.”
Contributing to this article was Paul McMullen from the Catholic Review, the official publication of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.