Eight men took another step toward holy orders in the Phoenix Diocese, their wives and family at their side.

Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted installed the deacon candidates to the Ministry of Reader during an evening Mass Sept. 7 at the Diocesan Pastoral Center. The men, hailing from parishes across the Valley and one in Flagstaff, completed their first formal year of formation for ordination to the permanent diaconate.

The bishop reminded them that they are to be stewards of God’s word and that they are to proclaim it whether it is convenient or inconvenient. At the foot of the altar, the bishop placed the book of holy Scripture in each man’s hands and told him to be faithful in handing on the word of God, “so that it may grow strong in the hearts of His people.”

Though they may look and sound nearly the same from the pulpit, being a lector at the parish level and being one as a deacon candidate has a key difference. At the parish level, the pastor commissions lectors, said Deacon Doug Bogart, associate director of education and formation for the diaconate.

“Instituted lectors are instituted for life. They should take priority over the commissioned lector,” he said. “They’re trained to proclaim God’s word for the sake of the faithful.”

The Phoenix Diocese currently has 25 instituted lectors with 17 of them preparing for ordination to the diaconate in November. The order of lector is only one of two minor orders that remained after Vatican II.

“Lectors of the Church share in the great commission given by the risen Christ: ‘Go and teach all nations,’” the bishop said.

Most of the newly installed lectors have been regularly proclaiming the readings as a commissioned lector, but now they have more formal training to do so. They critiqued videos of their own readings and worked a bit with Michael Dixon, veteran broadcaster and host of The Bishop’s Hour, a locally produced program aired on 1310AM and online.

“They were warned against being too monotone and against being too expressive,” Deacon Bogart said.

Angel Torres, a parishioner at St. Augustine Parish east of Indian School and 75th Avenue, is used to being behind a microphone. He’s been producing Radio Family Rosary’s Spanish programming for nearly three years now and interviewing guests. He began reading as a lector while at Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish in the 1990s.

Still, he doesn’t take his new role lightly, especially with the Year of Faith around the corner, he said.

“Now it’s a different perspective. You’re still reading the same way, but there’s an obligation to really be sure that you’re teaching with your actions and with your service,” Torres said.

Fellow cohort member Mark Veazie couldn’t agree more. The San Francisco de Asís parishioner in Flagstaff has had nine years of practice as a lector, but being instituted into the ministry has renewed his call.

“It challenges you to live the word that you proclaim. So that’s a little scary,” Veazie said.

He’s looking forward to allowing the experience to further his formation and discernment. His greatest joy of discernment so far is serving Christ in the outcast, particularly, prisoners and immigrants. He’ll start serving at St. Vincent de Paul this month for his practicum and in a hospital chaplaincy in January.

This cohort of deacon candidates, which includes everyone from cabinet makers to a physician, is scheduled for ordination in 2014.