Fifteen men are continuing their journey toward a more intimate life within the Church.
The men, alongside their families, are at various stages of discerning the permanent diaconate. Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted admitted 10 of them as official candidates during a private Mass Aug. 21 at the Diocesan Pastoral Center.
Their step came following completion of courses through the diocesan Kino Catechetical Institute and time observing diaconal activities during inquiry and aspirant stages.
Five other men were instituted to the ministry of acolyte in a similar liturgy Aug. 28 at St. Mary’s Basilica. That means they are wholly trained altar severs who can also purify vessels. God willing, the newly instituted acolytes will be ordained in a little more than a year.
“When the Lord calls a man to the ministry of acolyte, He draws him more profoundly into His mystery and into His love,” Bishop Olmsted said in a homily that reflected on the mystery of the Eucharist and bringing it to the sick and homebound.
He called such ministry a blessing because it often fosters an encounter with someone who mirrors Christ’s suffering with great dignity. Gary Scott has had such encounters on his own and while completing practicum assignments as part of diaconate formation.
He’s brought Communion into people’s homes, hospitals and hospice settings. The visit also includes a prayer together and twice, patients have died mid-prayer at symbolic times.
“You’re encountering people at one of their most vulnerable times,” Scott said.
Once, particularly while holding a Communion service at a retirement center near his home parish of Resurrection in Tempe, Scott felt called to say something more about the readings, but couldn’t with authority.
Scott sees the calling to the diaconate as a culmination of such life experiences and a desire for more intense service in the Church. There’s also a desire to serve in the workplace and marketplace. Many deacons remain active with secular work too.
Scott, an acquisition manger for the county, once saw a drastic reorganization at the office as a change to minister to fellow employees. Members of that same staff, who hold various beliefs, are now supporting Scott’s discernment and witnessed his institution to the ministry of acolyte.
William Chavira, a parishioner at St. Thomas the Apostle and fellow acolyte, said it’s important to not let a busy work schedule hinder true discernment to the diaconate.
“In the end, it’s all the Lord. It’s nothing we do on our own,” Chavira said.
He described this next step of formation as humbling and “a little bit surreal to continue to see what the Lord has in mind.”
Jim Myers, a parishioner at Holy Trinity Catholic Newman Center in Flagstaff, is also beside himself knowing that he’s now officially a candidate for the diaconate. He was among 10 men accepted as official candidates for the diaconate in a special Mass Aug. 21.
“I almost had to pinch myself,” Myers said.
He considered the diaconate a good decade ago. Formation didn’t work out due to work responsibilities. Now married and continuing discernment to the Church’s ministry with his wife, Myers now sees God’s hand in the timing and trusts in His plan for the future.
“Even if I didn’t go forward [to ordination], to learn why we do what we do [as Catholics] was worth it,” he said.