The 12 newly instituted lectors pose alongside Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted and other deacons who served the special Mass Aug 17. (Ambria Hammel/CATHOLIC SUN)

Twelve men took another concrete step toward dedicating their life as a deacon of the Church.

Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted instituted them as lectors during a special Mass for the men, their families and some pastors who have supported them in their years of discernment — five and counting. The Aug. 17 liturgy was held in the chapel at the Diocesan Pastoral Center, the same building where the deacon candidates have already spent two years as students in the Kino Catechetical Institute — a pre-requisite for entering the program — followed by three in diaconate formation.

Deacon candidates

Antonio Acuña, St. Margaret in Tempe

José Alvarado, St. Anthony in Phoenix

José Avila, Queen of Peace

Greg Blanchard, San Francisco de Asís in Flagstaff

Chris Gass, Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Tempe

Hector Gonzalez, St. Vincent de Paul in Phoenix

Alberto Juan, Our Lady of Guadalupe in Queen Creek

Adve Knebelsberger, Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Tempe

Andy Lambros, St. Joan of Arc in Phoenix

Handel Metcalf, Our Lady of Joy in Carefree

Ivan Rojas, St. Anne in Gilbert

Bill Schneider, St. Joan of Arc in Phoenix

God-willing, the men, who hail from 10 parishes across the Diocese of Phoenix, will be ordained in the fall of 2020.

“In proclaiming God’s word to others, accept it yourself and the obedience of the Holy Spirit. Meditate on it constantly, that each day, you will have a deeper love of the Scriptures, that all you say and do will show forth to the world our savior, Jesus Christ,” Bishop Olmsted told the men.

As instituted lectors — as opposed to ministerial ones at the parish level — the 12 are now part of a special office within the Christian community. They are entrusted with the mission of preaching the Gospel to various groups of people, even those who have never heard it.

Sometimes that means sharing it in a hospital setting. At others, it could mean sharing the Gospel within a jail or prison. Deacon candidates have up to 12 practicums to choose from each semester to get their feet wet in ministry.

Handel Metcalf has steadily inched closer to God since his conversion seven years ago. Now, the deacon candidate at Our Lady of Joy in Carefree, is taking his newly instituted duty to share God’s word in annulment ministry and canon law. He said it’s a great need that’s in almost all the parishes. He also plans to take up American-Indian Cultural Studies.

Alberto Juan, who is discerning the diaconate to serve at Our Lady of Guadalupe in Queen Creek or wherever the Lord puts him, is already accustomed to carrying out several corporal works of mercy. He has visited prisoners, helped bury the dead and ensured people who were sick didn’t fall behind on bills — all especially within his native Guatemalan community.

The father of four and grandfather of nine sees the diaconate as a way to do more both in the community and from the altar. His wife, Candelaria, described the moment during Mass when her husband put his hands on the same simple Bible with the bishop as special. Juan agreed.

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“I give thanks to the Lord for the chance to be here this day and kneel before the bishop because he represents the Lord, Jesus and I feel closest to him.”

For Greg Blanchard at San Francisco de Asís in Flagstaff, discerning the diaconate follows in the footsteps of two of his children who have also discerned religious vocations. Blanchard has a seminarian son and a daughter who professed final vows in May and now teaches first grade at St. Thomas the Apostle in Phoenix.