Following five years of discernment, studies, formation and deepening their relationship with God, 35 men in the Permanent Diaconate Formation Program were ordained to the Sacred Order of the Diaconate on Saturday, Sept. 12.
In opening remarks at the start of the Mass, celebrated at Holy Name of Jesus Church in Harrisburg, Bishop Ronald Gainer said “Today is a phenomenal day; a day that is exciting, joyful and faith-filled…. It is the very kind of day we need during these extraordinary times that we have been experiencing.”
Following safety protocols in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, the ordinandi wore matching white masks and were spaced apart in the church’s first several rows of pews, flanked by a number of Diocesan priests and deacons. A limited number of family members were permitted to attend the Mass, which was streamed live on the Diocese’s YouTube page.
Holy Name of Jesus Church was selected for the ordination to allow for proper social distancing for the number of clergy and family in attendance. For most of the Ordination Rites – including the Election of the Candidates, the homily, the Litany of Supplication, the Investiture of Stole and Dalmatic, and the Sign of Peace – the diaconate candidates stood at their place in the pews, or stood several feet apart from each other across the front of the church and halfway up the center aisle.
For other Rites, such as the Promise of the Elect, the Laying on of Hands, and the Handing on of the Book of the Gospels, they approached Bishop Gainer, seated on a faldstool in front of the altar.
The solemnity of the Rite of Ordination moved many of the newly-ordained to tears.
“I cried during the Laying on of Hands and the Prayer of Ordination,” Deacon Michael McGovern told The Catholic Witness after the Mass. “I just felt this huge welling up in my heart. I felt the Holy Spirit, and it was just beautiful. I don’t know that there’s anything someone can really say to us to expect that feeling, but I could sense the Holy Spirit and was ready to lay my life down.”
Deacon McGovern, who has been assigned to St. Andrew the Apostle Parish in Waynesboro, said he was overjoyed to celebrate the ordination with his classmates, who have formed a brotherhood over the past several years.
“We’ve learned together, we’ve gone through struggles together, we’ve lost people along the way. To see this finally come to fruition with all these wonderful men willing to serve the Diocese and the people of God, it really is overwhelming,” he said.
Vocation of Service
In his homily, Bishop Gainer reminded the congregation that everyone is called to a vocation in life, and spoke of the sacred ministry of a deacon.
“We are each a unique project of God. We each carry within ourselves a personal vocation, a calling, which brings with it an obligation to follow God’s design for our lives,” the bishop said. “What a marvelous work of grace it is, that, having made a variety of vocational choices – married and family life, professional careers and avocations – these men began to discern that God had another vocational project in His heart for them.”
“My brothers, your listening for God’s continuing call to you at a time in your life when perhaps you had assumed that the course of your life was already set, is something wonderful that the rest of us must not just admire, but seriously contemplate this morning,” he hold the candidates. “Your cooperation with God’s will and your submission to God’s call today is a great and important witness to every one of us here. You remind us that the personal vocation that we carry can still be further determined progressively, and developed by God’s continuing call to us. We need always to be open to the surprises He may have in store for us. We need always to take seriously any promptings from God that we may discern within us.”
The diaconate is an order of the Catholic clergy and is open to married and single men. As such, the permanent deacon is a member of the Church’s hierarchy, who is configured to Christ the Servant through the Sacrament of Holy Orders.
As ordained ministers of the Church, deacons perform a variety of roles. During Mass, as Ministers of the Word, they can proclaim the Gospel, preach and teach in the name of the Church. As ministers of the Altar, deacons can baptize, lead the faithful in prayer, witness marriages, and conduct wake and funeral services. As ministers of Charity, deacons are leaders in identifying the needs of others and working to match the Church’s resources to meet those needs.
“Your ordination today reminds us of this truth: The diaconate is an order of service to Christ and to His Church,” Bishop Gainer told the ordinandi. He said their selfless service as husbands, fathers, sons and brothers “is elevated by a sacramental grace that will conform your lives ever more closely to Christ the Servant.”
Bishop Gainer directed the men to heed the words of Jesus in the Gospel reading for the Mass, spoken at the first Eucharist: “I am among you as one who serves.”
“Let that always be your standard for greatness,” the bishop said. “Seek no other, no false standard of greatness.”
Reflecting on five years of discernment, study and formation in the Diocese’s Permanent Diaconate Formation Program, Deacon Christopher Livelsberger and his wife Yolanda couldn’t say enough about the way it deepened their faith and forged profound bonds.
“We came into this program with a love for God, and left with the ability to serve God and His Church. We did this with the help of so many people, who took us as ordinary people with ordinary lives and transformed them into extraordinary lives,” Deacon Livelsberger said.
He expressed gratitude for formators Father Paul C.B. Schenck, director of deacon formation; Msgr. William King, academic deacon for the program; Father Neil Sullivan, director of spiritual formation; Deacon Michael Grella, director of pastoral formation; and Sister Geralyn Schmidt, SCC, director of formation for the wives.
Yolanda spoke of the sisterhood that has formed among the wives as their husbands moved through the program; a bond that flourished as a result of the wives attending meetings and formation sessions as well.
The formation program also strengthened the Livelsbergers’ married life, they said.
“It has totally deepened our bond,” said Deacon Livelsberger, who has been assigned to the Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in Hanover. “We’ve received a second sacrament as husband and wife, and that is one of service. I feel that both the Sacrament of Marriage and the Sacrament of Holy Orders have combined for me – my vows to my wife and my vows to God to serve His Church.”
The newly-ordained deacons are the fourth class ordained for the Diocese. Previous classes were ordained in 1978, 1983 and 2010. A fifth class of permanent diaconate candidates will get underway in January of 2021, beginning with a period of aspirancy.
(Photos by Chris Heisey, The Catholic Witness.)
By Jen Reed, The Catholic Witness
The Deacons and their Assignments
Deacon Steven L. Auchey, St. Joseph Parish, Mechanicsburg
Deacon Thomas W. Ballinger, Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish, Spring Grove
Deacon David A. Barto, Mary Gate of Heaven Parish, Myerstown
Deacon Shawn A. Biter, Our Lady of Lourdes Parish, Enola
Deacon Alex A. Bogdanoff, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish, Mechanicsburg
Deacon Virgilio A. Centenera, St. Patrick Parish, Carlisle
Deacon Joseph Cingle, Mary, Mother of the Church Parish, Mount Joy
Deacon Chris J. Darrup, St. Pius X Parish, Selinsgrove
Deacon Michael R. Derois, St. Matthew Parish, Dauphin
Deacon Brian G. Fabian, Assumption BVM Parish, Lancaster
Deacon Carl B. Freidhoff, St. John the Baptist Parish, New Freedom
Deacon Joseph M. Gusherowski, St. Joan of Arc Parish, Hershey
Deacon Thomas A. Hewitt, St. Theresa Parish, New Cumberland
Deacon James V. Koch, St. Patrick Parish, York
Deacon Walter J. Kozlowski, Divine Redeemer Parish, Mount Carmel
Deacon Frank A. Kuchinski, St. Leo the Great Parish, Rohrerstown
Deacon James Lawson, Our Mother of Perpetual Help Parish, Ephrata
Deacon Christopher D. Livelsberger, Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Hanover
Deacon Patrick A. McCormack, Our Lady of Good Counsel Parish, Marysville
Deacon Michael D. McGovern, St. Andrew the Apostle Parish, Waynesboro
Deacon Jorge L. Nazario, San Juan Bautista Parish, Lancaster
Deacon Thomas E. Owsinski, St. James Parish, Lititz
Deacon Carlos Pichardo, St. Joseph Parish, Hanover
Deacon Stephen P. Pichler, Immaculate Conception BVM Parish, York
Deacon Henry J. Reese, Holy Trinity Parish, Columbia
Deacon Chad M. Reigel, St. Catherine of Siena Parish, Quarryville
Deacon Jorge L. Reyes, Holy Spirit Parish, Palmyra
Deacon William D. Roesch, St. Rose of Lima Parish, York
Deacon Scott A. Root, St. Katharine Drexel Parish, Mechanicsburg
Deacon George B. Salzmann, St. Patrick Parish, Carlisle
Deacon Daniel R. Signore, III, St. Mark the Evangelist Parish, Greencastle
Deacon Francis J. Skorija, St. Margaret Mary Parish, Harrisburg
Deacon Armando Torres, Jr., San Juan Bautista Parish, Lancaster
Deacon Anthony J. Weaver, Jr., Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish, Lancaster
Deacon Robert P. Wislock, Our Lady of Hope Parish, Coal Township, St. Patrick Parish, Trevorton, and Mother Cabrini Parish, Shamokin