Thursday, May 23, 2024

Four New Deacons Give ‘Perfect Gift’ to the Church

The four Diocesan seminarians who were ordained to the diaconate on Saturday, May 20 give “the total gift of themselves” to God and to the Church, Bishop Ronald Gainer said during the Mass of Ordination at St. Patrick Cathedral in Harrisburg.

The newly-ordained are Deacon Thomas Kappes, 31; Deacon Richard McAlister, 32; Deacon Michael Pray, 38; and Deacon Drew Tanguay, 25.

The four men, who are entering their final year of formation for the priesthood, were ordained to the diaconate by Bishop Ronald Gainer in front of a congregation of clergy, religious, family members and friends, and to an audience watching a livestream of the solemn Mass. The new deacons have been assigned to the following parishes: Deacon Kappes at St. Joan of Arc Parish in Hershey; Deacon McAlister at St. Joseph Parish in Mechanicsburg; Deacon Pray at St. Francis Xavier Parish in Gettysburg; and Deacon Tanguay at St. John Neumann Parish in Lancaster.

Their ministry will be to proclaim the Gospel, preach, and assist the priest at Mass; and celebrate baptisms, witness marriages, and officiate at funeral rites. It is anticipated they will be ordained priests for the Diocese of Harrisburg in June of 2024.

“Your self-donation today inspires all of us to a greater hope and a life characterized by a more willing self-sacrifice,” Bishop Gainer told them during his homily.

Telling the congregation “Real gifts must always be a portion of ourselves,” the bishop exhorted those gathered to remember in this time of Eucharistic Revival that “Jesus gives us the perfect gift; not just some thing, but he offers us Himself.”

“God, in His goodness, has called these four men to begin to share in the Sacrament of Holy Orders, through Ordination to the Diaconate. The Church has assisted them in their discernment of that call, and we have supported them in their response,” he said. “Now, in response to God’s gift of vocation, our brothers give to God and to us, the Church, their perfect gift; not some symbol of their desire to serve God and the Church, but the total gift of themselves.

“The deacons’ ministry must be a reminder to each one of us that God has sent all of us into the world as servants from the heart of Christ. By the grace of this sacrament, the deacon is empowered to incarnate that Christ-like service in his own life and to challenge all of us to serve more generously, more authentically,” Bishop Gainer said.

The New Deacons

Deacon Thomas Kappes is a member of St. Margaret Mary Parish in Harrisburg. He is the son of Thomas Kappas and Donna Kappes and attends Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, Md. Prior to entering seminary, Deacon Kappes earned a bachelors degree in Public Health and Occupational Safety from Indiana University, Indiana.

“Seminary education has been more than just preparation to become a priest. I believe it’s also made me a better man and a better Catholic – one who can serve others and Christ and the Church in a number of different ways,” Deacon Kappes told The Catholic Witness.

With the support of the people of the Diocese, he said he is inspired “to learn more about the faith and how to bring that to the people of God to one day be the best priest I can be for years to come.”

Deacon Richard McAlister is a member of the Cathedral Parish of St. Patrick in Harrisburg. He is the son of Howard and Tina McAlister and attends Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, Md., for his formation. Prior to entering seminary, he worked on a dairy farm, as a bookkeeper, and for the United States Postal Service.

“I’m really excited to get fully involved in service,” he said of his diaconate assignment. “Up to this point in seminary, we didn’t get the chance to serve most weekends. I’ll be excited to go to the parish every weekend, be there every Saturday and Sunday and serve as well as I’m able to.”

He said the call from God compels him to service.

“We do it for Him. We are now just coming to the end of the Easter season, and we are an Easter people. I think that is the encouragement that gives me the strength to get up every morning to serve Him, the Church and our Diocese of Harrisburg,” Deacon McAlister said.

Deacon Michael Pray is a member of St. Bernard Parish in New Bloomfield. He is the son of Patrick and Gwen Pray and attends Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, Md. Prior to entering seminary, Deacon Pray worked in education for 10 years while also coaching football, basketball and track.

“Formation at the seminary is like ecclesiastical bootcamp. That doesn’t mean five-mile runs or anything like that, but what it does mean is being remade by focusing on prayer, intellectual formation, spiritual formation and really understanding what God’s call actually means,” he said of his formation.

“We are preparing ourselves to serve you in the future. What we do is all for you,” Deacon Pray said to the people of the Diocese. “It’s all to make sure that the Church in the Harrisburg Diocese can continue both now and in the future. To one day have the title of Father will be a great privilege and it’s something I’m looking forward to, to serve as another Christ at the altar for the people.”

Deacon Drew Tanguay is a member of Seven Sorrows of the Blessed Virgin Mary Parish in Middletown. He is the son of Stephanie Watts and attends St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Philadelphia. Deacon Tanguay entered seminary directly after high school, where he was active in choir, band and theater.

“What we’re asked to do and what we expect from ourselves is not within the realm of our own capabilities,” he said of his seminary formation. “I’m not the Drew that entered seminary seven years ago; I wasn’t capable then of doing what I am now, and even what I’m doing now, I’m not always capable of. The only answer to that is prayer. We feel the real, actual concrete effects of the prayers of the people of the Diocese.”

Deacon Tanguay said he is eager to begin his diaconate year of service.

“We all love seminary and we love learning about God, but putting that into practice and getting to have some experience of what our future is going to look like is so exciting and fills us with so much joy,” he said. “I always get very excited when I think about the future and how much I’ll be able to give back.”

See video interviews with the four deacons and all of the Diocese’s seminarians on the Diocesan YouTube channel, and learn more about religious vocations in the Diocese of Harrisburg at

(Photos by Chris Heisey, The Catholic Witness.)

By Jen Reed, The Catholic Witness

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