Monday, February 17, 2014

A brief reflection after a decade of being a Deacon

24 January 2014 was the tenth anniversary of my ordination as a deacon. On Saturday, 24 January 2004, along with my 24 classmates, I received ordination at the hands of then-Bishop George Niederauer (who went on to be named Archbishop of San Francisco) and began participating in the sacrament of orders. In honor of this event, Laura Vallejo, writing for our diocesan newspaper, the Intermountain Catholic, wrote a very nice article, "Deacons celebrate 10th anniversary of their ordination."

While writing her piece Laura emailed me with some questions, but I was unable to respond in time for her to meet her deadline. So, I'll post my revised and expanded responses below:
What has it meant for you serving as a Deacon for 10 years?

As most Intermountain Catholic readers know, the word "deacon" means "servant." For me personally, being a deacon these past 10 years has been a tremendous privilege. The offices conferred as a sacrament are not something anyone deserves. We are all unworthy, at least with regard to our own merits. So, the grace of the sacrament of orders has been something I have not only felt, but experienced concretely many times over the past decade.

What is one of your most precious memories from your service as a Deacon?

One memory that was imprinted indelibly in my consciousness happened on Good Friday back in 2004, which fell just a few months after I was ordained: I arrived at the Cathedral quite early to assist at the Good Friday liturgy. As I arrived, one of the funeral directors from a local funeral home, himself a Catholic, was there. He asked me if I would be willing to accompany him right then to the Elysian Garden cemetery to conduct a committal service for a deceased Catholic woman, who was not survived by any close relatives. He told me that it just didn't seem right to bury her with no rite of the Church. I quickly agreed. The woman for whom we held the short service, at which only the funeral director, cemetery workers, and I were present, was in her 90s and had passed away at a rest home in Portland, Oregon. She was originally from Salt Lake City. She had been married, but had no children. Her only relatives were some distant cousins, who had arranged for her body to be sent back to Salt Lake City for internment alongside her parents. It was a very reverent service, the cemetery workers gathered round, took off their hats, and prayed with us. It was raining. I could wax quite eloquent about what this experience has meant to me in succeeding years, but suffice it to say I learned a lot from it, it is something I will never forget, an experience for which I am deeply grateful.

My oldest child, Timothy, and I on the day of his Confirmation

How has being a deacon changed you and your family?

I would like to say that being a deacon has changed me, conforming me more to the image of Christ, through the grace conferred by the sacrament. But that is not a judgment I can make. But by serving others I have certainly come to grasp more deeply, more experientially, how unconditionally and how much God loves me. Experiencing the love of God, given us in Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit is the only starting point for diaconal ministry. I think being a husband and a Dad enriches my diaconal ministry and vice-versa. But my diaconal service has also required a great deal of sacrifice of my family, especially my wife, Holly, without whose love and support I could not serve God's people as a deacon. I would be less than honest if I did not say that at times I have caused my diaconal service to be a burden on my family.
Going into Mass yesterday, one parishioner greeted me with congratulations on my anniversary. She said that she liked Laura's article very much. I was most gratified by her telling me that she recognized me in my class picture (the one printed/posted with the article) by my smile. The joy of the Lord is my strength!

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