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Deacons called to be ministers of charity

The five men ordained as transitional deacons May 19 at St. Louis Cathedral – the final step before their ordination to the priesthood in June 2013 – must take seriously their call to be “servants of charity configured to the heart of Christ,” Archbishop Gregory Aymond told them at their Mass of Ordination.

“The call of the deacon is unique,” Archbishop Aymond told the ordinands. “The deacon is called in the history of the church, by holy orders, to be radical in his charity, to lead the rest of us in the role of charity, and to be our conscience of charity when people are being neglected.”

The five men ordained transitional deacons – Colin V. Braud, Travis J. Clark, Gary P. Copping, Daniel H. Green and Jonathan P. Hemelt – each made three promises to the archbishop: to pray daily for the church through the Liturgy of the Hours, to live a celibate life and to obey the diocesan bishop and his successors.

They then prostrated themselves on the red carpet in front of the altar while the Litany of Supplication (to the saints) was sung by the choir and congregation. Each man knelt before Archbishop Aymond, who laid hands on him silently to invoke the Holy Spirit.

Symbols of clerical service

Then, each newly ordained deacon stood at the front of the altar to receive from a trusted mentor the deacon’s stole –  a sign of the clerical state – and the dalmatic, an outer vestment, which symbolizes the deacon’s service to the church.

The archbishop concluded the ritual by handing each deacon the Book of the Gospels, a sign that they are now entrusted with proclaiming the Gospel and preaching the Word of God. In handing over the book to each man, Archbishop Aymond said: “Receive the Gospel of Christ, whose herald you have become. Believe what you read; teach what you believe; and practice what you teach.”

“It is a challenge to do this,” Archbishop Aymond said. “You will need courage to be able to teach and to practice. The fact is you and I alike need honesty and humility to know when we do not practice what we preach and what we teach. There are times that we will humbly stand before the Lord as sinners and acknowledge our own call to conversion.”

As he handed the men the Book of the Gospels, Archbishop Aymond asked them to place it in a prominent position in their rooms so that they could see it every day.

“Make sure you can see it every day so that it can boom out to you three things every day: pray the word of God, preach the word of God faithfully and be the word of God, especially God’s charity,” the archbishop said.


A wondrous day

Each of the newly ordained said he was inspired by the call to holy orders.

Deacon Braud: “The Holy Spirit has come upon me and filled me up for my future ministry and for the rest of my life.”

 Deacon Clark: “I’m feeling excitement and joy, and it’s just a great feeling. It’s been a long journey and a great road, and I look forward to what God has in store for me. I’ve trusted God all the way, and he’s brought me to this point, and he’s taken care of me. He’ll always do that. Just trust in the Lord in all things.”

Deacon Copping: “I’ve been waiting for this for a very long time, and it’s finally here. It was just like being in heaven, being in the Divine Liturgy, and being a part of it.”


Deacon Green: “It’s a day of great joy and thanksgiving. There have been a whole lot of people who have supported me on this journey, from the time I was born until the time I walked down the aisle today, so I thank them. Part of the Mass just seemed to fly by. I guess by Thursday or Friday I’ll actually realize that the bishop did what he was supposed to do – we’re deacons!”

Deacon Hemelt: “It’s still a little surreal. When we got outside, I asked Daniel (Green), ‘Did this really happen?’ I kept asking myself, ‘Why did God choose me?’ But knowing that he did choose me, that’s enough, and I’ll figure out why down the road. As the archbishop said, we need to dedicate ourselves to prayer so that we can grow in that vocation of charity that we’re being called to.”

Peter Finney Jr. can be reached at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .