Four men were ordained as permanent deacons by Bishop Nelson Perez during a liturgy on May 5 in the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist in downtown Cleveland.
“There are a lot of things going on in Cleveland today, but the most important thing is here,” the bishop said.
Thomas P. Bizon of Mary Queen of Apostles Parish, Brook Park; Robert A. Cavanaugh, St. Francis Xavier Parish, Medina; Mark C. Yantek, St. Brendan Parish, North Olmsted; and Robert A. Zerrer, St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception Parish, Wooster are the ordinandi.
Auxiliary Bishop emeritus Roger Gries, the new deacons’ pastors and several other priests concelebrated. Many other priests and deacons from around the diocese also were at the liturgy, which was streamed live on the diocesan website. Bishop Perez said that Father Christopher Trenta, a diocesan priest who is studying in Rome and who served as a parochial vicar at Deacon Zerrer’s parish, St. Mary Parish in Wooster, was watching in Rome.
After the election of the candidates and the consent of the people, Bishop Perez spoke to the ordinandi and the congregation. In his homily, he said that at some point in their lives, the ordinandi heard a call from God to serve the Church as a deacon. He said the ordination liturgy ritualizes that call and their five years of formation. He said it was God’s initiative and God’s call.
“Sometimes we struggle with the call, but God is persistent. God will do what God will do,” the bishop said. He also said that as permanent deacons – married men with families – they wouldn’t be ordained without their wives’ consent.
“We thank you for sharing your husbands with the Church,” the bishop said as he applauded after asking the wives to stand.
As deacons, he told the men they will serve the Church. “You become an icon of Jesus the servant. The tools of your trade are the Gospels and a lived Gospel,” he said noting the deacons are always deacons – in their professions, in their family lives and in the world.
“You give your availability – your time — to the Church,” he said. “Time is the one thing we actually do have. What we choose to do with that time is another issue. But God has called you to give some of that time to the Church.”
Permanent deacons have a special role, he said, noting that they serve on the altar, they can baptize, witness marriages, expose the Blessed Sacrament, distribute the Eucharist, preach, teach, visit the sick and bring viaticum to the dying. Theirs is a ministry of service and charity.
“There may come a time when you can’t do these things, but you will still be a deacon. You are configured to Christ in a special way. It’s about an intimate relationship with the mystical body of Christ,” Bishop Perez said.
He said now that the years of preparation and formation are finished, “the fun begins.”
In the early Church, the disciples selected seven men to serve as deacons to assist them, which enabled the disciples to focus on prayer and Christ’s mission for them as the Church’s first priests. The first deacons were consecrated by the laying-on of hands.
During the rite of ordination, those being ordained promised to serve with humble charity, to obey the bishop and his successors, to pray daily and to follow the Lord’s teachings “with the help of God.” The ordination included the litany of supplication, during which those being ordained laid on the floor around the altar; the laying on of hands, investiture, handing on of the book of Gospels and the kiss of peace.
After the ordination, the liturgy continued with the new deacons assisting at the altar.
This year is the 50th anniversary of the 1968 approval by Blessed Pope Paul VI for the bishops of the United States to renew the permanent diaconate as an active, permanent order of ministry.
After Mass, the new deacons posed for photos with the bishops and their families. They also received a book of the Gospels as a gift from the diocese and learned of their parish assignments.
Deacon Bizon will serve at his home parish, Mary Queen of the Apostles in Brook Park. Deacon Cavanaugh also was assigned to his home parish, St. Francis Xavier in Medina, as was Deacon Robert Zerrer, St. Mary in Wooster.
Deacon Mark Yantek will serve at Our Lady of Angels Parish in Cleveland’s West Park neighborhood.