Deacons in the Diocese of Cleveland who are celebrating a significant anniversary of their ordination attended the annual diocesan jubilee Mass and reception on May 9 at St. Basil the Great Parish in Brecksville. Auxiliary Bishop emeritus Roger Gries was the main celebrant. Concelebrating were Father Michael Gurnick, secretary for clergy and religious, and Father Donald Oleksiak, delegate to the Apostolic Administrator. Deacon Bruce Battista was the homilist.
“Hearing the voice of the shepherd is the criteria for being in the flock,” Deacon Battista told his fellow deacons and guests at the liturgy. He reminded them they heard the voice of the shepherd – Jesus – and discerned their call to the diaconate.
He connected his homily to the day’s readings, which were pointed toward deacons. The first reading, from the Acts of the Apostles, related the story of the persecution and martyrdom of Stephen, a deacon. “He was one of us,” Deacon Battista said, relating how after Stephen was martyred, the deacons dispersed, with some going to the Gentiles.
“‘Downtown Jerusalem’ heard about it,” he quipped, “and sent Barnabas to investigate. He was the right guy for the job because he had one foot in the Church and one in the market place, much like us,” Deacon Battista said, referring to the fact that deacons maintain a secular career as well as their vocation in the Church.
“We know the voice of the shepherd, we love him and we follow him,” he said, adding that deacons bring the light of Christ into hospitals, nursing homes, jails and other places, as well as bringing his voice to the faithful as they work with couples on marriage preparation, preside at baptisms, weddings and funerals.
He challenged his fellow deacons by asking if they still hear the voice of the shepherd “Do we still discern if he has something to tell us,” he asked.
About three dozen deacons celebrated the anniversary of their ordination to the diaconate highlighting milestones of 40, 35, 30, 25, 20 and 10 years of service in the Diocese of Cleveland.
Jubilarians celebrating this year include the following:
40 years — Deacons James L. Agrippe, Donald P. Butkovic and Ronald J. Volek. Deceased members of the class are Deacons Geza J. Balassy, Philip Mraz and Joseph W. Skhra.
35 years – Deacons Robert C. Bubnick Sr., Francis R. Lonteen, Homer L. Sherman and Andrew J. Novak. Deceased members of the class are Deacons Harry J. Broering Jr., Clarence A. Chrosniak, Clemens J. Urbanski and William J. Viancourt Sr.
30 years – Deacons Frederick F. Giel, John M. Rivera and J. David Seal. Deceased members of the class are Deacons Stanley J. Fulton and Robert J. Jasany.
25 years – Deacons Edward J. Feldkamp, Patrick J. Humphrey, David J. Lundeen, Luis A. Maldonado and Howard J. Masony.
20 years – Deacons Lawrence A. Boehnlein, James D. Croniger, Roger N. Klaas, William C. Merriman, Richard A. Mueller and William M. Staab. Deacon Robert M. Kochanski is deceased.
10 years — Deacons Bruce J. Battista, David S. Kushner, F. Gregory Noveske, Jay R. Ogan, Robert F. Schwartz, Charles E. Tweddell Jr. and William J. Yoho Jr.
The diaconate program is overseen by Deacon David Kushner.
At a reception after Mass, Father Oleksiak shared greetings and congratulations from Bishop Daniel Thomas, Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese of Cleveland, who was unable to attend. Father Gurnick added his best wishes and hosted a special recognition ceremony for the jubilarians that also recognized the wives of the celebrating deacons for their support of their husbands through the years.