“Gentlemen, you have been feeling the tug of God’s call for a long time now. Your faculty and formators – and your bishops – tested that call,” Bishop Edward Malesic told the five Saint Mary seminarians who were ordained as transitional deacons during a Mass on April 17 in the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist.
Four of the men were ordained for service to the Catholic Diocese of Cleveland. The fifth was ordained for service to the Archdiocese of Daegu, South Korea. Their diaconal ordination moves them one step closer to potential ordination as priests.
“You have had highs and lows, times when you heard the call of Jesus very clearly in your life and times when the Lord’s call was not so clear and in the background. Not unlike the early apostles and disciples of Jesus, you have needed to take time with Christ, getting to know him better, listening to his whispers in your heart, understanding as best as you can what he is asking of you, learning the skills of the ministry, coming to know the mind of his Church and finally hearing him say to you within the depth of your soul, ‘Follow me’ as a deacon. And maybe next year as a priest. Who knows?” the bishop continued.
“All of this takes a lot of trust. But we believe that God knows what he is doing for you and with you. And what he is doing for you is a great benefit to all of us. God is asking you to be a blessing for us in ordained ministry.”
The newly ordained transitional deacons, their parents and home parishes are:
- Ian William Kelly, son of Michelle and the late David Kelly of Parma; home parish, St. Charles Borromeo in Parma.
- Joseph Daniel Menkhaus, son of Joseph and Christy Menkhaus of Cuyahoga Heights; home parish, St. Monica, Garfield Heights.
- Scott Edward Swinerton, son of David and the late Sharon Swinerton of Olmsted Falls; home parish, St. Mary of the Falls, Olmsted Falls.
- David Michael Verbsky, son of William and Sharyl Verbsky of Mentor; home parish, St. Mary, Chardon.
The new deacon from the Archdiocese of Daegu is John Jaehyun Ryu, son of HyeJa Jang and the late Jeong Gwang Ryu of South Korea; home parish, St. Andrew Kim, Cleveland.
The bishop told them that they were being sent forth with the laying on of hands and the prayer of ordination. “We are setting you loose on the world,” he said.
But he assured them they would have help. “You still need to be tied to something if you want to have a purposeful ministry and go fishing for souls,” he said, as he outlined three anchors for the new deacons.
“The first anchor is Christ himself. Never let go of him. He will give you direction and you must always take his lead. He will tell you where to drop anchor and sometimes he will take you to places you never wanted to go,” the bishop said. “But that is where trust comes in. And every place he takes you will be a place where you will find God’s blessing.”
Second is the teaching of the Church, which is like a rudder to keep them from drifting in the wrong direction. “If you want to be a representative of the Church, then you must teach what the Church teaches in holy doctrine – and you must show that you believe it even more than you understand it. People will demand that degree of authenticity from you, Bishop Malesic said.
A third help, especially for deacons, is the people most in need, including the poor, lonely, isolated, the hungry and sinners. “Travel in their direction and you will never go wrong. Stay close to them. After all, that is where Jesus was often found,” the bishop said. “Those who are in need of your ministry will often give you more than you give the. See Christ in them. Serve them. You are being ordained to be in the image of Christ the servant, after all.”
Bishop Malesic mentioned a story he read in the seminary newsletter about Father Mark Latcovich, president/rector of the seminary, washing the feet of seminarians on Holy Thursday. It talked about how powerful it was to see the rector washing the feet of seminarians, much like Jesus washed the apostles’ feet at the Last Supper.
“In Jesus, we have a God who is willing to genuflect before his disciples and all those who are in need of healing and redemption. So I want to say this to those of you being ordained today as deacons: Be ready to genuflect before the people that you are called to serve. Be eager to go and wash feet. Be ready to love as you have been loved.”
He also reminded the new deacons that they would never lose their diaconal quality, “Even if at the end of your life all you can do is pray for us. If that be the case, then pray for us.”
As deacons, the men will help the bishop and priests in the ministry of the Word, of the altar and of charity. They can administer baptism, assist at the altar during Mass, distribute hoy Communion, bring the Eucharist as viaticum to the dying, read sacred Scriptures to the faithful, preach on occasion, preside at the Church’s public prayer, administer sacramentals, assist at and bless marriages and officiate at funeral and burial rites.
The ordination Mass was livestreamed on the diocesan website and can be viewed on demand.