Three men who are preparing to serve in the permanent diaconate in the Diocese of Cleveland took another step in their formation when they were instituted in the ministry of lector. Bishop Edward Malesic celebrated the liturgy during which the institution took place on March 11 in St. Patrick Church on Bridge Avenue in Cleveland.
Deacon George Malec, who oversees the permanent diaconate, presented the candidates to the bishop who gave each a Book of the Gospels.
The new lectors are Richard Prayson of St. Dominic Parish in Shaker Heights, Jeff Stutzman of St. Thomas More Parish in Brooklyn and Dale Shafer of Holy Family Parish in Parma.
(See photo gallery above.)
Concelebrating the liturgy were pastors or representatives of the new lectors’ parishes and Father Michael Gurnick, pastor of St. Patrick, the host church. Also attending were many of the other deacons from throughout the diocese, family and friends of the newly instituted and men who are in the diaconate formation program.
The bishop told the faithful that the story of Jesus’ transfiguration was featured in last week’s Gospel. He said Lent is a time of transfiguration. “Let Jesus transfigure us and through us, transfigure the Church,” he said.
The transfiguration process begins with each of us as individual believers who must “confront the plank in our own eyes before removing the speck from the eyes of others,” the bishop explained. He said Pope Francis, in his Lenten message this year, repeated the words of the Father speaking from the clouds about his beloved Son, Jesus. “Listen to him,” the pope said.
We need to listen to Jesus, the bishop said, noting God speaks to us in the Word, which is offered in the liturgy. He also speaks to us through the faces and stories of those in need.
“So, let us listen to Jesus,” he said. “This is advice for all of us, not only those to be instituted into the ministry of reader (lector) for our Church. They are called to be specialists in the Word, but aren’t all of us asked to hear and follow the voice of God a he continually speaks to us?”
Bishop Malesic shared his personal encounter with Christ that occurred during his college years. He said it was a difficult time in his life and he was questioning whether some of his decisions were the right ones. Someone gave him a small Bible and he began reading the Gospels. “From those words, Jesus spoke to me, heart to heart. He came out of the pages to talk with me.”
Once he heard Jesus speak and listened to him with ears of faith, “I rose up. That’s the best I can do to explain it. I rose up, and my life was changed because, quite literally, he spoke to me from Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.”
Jesus takes us down from the mountain, plants us back again in the normalcy of life, tells us to pick up the cross and follow him, the bishop said. “But life is never the same once we have allowed him to transfigure us. We know where we are headed. His life, living within us, gives us a preview of our own resurrection,” he said, noting this makes the temporary sufferings we all experience bearable – even prayerful – as we move forward to the new life awaiting us.
Speaking to the new lectors, the bishop told them to remember to listen to Jesus “in the Scriptures, in the teaching of his Church and in the lives of God’s people where the spirit breathes within us.” As lectors, they will proclaim the readings at Mass, teach the faith to the young and prepare people to receive the sacraments.
“You will bring the message of salvation to those who have not yet received it. Thus with your help, men and women will come to know God our Father, his Son Jesus Christ, whom he sent, and so be able to reach eternal life,” he said.
In addition, the bishop reminded the lectors and the congregation that they can only give what they have. “And you must have Jesus on your minds, lips and hearts in order to share him with others.” He also told them there is a direct link between the Word they will proclaim from the pulpit and the Word that is present at the heart of the Eucharist.
In the day’s Gospel, the bishop reflected on the Samaritan woman at the well and her encounter with Jesus, who spoke to her heart to heart and healed her spiritual disability. This compelled her to share the experience with her whole town.
“Our newly instituted lectors are not the only ones who need to listen to Jesus and then proclaim what has been heard. We must all be evangelists, ambassadors for Jesus, just as the Samaritan woman was for her village,” Bishop Malesic said. “Let us not be afraid to be witnesses for our Catholic faith. Let’s live what we have come to believe: Jesus is Lord.”
Men interested in learning more about the permanent diaconate can click here.