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Diaconate candidates take another step in formation for ministry

News of the Diocese

February 15, 2024

Diaconate candidates take another step in formation for ministry
Diaconate candidates take another step in formation for ministry
Diaconate candidates take another step in formation for ministry
Diaconate candidates take another step in formation for ministry
Diaconate candidates take another step in formation for ministry
Diaconate candidates take another step in formation for ministry
Diaconate candidates take another step in formation for ministry
Diaconate candidates take another step in formation for ministry
Diaconate candidates take another step in formation for ministry
Diaconate candidates take another step in formation for ministry
Diaconate candidates take another step in formation for ministry
Diaconate candidates take another step in formation for ministry

Three men who are discerning the permanent diaconate took another step in their formation journey on Feb. 10 when they were instituted in the ministry of acolyte.

Auxiliary Bishop Michael Woost presided at the liturgy in Sagrada Familia Church in Cleveland.

The newly instituted acolytes are:

  • Dale Shafer, Holy Family Parish, Parma
  • Rich Prayson, St. Dominic Parish, Shaker Heights
  • Jeff Stutzman, St. Thomas More Parish, Brooklyn

During the homily, the bishop talked about how harsh things were during Old Testament times when a person who had sores that appeared to be a contagious disease like leprosy were considered unclean and they were forced to live apart, outside the camp. While it may seem harsh, he said it was necessary – an act of charity – to protect the community.

(See photo gallery above.)

“To be declared unclean and live outside as one who was considered unclean must have been difficult,” the bishop said. He said being unclean refers to more than being physically unclean. It means being unable to participate fully in the life of the community, living apart but still having some connection to the community. “Imagine the difficulty – to be within sight of family, friends and neighbors, but unable to be fully with them,” he said.

In the Gospel, he said the leper requested of Jesus that he could make him clean – if he wished. “That was both a declaration of faith and an act of surrender,” he said, noting it leaves the outcome in Jesus’ hands – the request to be not just healed, but made clean. “In other words, so he could be fully reconnected with the community,” he added.

The bishop said the concern in the readings wasn’t just about diagnosing and/or healing leprosy. The common concern of the readings was relationship and not seeking a person’s own benefit, but what can be done to benefit many for the sake of their salvation. “It’s all about relationship – with God and others.”

At the liturgy, the bishop said they were looking at the current community including who is existing on the fringes, who is hovering on the outside, who is longing to be welcomed in and what needed to be done to bring others into the Church.

“We witness a response in Dale, Rich and Jeff,” the bishop said. He noted they received “the grace of God’s call” so the decision to pursue the diaconate was not just their choice. Also, their response of “present” was more than just an indication they were physically present, “but that they are willing to surrender themselves to God’s call.”

He said each of the men has a devotion to the Eucharist, recognizing the gift of God’s presence in the Eucharist as necessary to nourish their life of discipleship. They also have a desire to serve, he added.

“We pray that Dale, Rich and Jeff would be effective in action, gentle in ministry and constant in prayer,” Bishop Woost added. “The life of the Church has its source and summit in the Eucharist.”

As instituted acolytes, he said they are called to conform their lives more fully to the sacrifice of Christ and to differ themselves as a spiritual sacrifice acceptable to God. Their responsibilities include assisting deacons and priests in th4eri ministry at the altar, distributing Communion to the faithful at Mass and to those who are sick or homebound and on occasion, to expose and repose the Blessed Sacrament for adoration.

“In receiving Holy Communion, the minister becomes one with those to whom he serves,” the bishop said.

During the ritual of institution, the congregation was asked to pray for the three candidates and to ask God to assist them in their ministry and to grow in faith and love to build up the Church.

Each of the men was presented with a vessel of unconsecrated hosts that were used during the Mass.

“The ritual commands that they ‘Make your life worthy of your service at the table of the Lord and his Church,’” Bishop Woost said.

The three men are in year three of their four-year formation.

For more information on the permanent diaconate program, click her or contact Deacon George Malec at gmalec@dioceseofcleveland.org or call 440-943-7652.

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