Bishop McKnight held aloft the chalice containing the Most Precious Blood of Christ.
Reflected on its side were four of the five men the bishop had just raised to the order of deacon for the Jefferson City diocese.
The fifth was assisting him at the altar and would elevate the Precious Blood with him at the end of the Eucharistic Prayer.
At home, at work, at church and out in the community, all five will join the other 83 active deacons in the diocese in conforming their lives to the mystery of Christ’s death and resurrection.
“As they give up their lives for You and for the salvation of their brothers and sisters,” the bishop prayed to the Father, “they strive to be conformed to the image of Christ Himself and offer You a constant witness of faith and love.”
The new deacons are: Deacon Pedro Almazán, Deacon Jerónimo Chinchilla, Deacon Edwin Pacheco, Deacon Santos Rubio and Deacon Enrique Castro.
Bishop McKnight in his homily told the men that they were to become “ministers of the altar by proclaiming the Gospel, preparing the gifts for sacrifice, and by distributing the Lord’s Body and Blood to the faithful.”
They’ll do that and much more.
They will preach and teach, baptize and catechize, animate the faithful and invite those without faith to encounter the Lord.
They will do these things in English and their native Spanish.
“With your natural and supernatural gifts, you are being called to assist your bishop and his priests to help meet the pastoral obligations we have to those in our local Church who belong to one of the Hispanic cultures,” Bishop McKnight told them.
They will function as mediators between the bishop and priests and the laity, between the Church and the community at large, between people of different cultures and different languages.
“You are to serve as a pastoral bridge between the shepherds and their flocks with a special mission to remove the barriers and walls that might separate pastors from their flock,” Bishop McKnight told them.
“Wonderful pattern of unity”
The diaconate is the first of three ranks in ordained ministry in the Catholic Church.
Deacons are called to several roles and responsibilities in the Church. This includes proclaiming the Gospel during the Liturgy, preaching homilies, teaching and leading people in prayer, baptizing, witnessing marriages and conducting funerals and wake services.
They also bear a responsibility to be leaders in identifying the needs of others, organizing the Church’s response to those needs and eliminating the injustices or inequities causing such needs.
Like priests and bishops, deacons are ordained by the laying on of hands and the invocation of the Holy Spirit. But their vocation is distinct from that of other members of the clergy.
“Though you will not share in the ministerial Priesthood of Jesus Christ,” Bishop McKnight told the new deacons, “you will belong to an intermediate order between the ministerial priests and the people: as an expression of the needs and desires of the Christian communities; and to animate, facilitate, foster and promote the participation of the lay faithful in the life and mission of the Church.”
Proclaimers and doers
Reflecting the growing diversity of the local Church and the diaconate, most of the songs, prayers, and readings at the Ordination Mass were in Spanish.
Father Daniel Merz, diocesan director of the Permanent Diaconate, summoned each candidate for holy orders by name.
On behalf of the whole Church, Fr. Merz testified to the candidates’ worthiness and asked Bishop McKnight to ordain them.
The candidates declared before the bishop and people their intention to accept the office of the diaconate, including its requirements of prayer, ministry, sacrifice, fidelity and obedience.
The five men then lay prostrate before the altar, in a symbol of death and resurrection and of obedience and total reliance on God, while the choir and people prayed the Litany of Saints.
Bishop McKnight then placed his hands on the head of each candidate, an ancient symbol for the bestowing of the Holy Spirit, and prayed the Prayer of Ordination over them.
A friend or mentor, along with each deacon’s wife, then ceremonially helped each deacon put on his new vestments.
The deacon’s stole symbolizes the yoke of the diaconal office. The dalmatic, a liturgical vestment that has sleeves to free the arms, symbolizes the active service he renders to the Church and for the bishop.
Bishop McKnight presented a Book of the Gospels to each new deacon, saying in Spanish, “Receive the Gospel of Christ, Whose herald you have become. Believe what you read, teach what you believe, practice what you teach.”
The bishop and the other deacons present then offered a sign of peace to each of the newly ordained.
One in Christ
Joining Bishop McKnight at the altar were Bishop Emeritus John R. Gaydos; Monsignor Robert A. Kurwicki, vicar general; Father Jason Doke, moderator of the curia; Father Merz; Father Louis Nelen, pastor of the Cathedral of St. Joseph; Father Christopher Aubuchon, diocesan vocation director; Father Thomas Alber, Father Louis Dorn, Father Frederick Elskamp, Father Daniel Lueckenotte, Father Jeremy Secrist and Father Mark Smith.
Assisting them were Deacons Christopher Baker, James Farnell, John Neudecker, Amparo Orozco and John Weaver.
Altar servers included seminarian Erick Chincilla, Angely Pacheco, Edwin Pacheco Jr., and Kelly Rubio, who are children of the new deacons, and Geniva Vásquez and Tanya Vásquez.
The lectors were Jesús Salvador Castro Palos and Bianka Chinchilla. Pam Whitney led the responsorial psalm.
Norma Dolores Argueta Almazán, Christhia M. Castro, Blanca Bonilla Chinchilla, Clelia Guadalupe Gómez Pacheco and María Miranda Rubio, who are wives of new deacons, presented the gifts at the offertory.
A new garment
Fr. Secrist, pastor of St. Peter parish in Jefferson City, helped vest Deacon Castro.
Fr. Alber, senior associate pastor of St. Peter parish in Marshall and the Sacred Heart mission in Sweet Springs, helped vest Deacon Almazan.
Fr. Smith, pastor of St. Peter parish in Marshall and the Sacred Heart mission in Sweet Springs, helped vest Deacon Rubio.
Fr. Patrick Dolan, a retired priest of the diocese who serves as sacramental minister for St. Mary parish in Milan and the St. Mary mission in Unionville, helped vest Deacon Chincilla.
Deacon Weaver, parish life collaborator for St. Mary parish in Milan and the St. Mary mission in Unionville, helped vest Deacon Pacheco.