April 28 marked an important milestone in the lives of 15 men of the Jefferson City diocese, as Bishop McKnight accepted them as candidates preparing to be become permanent deacons of the Church.
It was the first formal milestone in a five-year process of discernment and formation for the Diaconate.
Candidacy is a point of transition from discernment to a focus on preparing for the possibility of becoming ordained servants of charity and the altar.
“Compelled by the love of Christ and strengthened by the inner working of the Holy Spirit, you have come to the point of making a public declaration of your desire to devote yourself to the service of God and others in Holy Orders,” the bishop told them. “We welcome this desire with joy.”
He did so in the context of Evening Prayer at the beginning of this year’s annual weekend gathering in Jefferson City of deacons, deacon candidates and their spouses.
Joining the bishop and the 15 candidates before the altar in Cana Hall at the Cathedral of St. Joseph was Father Daniel Merz, diocesan vicar for the Diaconate.
The candidates include:
“Aware of the Lord’s concern for his flock and realizing the needs of the Church,” the bishop told everyone present, “our brothers here consider themselves ready to respond generously to the Lord’s call.”
He said that the 15 candidates must now cultivate their vocation more fully, relying on the prayers and help of the whole Church.
He directed them to turn even more often and more deeply to prayer, listening attentively for God to reveal His will for them and help them with His grace.
If summoned to holy orders, these men will assist the pastors of their assigned parishes. They perform this role while balancing their first vocation to their marriage and family life and also balancing their workplace duties.
Sacramentally, their faculties will allow them to baptize and to witness marriages. They will also be able to proclaim the Gospel and preach homilies at Mass, and preside at Holy Communion services in the absence of a priest.
“Only after they have been duly tested, shall we call them and, by the particular seal of the Holy Spirit, ordain them for the ministry of God and the Church,” the bishop stated.
“For by their sacred ordination they will receive the mandate to continue personally the saving work of Christ, which he accomplished on earth ... They will serve the Church and build up the Christian communities to which they are sent by proclaiming the Word and celebrating the Sacraments.”
The Bishop told the men that through their shared experience of formation, they will learn each day to live in accordance with the Gospel and to be strengthened in faith, hope and charity.
“By practicing these virtues, you’ll grow in the spirit of prayer and in zeal to win all mankind for Christ,” he said. “For our part, trusting in the Lord, we will assist you with our love and prayers.”
Noting that the pastors and teachers in charge of their formation had testified favorably on each candidate’s behalf, the bishop asked them whether they intend to continue preparing themselves in mind and spirit, giving faithful to Christ and His Church.
Together, they answered, “I do.”
“The Church accepts your resolve with joy,” Bishop McKnight told them.
The men will continue taking classes, undertaking service opportunities and remaining prayerfully watchful with their families for guidance from God.
They hope to be ordained deacons in 2025.