On May 20, mere hours after Ascension Day liturgies commemorated the Great Commission of Jesus to His apostles, five men of the Diocese of Allentown – Nikolai Brelinsky, Keaton Eidle, Van-Vien Nguyen, Miguel Ramirez, and Aaron Scheidel – received their own distinct commission through their Ordination to the Diaconate.
During a concelebrated Mass at the Cathedral of St. Catharine of Siena, Allentown, Bishop Alfred Schlert administered the first degree of Holy Orders to the men, whose Ordination as Transitional Deacons begins a year-long period of service and preparation that will culminate in their Ordination as Priests.
The diaconal charism of service has its roots in the early Church. The first deacons, elected by the apostles themselves, were tasked with the care of the poor and widowed in the fledgling Christian community.
In the modern Church, a deacon exercises his charism within the Mass by proclaiming the Gospel and delivering the homily, reading the intercessions, calling for the exchange of peace, assisting with the distribution of Holy Communion, preparing the sacred vessels, and dismissing the people at the end of the Mass.
He also serves the needs of the Church by performing baptisms, officiating at simple nuptial ceremonies, bringing viaticum to the dying, and conducting the Rite of Committal at the cemetery after a funeral Mass.
Before a congregation of approximately 500, Bishop Schlert challenged the five candidates for Ordination to “be like those once chosen by the apostles for the ministry of charity, men of good reputation, full of wisdom and the Holy Spirit.”
“Firmly planted and grounded in faith, show yourselves without blemish, and beyond reproach before God and others, as is proper for the ministers of Christ and the stewards of God’s mysteries.”
After the five candidates publicly declared their resolve to practice celibacy, prayer, and obedience, each knelt before Bishop Schlert and pledged fidelity to the Bishop and his successors by placing his hands between the hands of the Bishop.
In response to Bishop Schlert’s invitation to pray for the candidates, the faithful sang the ancient Litany of the Saints while the candidates prostrated themselves before the Altar in an expression of total submission to God and complete reliance on His grace.
The Cathedral was reverently quiet as the candidates then approached the Bishop, who silently laid hands on each of them in a gesture that, together with the Prayer of Ordination, is the outward sign of the Ordination to the Order of Deacons.
Deacons Brelinsky, Eidle, Nguyen, Ramirez, and Scheidel each received the deacon’s stole, which is worn during celebration of the Sacraments, and the deacon’s dalmatic, the vestment worn at Mass.
During the investiture, the choir led the faithful in “Veni Creator,” a hymn traditionally sung when the Holy Spirit is solemnly invoked.
Proffering the Book of the Gospels to each of the deacons in turn, the Bishop exhorted them to “Receive the Gospel of Christ, whose herald you have become. Believe what you read, teach what you believe, and practice what you teach.”
More than 30 permanent deacons then offered the fraternal kiss of peace to the newly ordained as a sign of welcome into the Order of Deacons.
Speaking in both English and Spanish, Bishop Schlert noted, “The entire rite today speaks to us of humility and service to the faithful in collaboration with their bishop and their pastors. God has called these men from various families and places. What a blessing! What a beautiful mosaic that shows the vibrancy of the Diocese of Allentown.”
As if to underscore the diversity within the Diocese, the music chosen for the Ordination Mass represented five different languages: English, Greek, Latin, Spanish, and Vietnamese.
Shortly before the Concluding Rite, the Bishop asked for continued prayers for the young men of the Diocese who may be discerning a call to the Priesthood.
“Pray that our families are supportive of any young man who is contemplating a call to the priesthood. If you’re a parishioner, don’t be afraid to say to a young man, ‘You might make a good priest.’ That’s how God often speaks: through others.
“Today we’re ordaining one third of our seminarians. That’s a great thing. But we have to replenish the pipeline, and so we look to you.”
After the dismissal, members of the fraternal organizations of the Knights of Columbus, the Knights of Malta, and the Knights of the Holy Sepulchre exited the Cathedral in a striking procession of dignitaries that included scores of seminarians, deacons, and priests from throughout the Diocese, followed by Bishop Schlert.
The newly ordained deacons’ assignments were announced after the Mass at a reception in the social hall (see page 2).
The Ordination Mass may be viewed on both the Diocese of Allentown Facebook page and on YouTube. Profiles of the candidates were in the May 11 issue of the AD Times.
By Celeste Behe. Photo by Ed Koskey.