June 28: After four years of Formation, 16 men will be ordained to the Permanent Diaconate for the Diocese of Shreveport
by Mike Whitehead
On Saturday, June 28, Bishop Michael Duca will ordain 16 men to the Sacred Order of Permanent Diaconate at the Cathedral of St. John Berchmans in Shreveport. More than 1,000 clergy, religious, family, friends and parishioners are expected to gather for the 10 a.m. ordination ceremony.
The ordination represents the culmination of four years of spiritual, academic and pastoral preparation. For these 16 men, the ceremony will also mark the continuation of a calling to a life-long ministry of service.
“The ordination of 16 men to the permanent diaconate is a needed gift to the Church,” Bishop Duca said. “Practically, this ordination class will add more deacons to the eastern deanery of the diocese in both large and small parishes. Pastorally, these new deacons will be a big help to their pastors and their work in the parish will give a clear witness of Christ’s call to serve and not be served. We will all be blessed by the ministry of these new permanent deacons.”
The deacon candidates preparing for ordination in the Diocese of Shreveport are Orlando Batongbakal, Scott Brandle, Tom Deal, Chris Domingue, Bill Goss, Bill Kleinpeter, Steve Lehr, Danny LeMoine, Jack Lynch, David Nagem, Robert Ransom, Ricardo Rivera, Charles Thomas, Marc Vereen, Mike Whitehead and Mike Wise.
This ordination marks the third group of permanent deacons ordained in the Diocese of Shreveport. The first group of deacons was ordained in 1986. (Twelve men began the formation under the auspices of the Diocese of Alexandria/Shreveport, but the group was divided in two and they were ordained just two weeks after the diocese was split into the Diocese of Shreveport and the Diocese of Alexandria). The second group of deacons (18) was ordained in 2005.
Deacon Clary Nash, Director of the Permanent Diaconate for the Diocese of Shreveport, is the thread that weaves all three diaconate ordinations into one cloth. He was ordained in that first diaconate group in 1986. In fact, June 28 will mark his 28th anniversary as a Permanent Deacon. He also was the formation director of the second group of deacons.
“Over the past four years, it’s been wonderful to watch the deacon candidates’ enthusiasm, participation and dedication to their [rigorous] academic schedule,” Deacon Nash said. “Their life of service will be like stones rippling in a pond –– the ripples resonate from the altar so they can become the face of Christ, the spirit of Christ to the community outside the walls of the church. Then, he will bring his life of service back to the altar as a sign of who he is and what he represents. Being a part of this formation has been a blessing for me, my family and my church family.”
Deacon Oscar Hannibal, who assisted in the current formation, echoed Deacon Clary’s thoughts. “These past four years always will be remembered as the high point of my serving as a deacon. My sincere prayer is for each deacon in this Diocese to do God’s will each day and be a very good example for all of God’s children.”
When you examine the Directory for the Formation, Ministry and Life of Permanent Deacons in the United States, you see the mandate for the call to the diaconate. As we read in the document, “one of the great legacies of the Second Vatican Council was its renewal and encouragement of the order of deacons throughout the entire Catholic Church.”
We also read in the directory:
•The Sacred Order of Deacons is to be a driving force for the Church’s service or diakonia toward the local Christian communities, and as a sign or sacrament of the Lord Christ himself, who came not to be served but to serve. The deacon’s ministry of service is linked with the missionary dimension of the Church: the missionary efforts of the deacon will embrace the ministry of the word, the liturgy and works of charity which, in their turn, are carried into daily life.
• In his formal liturgical roles, the deacon brings the poor to the Church and the Church to the poor. Likewise, he articulates the Church’s concern for justice by being a driving force in addressing the injustices among God’s people. He thus symbolizes in his roles the grounding of the Church’s life in the Eucharist and the mission of the Church in her loving service of the needy.
Additionally, the deacon proclaims the Gospel, preaches, evangelizes and catechizes in the church, the community and the workplace. He baptizes, witnesses marriages, assists at Eucharist, leads prayer, brings Viaticum, administers the Church’s sacramentals and connects the Church’s worship with its mission of loving service to the poor and needy.
The journey to the June 28 ordination began formally in the fall of 2010 with the first semester of classes. The group quickly discovered the high standard set by the University of Dallas professors. From scripture study and Christology, to philosophy and the study of ministry, the University of Dallas staff set a tone that demanded serious time and effort if a deacon candidate wanted to excel in each class. In all, each deacon candidate spent more than 1,500 hours participating in class and studying outside of class.
“These guys went through a challenging and rigorous academic formation process on their way to ordination,” said Jim McGill, instructor in the School of Ministry of the University of Dallas. “They studied the Bible and the theological traditions of the Church, as well as received skillful training in preaching, catechesis and ministry. Their academic formation has prepared them well for serving the diocese as deacons. I am confident that these men will make a significant contribution as deacons to the parishes and communities throughout the Diocese of Shreveport. They are dedicated to serve Christ and his Church in caring for the needs of their brothers and sisters. May God bless them in their witness and their service to the Gospel.”
When Deacon Candidate Chris Domingue recalls his journey to ordination, he remembers the call in his heart to become a deacon in the Catholic Church.
“Classes were held two Saturdays per month and one Sunday per month for eight semesters in the fall and spring sessions,” he said. “Philosophy, theology, scripture, Vatican II history and documents, church history, liturgy, Christian initiation are but a few of the courses we took. Though challenging (sometimes very challenging) the beauty of what we were learning helped me to grow even more in love with God and my Catholic faith. At every class, each of us brought our own unique gifts and talents and ways of communicating the truths we have come to learn through our classes and through our individual faith journeys. The journey also allowed me to become part of a new community of men (and their wives and families) whose lives led them to the same calling of service as a deacon in the Church.”
Domingue viewed the classes like mini-ministries requiring preparation, prayer and community. They helped him grow in knowledge, but more importantly, like all the deacon candidates, the classes helped him grow spiritually. Through it all, he said, there is no way to over-emphasize the importance of prayer that the group received from families, friends, the parish community and pastors.
“I recall many a time written reports were due at the end of the week and I would think to myself that this is going to be impossible,” Domingue said. “The demands of my job, family events, activities and church ministries were all potential obstacles for the assignment not being able to be completed. And yet, Saturday morning my assignments were done and I was ready for class. The impossible was made possible through prayer. God provided when there was no other way. Looking forward, I am humbled by the fact that God still wants me and can use me in the capacity as a deacon. I don’t know what all God will ask of me, but I trust that he will be there with me.
Deacon candidate Charles Thomas also is excited about the future. “We are called to do more evangelizing with the gospel, step outside the parish and into the community, the workplace, with friends, literally with everyone we meet in life. It’s what we are called to do. Evangelizing and spreading the gospel is definitely one of my goals.”
The ordination of the current group of deacons, Domingue said, is an end to the structural diaconate formation, but it is really the beginning of a life-long formation as a deacon in the church.
“I ask that everyone pray for each of the men (and their wives and families) who will be ordained in June,” he said. “Pray that each of us will serve the people of God and the church with love, true humility and steadfastness.”