by Sam Alzheimer
After a dry spell of five years, our diocese will have three ordination liturgies in 2014. Sixteen men will be ordained permanent deacons on June 28. Two Franciscan Missionaries of Hope will be ordained on June 21, one to the priesthood and the other to the transitional diaconate. And on May 31, Bishop Duca will ordain Jerry Daigle to the transitional diaconate and Deacon Keith Garvin to the diocesan priesthood.
While Deacon Keith and Jerry come from very different backgrounds, they both have a clear love for Christ and his Church. They are personable and pastoral and have shown great stability of character as they have progressed through seminary formation. In them, our diocese will gain two new shepherds to serve and love Gods people.
Deacon Keith Garvin Prays for “Single Purity of Heart”
Seniors sometimes have “senioritis.” Transitional deacons, as they wait for priestly ordination, sometimes develop “deaconitis.” But not Deacon Keith Garvin. Ordained in January, hes content with his current ministry, assisting Fr. Rothell Price as a deacon at Christ the King parish in Bossier City.
“The person I visited at the hospital today needed my ministry as a deacon, my presence and prayers, not someone daydreaming about his future priesthood,” he said. “My ordination date has been set; everything is in motion, so I dont need to worry. Im content to do my day-to-day work. Im just trying to get through Holy Week.”
Right now, Keith preaches at two daily Masses a week, and one Sunday a month. He also visits the sick, sits in on marriage preparation, and attends various parish events. “Its a great parish,” he said. “The people have been very welcoming.”
On one occasion at Mass, he did miss a cue. “I drew a blank when I was supposed to say, ‘Let us offer one another a sign of Christs peace. The words just werent there. Fr. Price looked at me, smiled and said my line. The people knew what had happened and laughed.”
Working with Fr. Price has been a valuable apprenticeship, said Deacon Keith. “Ive learned a lot by watching how he responds to people. He always has time for anyone, no matter what he was preparing to do. Anyone who comes into his presence, he gives them his full attention.”
Keith often thinks of the Gospel story in which Jesus washes the disciples feet. “Jesus was washing away the dirt and grime that had accumulated. The pastoral aspect of priesthood can be like that, to be there to bring the healing and goodness of Christ to peoples lives.”
So far, says Deacon Keith, the practical aspects of ministering to people is not so different as when he was an Episcopal priest, but the spiritual reality is quite different.
“Ive found my spiritual home in the sacramental life and the fullness of truth,” he said. “Within Catholicism, you have the teachings of the Church through the magisterium, and theyre not going to change just because society changes in one direction. Theres a better ability to lead and guide the people when you know the foundation youre standing on is the same today and the day after.”
As he nears ordination in just a few weeks, Deacon Keith says that his daily prayer – and the prayer he asks of others – is for five things: “I wake up every morning and ask the Lord that I can walk in holiness. I ask for a spirit of wisdom, a spirit of discernment, and a spirit of understanding so I can serve people and know what is going on with them. And finally, I ask for single purity of heart for the love of Christs Church, my bride, so that I am not distracted from my love of the Church.”
Jerry Daigle: Preparing to Stand in Place of the Lord
When seminarian Jerry Daigle first put on a clerical collar a few months ago, he felt like a different person. “It really does change the way you behave,” he said, talking on a balcony one beautiful spring day at Notre Dame Seminary in New Orleans.
“I recently went to the bank and forgot I was wearing clerics. I was wondering why people were staring at me,” he laughed. “Most people look at you very respectfully. But some people look at you with what seems to be a challenging stare. They see me as a representative of the Church, and I imagine that could challenge their lifestyle.”
In addition to donning the collar, in the months leading up to ordination, Jerry and all his classmates are preparing very seriously for their practical ministry – preaching, presiding at funerals, witnessing marriages and baptizing.
Sometimes the training takes on a humorous tone. “You can imagine a bunch of men handing around a baby doll at our baptism practicum,” Jerry said. “Some guys have more experience with children than others. One guy says to another, ‘Quit holding the baby like that! Youll drown him!”
Its also hard to keep a straight face while practicing the Marriage Rite, listening to a seminarian intone the brides vows in a baritone voice.
Learning to deliver an inspiring homily is one of the hardest parts of formation. “Preaching to your brother seminarians is a greater challenge than you think, because its the hardest audience youll ever have. These guys have no charity!” he laughed.
Special classes prepare the seminarians to deliver homilies in various scenarios which theyll soon encounter. One professor even gives “pop homilies,” handing students a short scripture passage as they come into class, and asking them to give a reflection on the spot. The experience is supposed to prepare them for unexpected moments, such as filling in at Mass for a sick priest.
With ordination around the corner, Jerry says preparation is intense. “I wasnt expecting this, but it makes everything richer. The Mass is more powerful, and a lot more personal,” he said. “Were all realizing that in a few months, well be standing in the place of the Lord doing these things.”
Jerry first felt called to the priesthood as a young teenager. One day, while hunting on the Texas plains, he was moved by the beauty of the landscape and said a prayer of thanksgiving to God. Then he spontaneously added, “I will be your priest and with my small voice I will praise you for all the world!”
Jerry says he never forgot that promise. “It never diminished. It never felt unreal. In fact, sometimes it was the most real thing in my life. But it was unkept, and that bothered my conscience.”
In college at ULM, Jerry drifted away from his faith, but then returned to it in graduate school through the unlikeliest of encounters. After telling a friend he was looking to live someplace other than the dorms, she went to the nearest bulletin board and plucked a card advertising a studio apartment. When Jerry called, he learned that the landlord had put out only one card, just a few moments before he found it.
The landlord was Dr. Carol Christopher, a choral professor at ULM, who became a friend and mentor to Jerry. “Through the witness of how she lived her life, I came back to the Church,” he said.
Jerry became active in an organization that Dr. Christopher founded to help runaway and homeless teens. Even after entering the business world at AT&T, Jerry continued to work with these troubled youth, and eventually found himself on the board of a similar national organization, National Safe Place.
“Working with those kids made me think about fatherhood. Most of them did not have dads,” said Jerry. “I saw them running away, being beaten, in all sorts of bad situations… The daddy in me wanted to protect them, mentor them and provide for them. Since it didnt look like marriage was imminent, I had to ask what fatherhood would mean for me. I never understood it – actually I did, but I didnt want to admit it.”
As his career at AT&T blossomed, Jerry was still thinking about the priesthood. His faith was deepening, and he began to visit the Benedictine Abbey near Covington. He even started to incorporate small aspects of the Rule of St. Benedict into the “corporate culture” of the AT&T retail store he managed. “In a few years, that made a tremendous difference, and made me a very successful manager,” said Jerry.
Now with five years of seminary training under his belt, Jerry is excited about his impending ordination. “I mean, this is my marriage!” he said. “Candidacy is like engagement. Ordination as a deacon is my marriage, because that’s where I make my permanent vows. I am getting married to Christs bride, the Church. It really is astonishing!”
Jerry has been studying the Rite of Ordination closely. “Guys in my class will even bring the Rite into the chapel with them, and pray over every word… Hopefully, by the time I press my nose on the marble, I wont be thinking about where to stand or sit, but rather, Ill be praying through it all.”
At 45 years old, Jerry brings with him a wealth of life experience. “I don’t like the term ‘late vocation,” he said. “I’m right on time. I’m on Gods time. If I would have answered back then, I would not have been ready. The Lord wanted me to learn some other things first.”
What Happens at an Ordination
The two ordination liturgies taking place in our diocese this year have something unusual in common: Bishop Duca will be ordaining both a deacon and priest in a single liturgy. The first ordination is for two men in our diocese. The second is for two men from a religious order, the Franciscan Missionaries of Hope.
The men being ordained for our diocese have passed through a rigorous formation process that leads up to ordination. Typically, this progresses according to the time frame presented below:
• Ministry of Lector (First Theology): Proclaim the word of God in a liturgical assembly, in any church, not just ones home parish.
• Ministry of Acolyte (Second Theology): Assist the deacon and priest during Mass, in any church, not just ones home parish.
• Admission to Candidacy (Third Theology): The bishop formally calls a man to be ordained.
• Ordination to Diaconate (Summer after Third Theology): A man is ordained to proclaim the Gospel at Mass, preach, baptize, witness marriages and assist the priest in bringing Jesus to people in need.
• Ordination to Priesthood (Summer after Fourth Theology): A man is ordained to the priesthood of Jesus Christ.
The rite of ordination to priesthood always takes place within a Mass, with a bishop presiding. In this liturgy, the bishop is exercising the fullness of his episcopacy by conferring Holy Orders on a man, thus perpetuating Apostolic succession. The rite is very solemn, and yet is filled with intense joy.
During an ordination to the diaconate, the ordinand makes three promises: to live celibately, to Pray the Liturgy of the Hours and to be obedient to the bishop and his successors. He is given the Book of the Gospels, symbolic of his “tools of trade,” so to speak, as he is now able to preach officially.
In an ordination to priesthood, the bishop gives the ordinand a paten and chalice, the tools proper to his work as a priest. Interestingly, the ordinand does not make new promises of celibacy or to pray the Liturgy of the Hours. But he does repeat his promise of obedience to the bishop.
An ordination has a number of important parts to it. Each part is like a little ceremony within the whole service. The parts of the rite of priestly ordination are as follows:
• The people of God affirm that the candidate has been found worthy of ordination, and the Bishop solemnly calls him to be a priest. The candidate affirms his resolve to undertake the priestly ministry.
• The ordinand prostrates himself on the floor as a sign that he is giving his “all” to the Lord, while the people pray the Litany of the Saints. This is a very beautiful, powerful and moving part of the liturgy.
• The bishop lays his hands on the mans head in silence, an ancient symbol of the coming of the Holy Spirit. All the other priests present come forward, silently laying their hands upon him, in a show of presbyteral unity.
• The bishop now says the solemn prayer of consecration, asking God to grant the ordinand the dignity of the priesthood and to renew his spirit of holiness. The man is now a priest, a co-worker with his bishop and his brother priests. He now shares in their ministry, which is the ministry of Jesus himself.
• Next the ordinand is clothed in his priestly vestments, including a stole and chasuble. This is normally done by a priest who has a special relationship to the ordinand. It is the equivalent of the best man at a wedding.
• The bishop anoints the ordinands hands with the oil of Chrism, asking Jesus to preserve him to sanctify Gods people and to offer sacrifice to God. Some men will save the cloth they use to wipe the sweet-smelling chrism off of their hands, and give it to their mothers as a sign of gratitude and respect.
• The ordinand is presented with the paten and chalice for the Eucharist, with the prayer that he will model his whole life on the mystery he will celebrate.
• The Bishop and the other priests give him the sign of peace, a gesture of welcome and of brotherly love.
• Then, for the first time, the new priest concelebrates the Eucharist with the Bishop and priests.
The Church teaches that Holy Orders confers an indelible mark on a mans soul. His very being is different; philosophers describe it as an “ontological change.” He is a priest of Jesus Christ forever! If you have never been to an ordination, do not miss this incredibly beautiful and powerful liturgy that will take place on May 31 at the Cathedral of St. John Berchmans in Shreveport. The Mass will begin at 10:00 a.m. •