Vocations View: God is Persistent: Being Accepted to the Permanent Diaconate Program

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by Mike Van Vranken

I had just turned 28 years old and was standing in the vestibule of St. Michael Church in West Memphis, Arkansas with my pastor.  Thumbing through a pamphlet explaining why the diocese was searching for men to be ordained as Permanent Deacons, I exclaimed to Fr. Barnes: “I want to do this!”  He smiled and prophesied that as I got older, I should remember this moment because God had just planted a seed.  Now, as an accepted candidate to the Diocese of Shreveport’s upcoming formation of a new class of ordained Permanent Deacons, I am both excited and humbled to finally answer God’s call.

Deacon candidate Mike Van Vranken

I’ve learned when God chooses us to do something (John 15:16), we can run, hide, and find ten thousand excuses why we are not ready. But He waits patiently until we totally surrender to His will so He can place us exactly where He wants us. And for me, I’m convinced his desire, and mine too, is to be ordained and serve as a permanent deacon.  To be in this place of surrender, to know that I have made this decision in complete spiritual freedom and to anticipate the myriad of ways I will be able to minister to the people of God ignites a sensation in my entire being that fills me with joy, peace, excitement, awe, trepidation, delight and numerous feelings that I have no words to describe.

I catch myself daydreaming (“praydreaming” as one priest puts it) about many of these opportunities as a deacon: meeting with new parents about baptizing their infant into the body of Christ; proclaiming the “gospel of the Lord” to the assembly at Mass; teaching adults, children, youth – both Catholic and those becoming Catholic; witnessing and blessing marriages, officiating at funerals, wakes and burial services; helping those in need, including the hungry, homeless, sick, lonely, divorced, lost – those who Pope Francis reminds us are on the peripheries; offering words of encouragement, inspiration, hope and love to all people in our diocese.  In every one of these “praydreams,” I fall in love with the reality that I will be accompanying Jesus in the lives of each person I encounter in so many special and holy ways. Or, to say it differently, I will have more and richer opportunities to experience the Holy Trinity in every person I meet.

In my current role as a spiritual director, I constantly encourage people to take whatever issue is on their mind and share it in a heartfelt conversation with God. They should tell Him their feelings and thoughts, asking for His input and His desires. If you have any indication that God is choosing you to be one of his ordained Permanent Deacons, I offer you the same advice:  Get alone with God in a quiet place, slowly read John 15:1-17, or maybe another scripture where Jesus calls us, and have an honest and frank conversation with Him about how this scripture touches you. Finally, let Him take it from there.

It is good to remember that God is calling each of us – male and female, young and old to be missionary disciples.  At the same time, He is choosing some for the religious life, for the priesthood or to the permanent diaconate. It is good for all of us to ask His help in showing us exactly what he wants from us. And don’t worry that you might miss what His desire is for you. He’s very persistent.

If you would like more information about the Permanent Diaconate, contact Deacon Clary Nash, cnash@dioshpt.org or call 318.868.4441.

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