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Less than two months after the ordination of the first class of permanent deacons in the history of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, a new group of 18 men started their four-year formation program to be the next class ordained.
He echoed a common theme in comments from the new aspirants, some of the recently ordained deacons present at the retreat and the formation leaders: What was learned by deacons in the first formation program will benefit the second.
“From the first class, I have a little more awareness of the struggles that the [deacon aspirants] will go through and a little more ability to anticipate [them] and to say it’s OK to have these struggles,” Father Voelker said. “Last night, one of the wives was saying to me, ‘Thanks for letting us know that it’s OK if we’re anxious because I was wondering if that was normal.’ ”
Part of the anxiety of the deacon aspirants and their wives might be attributed to the fact that most of them have been in the inquiry and discernment process for more than a year.
They’ve also met for a few hours each month before starting the full formation program with the retreat.
“This is exciting, challenging and anxious,” said deacon aspirant Steven House, a member of St. Bartholomew Parish in Columbus. “We’ve had two years of preparation to be here. So that’s a long time to wait and to think about it and to wonder about it and, in a way, to try on what it is, what the spiritual clothing of being a deacon is.”
In contemplating the vocation to be a deacon, House has benefited from the ministry of Deacon Ed Hilger in his parish. He also observed recently ordained Deacon William Jones while Deacon Jones, a member of the Seymour Deanery faith community, ministered there during his formation.
Deacon aspirant Rick Renzi, a member of St. Malachy Parish in Brownsburg, had a similar experience in getting to know Deacon Daniel Collier, who is a member of and ministers at the Indianapolis West Deanery parish, during his years of formation.
“Dan’s been a wonderful mentor,” Renzi said. “He’s pulled me aside a couple of times and encouraged me, and told me that he’s been praying for me.
“I really feel that this first class of deacons paved the way for the archdiocese and people in the parish to understand the role of a deacon.”
Deacon Patrick Bower, who ministers at St. Barnabas Parish in Indianapolis, assisted at the retreat.
He said that the fact that he and his classmates were so recently ordained and are still getting used to living the life and ministry of a deacon will also benefit the new class of aspirants.
“They’re going to watch us learn,” Deacon Bower said.
One of the deacons that the aspirants will get to know well is Deacon Kerry Blandford, the associate director of the formation program.
“I just want to see them discover who God’s calling them to be and where he’s calling them to serve,” said Deacon Blandford, who also ministers at St. Mark the Evangelist Parish in Indianapolis.
“I’ve had a chance to sit down with each one, and there are so many talents and strengths and personalities that I think will just bloom when they get into ministry. It will be a good thing.”
Seeking God’s will in regard to the diaconate was on the mind of Steven House’s wife, Rochelle, during the retreat.
“What is the will of God?” she asked. “God has called [Steve] and I to this place. We don’t know what it’s going to be in four years. But it’s exciting to learn.”
Being excited about learning is something that Benedictine Father Bede Cisco, archdiocesan director of deacons and deacon formation, said distinguished the new deacon aspirants.
“They really feel ready to begin the process,” he said. “My hope is that they are as dedicated to the process as the first class was. And I think there’s every indication that they will be.”
(For more information on the deacon formation program, log on to www.archindy.org/deacon.) †