October 10, 2014

Archbishop Tobin accepts 21 men as deacon candidates

Twenty-one deacon candidates pose on Sept. 27 in SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis after a Mass during which Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin received them as candidates. The candidates are, front row, from left, Steven Tsuleff, Wifredo de la Rosa, Martin Ignacio, Reynaldo Navarra, Juan Carlos Ramirez, Kenneth Smith and John McShea. In the middle row, from left, are Paul Fiserkeller, Robert Beyke, David Bartolowits, Gary Blackwell, Matthew Scarlett, Jerry Matthews, John Jacobi and John Hosier. In the back row, from left, are Deacon Patrick Bower, John Cord, Joseph Beauchamp, Tony Lewis, Oliver Jackson, Nathan Schallert, Charles Giesting and Deacon Kerry Blandford, archdiocesan director of deacon formation. (Photos by Sean Gallagher)

Twenty-one deacon candidates pose on Sept. 27 in SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis after a Mass during which Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin received them as candidates. The candidates are, front row, from left, Steven Tsuleff, Wifredo de la Rosa, Martin Ignacio, Reynaldo Navarra, Juan Carlos Ramirez, Kenneth Smith and John McShea. In the middle row, from left, are Paul Fiserkeller, Robert Beyke, David Bartolowits, Gary Blackwell, Matthew Scarlett, Jerry Matthews, John Jacobi and John Hosier. In the back row, from left, are Deacon Patrick Bower, John Cord, Joseph Beauchamp, Tony Lewis, Oliver Jackson, Nathan Schallert, Charles Giesting and Deacon Kerry Blandford, archdiocesan director of deacon formation. (Photos by Sean Gallagher)

By Sean Gallagher

Ten years ago, 25 men from across central and southern Indiana began a formation program through which they would be ordained in 2008 as the first permanent deacons in the history of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.

A decade later, a third group of men—21 this time—were received as candidates for the diaconate by Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin during a Sept. 27 Mass at SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis.

In the 10 years since the deacon formation program began, deacons have ministered in parishes across central and southern Indiana. Their presence has affected the vocational discernment of the men currently in formation.

This is especially true for deacon candidate Matthew “Tom” Scarlett, a member of St. Vincent de Paul Parish in Bedford, who has observed the life and ministry of Deacon David Reising in the Bloomington Deanery faith community for the past six years.

“It’s absolutely influenced me, without a doubt,” Scarlett said. “I’d go so far as to say if it hadn’t been for what Deacon Dave has done, I wouldn’t have discerned this call. This is where I’m supposed to be. But seeing what he’s done and his leadership has affirmed it. It brought me to where I need to be.”

Although Deacon Reising was part of the first class of deacons and has seen another group ordained and other deacons move into the archdiocese, he’s still excited by seeing new men step up to answer God’s call to the diaconate.

“This is seeing God work,” Deacon Reising said. “This is seeing the Holy Spirit come upon these guys. It strengthens me to see Tom. I see the Holy Spirit working in him. I can see how it’s going to affect the parish.”

Father Clement Davis, pastor of St. Bartholomew Parish in Columbus, has witnessed up close the effects of the diaconate on parish life.

St. Bartholomew has had four men ordained deacons who are ministering there and in other parishes. Two more men from the parish are in the latest formation class.

“These are men who have been very dedicated, very active in the life of the Church,” Father Davis said. “They’ve given of themselves and their time. Now, they’re not just being recognized for that. But, on the basis of that, they’re being called to this ordained ministry in the Church.

“I think it’s a net gain for the Church at large.”

In his homily at the Sept. 27 Mass, Archbishop Tobin reflected that deacons are called, however, not simply to enhance a parish community through their life and ministry, but the broader community as well.

“Deacons, I believe, have a unique gift to give,” Archbishop Tobin said. “When they are present at the Eucharist, it is they who disperse the community. They say, ‘Go in peace’ or ‘Go announce the Gospel with your lives,’ making a connection between what happens here [in church] and what happens there in the streets, in the schools, in the hospitals and the jails and the families.”

He also noted that the broad effect that deacons can have on the Church and the world can come about through their lives as husbands and fathers.

“Most of the deacons will have a unique gift that they bring already to their service,” Archbishop Tobin said. “That is the companionship of their spouse in holy matrimony. Together, they will provide a unique witness of a couple engaged in love and service, especially on the margins of our Church and society.”

After the Mass, deacon candidate Oliver Jackson was excited by this latest step forward in his deacon formation.

“It’s still hard for me to believe that I’ve advanced this far,” said Jackson, a member of St. Rita Parish in Indianapolis. “But I know that God is with me and I have the support of my family and friends. I just get from that encouragement and the strength that I need to keep on going.”

Cora Jackson, Oliver’s wife of 46 years, shared her husband’s enthusiasm.

“It’s wonderful,” she said. “It’s like I’ve been waiting for it for years. I’m just happy to see him take this step.”

Deacon Kerry Blandford was glad to see the excitement in the latest group of men to be formed for the diaconate, a class that is scheduled to be ordained in 2017.

Deacon Blandford, archdiocesan director of deacon formation, was a member of the first class of deacons ordained in 2008.

“These are the guys who will carry on after the first group of deacons begins to retire,” Deacon Blandford said. “You begin to see that the order of deacons, just like the family, continues to grow.

“It’s a neat thing to see them ready to make that commitment to move forward and what will come after ordination.” †

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