Bishop Jeffrey Haines presided over the ordination of eight new transitional deacons Saturday, April 22, at the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist. (Photo courtesy of Saint Francis de Sales Seminary)

The ranks of deacons serving the Archdiocese of Milwaukee swelled Saturday, April 22, when eight seminarians were ordained to the transitional diaconate by Bishop Jeffrey Haines at the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist.

“We gather today with immense joy as we celebrate and receive the gift of service of these men as transitional deacons,” said Bishop Haines at the beginning of Mass. “We are filled with gratitude today.”

In his homily, Bishop Haines reflected on the time he had spent earlier in the week with the eight men — Dcn. David Sweeney (Old St. Mary, Milwaukee); Dcn. Charles Luke (Holy Name of Jesus, Sheboygan); Dcn. Nicholas Dhein (St. Peter, Slinger); Dcn. Kevin Durand (St. Thomas Aquinas, Waterford), Dcn. Denny Jacob (St. Mary’s Church, Santi Nagar, Kerala, India; Community of St. Paul); Dcn. Craig Richter (St. John Neumann, Waukesha); Dcn. Dennis Beltré (St. Paul the Apostle, Mount Pleasant); and Dcn. Dominic Lazzaroni (St. Francis de Sales, Lake Geneva) — and highlighted “the different ways the Lord touched your lives and invited you to consider the call to serve him and his Church.”

“Whether it was participating with enthusiastic spirit in the Wisconsin Catholic Youth Rally, the experience of praying before the Blessed Sacrament in Eucharistic Adoration, feeling your faith supported in a high school confirmation retreat, noticing the zeal of your peers at St. Paul University Catholic Center of UW-Madison, witnessing the ministry taking place in the Sagrada Familia Parish in the Dominican Republic, being blessed by faithfulness instilled in your family home by your loving parents, receiving the affirmation of your vocation from your parish priest or becoming involved in catechizing young people in a summer of youth ministry — I rejoiced at the diversity of the experience of your faith journey, for I saw in this variety a multiplicity of gifts which the Holy Spirit has bestowed upon you, and which will be embraced by the archdiocese in the celebration of your ordination to the diaconate this morning.”

Bishop Haines went on to reflect on several essential points of ministerial life, including the need to be adaptable to rapidly changing pastoral needs.

In the day’s first reading (Acts 8:26-40), one of the Church’s first deacons, Philip, was shown “to constantly be on call,” said Bishop Haines — pulled in every direction by pastoral cares and special errands from God.

“The reading encourages a special openness to the surprising ways of the Holy Spirit,” said Bishop Haines. “Based on my own personal experience of the transitional diaconate, I found that one of the greatest challenges in transitioning from life as a seminarian and student to life as a pastoral minister was the variable and unpredictable nature of life in ministry. In the seminary, life was indeed busy, but a syllabus of classes, assignments, projects and examinations provided some parameters, which organized our lives.”

Not so in pastoral ministry, the bishop said.

“There, a phone call requiring a visit with someone in the hospital, an email asking for a presentation to a religion class, the ringing of a doorbell signaling a desperate person undergoing a financial crisis, or a parishioner in the back of church after Mass asking for spiritual counseling suddenly can rearrange all of your plans,” he said.

This serves, Bishop Haines continued, “as an important lesson regarding the nature of life in service of the Lord.”

“It’s a reminder that such unpredictable and spontaneous interventions are not to be looked upon merely as interruptions —  rather, it’s very clear form the story of Deacon Philip that these interventions are promptings of the Holy Spirit, seeking to bring ministerial needs to our attention.”

Turning to the Gospel reading from St. John, Bishop Haines framed its message as promising “the consolation of the Paschal Mystery” amidst the rigors of a life dedicated to the service of the Lord.

“The promises which you will make today and the path of life which you are choosing is very demanding,” he told the men. “The intensity of ministry and its emotional demands will be consuming. Yet, with the sanctifying grace of the Lord and the sincerity of your commitment, there will be blessings which will not only meet but surpass those challenges.”

He beseeched the men to “hold dear to your heart” the words of Christ in the day’s Gospel: “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will preserve it for eternal life.” (John 12:24-25)

“I urge you to cling to these sacred words,” said Bishop Haines. “They offer you not only the challenge of the promises you will make but the reassurance of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ that the Heavenly Father will honor you who serve him.”