Five seminarians (from left) — Michael Courchaine, Joseph Heit, Kevin Tanel, Kenneth Anyanwu and Ryan Ackmann — were ordained to the transitional diaconate Saturday, April 23. Also pictured are (back, from left) Fr. Luke Strand, Bishop James T. Schuerman and Fr. John Hemsing. (Photo courtesy of Saint Francis de Sales Seminary)
The Archdiocese of Milwaukee was blessed with the addition of five transitional deacons on Saturday, April 23.
Calling it a “joy” to ordain Ryan Ackmann, Kenneth Anyanwu, Michael Courchaine, Joseph Heit and Kevin Tanel to the transitional diaconate, Bishop James T. Schuerman used his homily to communicate the themes of transformation and courageous service.
Recalling the first reading of the ordination liturgy, taken from the Acts of the Apostles and depicting the aftermath of Pentecost, Bishop Schuerman called to mind the dramatic change that occurred within the Apostles after the coming of the Holy Spirit.
“It’s interesting that the leaders and elders and scribes observing them preaching, teaching and healing were amazed at what they were seeing, because the Apostles were ordinary men,” he said. “But they had experienced some extraordinary events, including encounters with the risen Christ and the reception of the Holy Spirit.”
These encounters had given the apostles the grace to “go about their mission with boldness, courage and confidence,” despite their ordinariness.
“When ordered to stop speaking and teaching in the name of Jesus, they would not yield,” Bishop Schuerman said. “They understood that obedience to God and service of the truth was more important than human authority. They could not be held back from preaching about Jesus Christ crucified and resurrected. They would not stifle the proclamation of the Good News.”
The Good News has the ability to change our lives if we let it, Bishop Schuerman continued, referring to the morning’s Gospel reading and its juxtaposition of Mary Magdalene’s belief in the Resurrection with the “hard-hearted” disbelief of several apostles.
“It’s clear that faith, as portrayed in Mark’s Gospel, is acceptance of the truth of Jesus as rising from the dead and the way the Good News changes our lives,” he said.
The grace of the Holy Spirit, reinforced by acceptance of the truth of a resurrected Christ, will likewise “strengthen” Dcns. Ackmann, Anyanwu, Courchaine, Heit and Tanel as they go about their work as “ministers of the Word, the altar and of charity.”
“Showing themselves to be servants of all as minister of the altar, they will proclaim the Gospel, prepare the sacrifice and distribute the Body and Blood of the Lord to the faithful,” Bishop Schuerman said. “It will be also their duty to exhort believers and unbelievers alike and instruct them in the holy doctrines, to preside over public prayer, administer baptisms, assist and bless marriages, bring Viaticum to the dying and conduct funeral rites.
“Consecrated by the laying on of hands passed down from the apostles and bound more closely to the service of the altar, they will carry out a ministry of charity in the name of the bishop or pastor,” he continued. “In all of these duties let them act with the help of God in such a way that you will recognize them as disciples of him who did not come to be served but to serve.”
Bishop Schuerman reminded the men that they will exercise their ministry in the celibate state, according to promises they made just moments after his homily’s conclusion.
Calling celibacy “both a sign of pastoral charity and an incentive, as well as a source of spiritual fruitfulness in the world,” Bishop Schuerman said, “living in this state, with total dedication, you will cling more readily to Christ with undivided hearts. You will devote yourselves with greater freedom to the service of God and others, and you will serve single-handedly the work of spiritual rebirth.”
Bishop Schuerman closed his homily with an exhortation for the new deacons to “show yourselves without blemish and beyond reproach before God and others, as is proper for ministers of Christ and stewards of God’s mysteries.”
“Do not allow yourselves to be turned away from the hope of the Gospel, which you must not only hear but also serve. Hold fast to the mystery of faith with a clear conscience as expressed by your actions in the word of God, which your lips proclaim, so that the Christian people, brought to life by the Spirit, may become a pure offering accepted by God,” Bishop Schuerman said. “And so that you yourselves, when you get to meet the Lord on the last day, you will be able to hear him say: well done, good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of your Lord.”