(Front, from left) Dcns. Aaron Siehr, Brady Gagne and Timothy Sanchez were ordained to the transitional diaconate Saturday, April 20, at the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist, Milwaukee. (Photo courtesy of Saint Francis de Sales Seminary)

As St. Peter received the commission from the lips of Christ on the shores of the sea — “Feed my sheep” — so, too, does the Lord commission the newly ordained transitional deacons who will serve the Archdiocese of Milwaukee over the next year.

Bishop James T. Schuermann had this message to share with the new deacons — Brady Gagne (St. Peter, Slinger), Timothy Sanchez (St. Robert, Shorewood) and Aaron Siehr (St. Dominic, Brookfield) — and their families at the Rite of Ordination to the Transitional Diaconate, which took place Saturday, April 20, at the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist, Milwaukee.

Addressing Dcns. Gagne, Sanchez and Siehr in his homily, Bishop Schuermann returned to the day’s Gospel reading, wherein the Risen Christ questions St. Peter three times: “Simon Peter, do you love me?”

In answering these questions truthfully, Peter had to become a new creation, said Bishop Schuermann.

“Peter had to put aside his former way of life. He had to do away with the ideas that keep him a fisherman, in order to become a shepherd,” he said. “After each of Peter’s professions of his love, Jesus told him: ‘Feed my lambs, tend my sheep, feed my sheep.’”

Two thousand years later, Jesus has these same instructions for the new deacons.

“Today, Brady, Timothy and Aaron, you’ll receive your commission to be at the service of God’s people,” Bishop Schuermann said.

He exhorted them to be confident in God’s wisdom and in God’s willingness to equip the ministers he calls to do his work.

Reflecting on the second reading, which was taken from the Book of the Prophet Jeremiah, Bishop Schuermann described the prophet as “a man called, prepared and summoned by God to prophesy to his people.”

“God told Jeremiah: ‘Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you. Before you were born, I dedicated you.’ Jeremiah, from the time of his call, knew at a deep level the will and the works of God and the needs of his people.”

Still, said Bishop Schuermann, Jeremiah hesitated.

“He knew his weaknesses. He knew his limitations, and he said, ‘Lord, I do not know how to speak. I am too young.’ But the Lord pointed out to Jeremiah that he had a mission for him, and Jeremiah’s limitations only reinforced that it was not his own work but God’s work that he would be carrying out,” he said.

As transitional deacons, the men will be “stewards of God’s gifts of faith, hope and charity,” said Bishop Schuermann. Citing the second reading, which was taken from the First Letter of Peter, he told the men to listen to St. Peter’s reminder that “those of us dedicated to ministry are stewards of God’s grace.”

“A steward is one who has responsibility for possessions that are not his own. A steward watches out for the welfare of all, and any gift that the steward has belongs to the entire community,” said Bishop Schuermann. “Your service is a service for the benefit of all.”

The term deacon is derived from the Greek “diakonos,” meaning helper or servant. Men who are ordained to the transitional diaconate are entering into the final year of their priestly formation. In their role as a transitional deacon, they will proclaim the Gospel, dispense the Eucharist, instruct the faithful and prepare for the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. They are also given faculties to preside over Baptisms, marriages and funerals. At their ordination, deacons make promises of celibacy, prayer and obedience.

“Now you are not only hearers of the Gospel, but also its ministers,” said Bishop Schuermann. “Hold the mystery of faith with a clear conscience. Express by your actions the word of God, which your lips proclaim, so that the Christian people, brought to life by the Spirit, may be a pure offering accepted by God. Then, on that last day, when you go to meet the Lord, he will be able to say: ‘Well done, good and faithful servant.’”