SEATTLE — Reflecting some of the diversity of the church in Western Washington, 21 men born in Mexico, India, Vietnam, Ecuador, the Philippines and the United States were ordained permanent deacons by Archbishop Paul D. Etienne December 19 at St. James Cathedral.
“Dear brothers, Jesus summons you to fulfill this mission in each of your lives, and today bestows upon you a unique grace and office of charity and service through the sacrament of holy orders as deacons,” Archbishop Etienne said in his homily (read the entire homily below).
“As you take up this sacramental role of service today, I cannot emphasize enough that it is to be modeled upon Jesus Christ,” he added.
This was the first class of permanent deacons to be ordained for the Archdiocese of Seattle since 2012.
The ordination Mass began with the 21 diaconate candidates processing in, followed by Auxiliary Bishops Eusebio Elizondo and Daniel Mueggenborg and Archbishop Etienne. Instead of a packed cathedral, COVID-19 restrictions meant only the candidates, their wives and a limited number of guests could attend; all wore masks and were seated in social-distancing fashion. Also present were a number of priests, including pastors of the parishes where the men will serve (see list below).
Because of COVID-19 restrictions, there was no congregational singing; the hymns and prayers were intoned by the cathedral cantor, accompanied by organ.
The readings were from the Acts of the Apostles, about the first seven men selected as deacons by the Apostles, and the Gospel of St. Matthew, recounting how Jesus instructed his apostles to be servants of all. After the readings, Father Frank Schuster, director of the diaconate formation program, made the request to Archbishop Etienne for ordination of the candidates. The archbishop accepted them, to applause from the congregation.
‘Be generous in your selfless love of his people’
In his homily, Archbishop Etienne praised the men and their wives for their dedication to the diaconate training they began in 2016. Deacons, he said, are to be models of charity and find nourishment at the altar, venturing out to the community to serve, then returning to the altar.
“Brothers, never forget it is Christ who has summoned you,” the archbishop said. “As daunting as it may seem, you will be more than capable of bringing his love and mercy into the world because he has loved you first, and will always be faithful in sustaining you in his love. Live in the love of Christ, and be generous in your selfless love of his people.”
After questioning the candidates about their resolve to proclaim the faith and conform to the example of Christ, Archbishop Etienne took a seat before the altar. Each candidate approached and knelt before him. He took their hands in his, asking their promise of respect and obedience to him and his successors.
All the candidates then prostrated themselves before the altar, spread out in two circles on the floor, as the Litany of the Saints was read. After they rose, each candidate knelt again before Archbishop Etienne, who laid his hands on each man’s head. Then he extended his hands over the entire group for the prayer of ordination.
The newly ordained permanent deacons returned to their pews, where they put on the diaconal stoles and dalmatics presented by their wives. Then each deacon took a turn kneeling before the archbishop, clasping the Book of the Gospels.
“Receive the Gospel of Christ, whose herald you have become,” Archbishop Etienne told each man. “Believe what you read, teach what you believe and practice what you teach. Peace be with you.”
After Communion, Father Schuster thanked God for “calling these men to holy orders,” as well as all those who had a hand in helping the men during their years of formation.
He offered special thanks to the deacons’ wives and families. “This has been a tremendous sacrifice for you over the years during formation, but it continues, so I want to thank the wives and families for giving us the gift of your husbands and fathers to the church,” Father Schuster said.
He also thanked Archbishop Etienne “for being a spiritual father to the guys … really getting to know them and giving them your guidance.” And he sent a special message of thanks to Archbishop Emeritus J. Peter Sartain — who Father Schuster said may be watching the livestream — for calling this class of deacons five years ago.
Permanent Deacons, Class of 2020
Assigned to Mary, Queen of Peace, Sammamish
Assigned to St. Mark, Shoreline
Assigned to Holy Cross, St. Patrick and St. Rita, Tacoma
Assigned to Mary, Queen of Peace, Sammamish
Assigned to St. Joseph at Holy Family, Frances
Assigned to St. Bernadette, Seattle
Assigned to St. Jude, Redmond
Assigned to Our Lady of Sorrows, Snoqualmie
Assigned to St. Joseph, Issaquah
Assigned to St. Louise, Bellevue
Assigned to St. Brendan, Bothell
Assigned to Our Lady Star of the Sea, Bremerton
Assigned to St. Mary, Anacortes
Assigned to St. Bridget, Seattle
Assigned to St. Brendan, Bothell
Assigned to St. Mary Magdalen, Everett
Assigned to Sacred Heart, Bellingham
Assigned to Our Lady Queen of Heaven, Tacoma
Assigned to Immaculate Conception and Our Lady of Perpetual Help, Everett
Assigned to All Saints, Puyallup
Assigned to St. Stephen the Martyr, Renton
Archbishop Paul D. Etienne’s homily for the December 21, 2020, diaconate ordinations
Matthew 20:25 – “Jesus summoned them …”
The starting point of all life is God, who made all things through his Son, Jesus Christ. (Colossians 1:16) In these days of Advent we prepare to celebrate again the great mystery of the Incarnation, a point in the fullness of time when God chose to send his only Beloved Son into the world as one like us in all things but sin.
Jesus, our Emmanuel – God with us – is our starting point each and every day. He summons each of us to intimacy and union with himself. This great humility of God to walk among us, who took on our human likeness, who took the sin of the world upon himself as our Savior, so that we could share in the very life of God, continues in our day through the Church.
Jesus willed that his work and mission would continue through his apostles, and those who would follow. Through his resurrection and through the church, Jesus lives. Jesus still summons us today to come to him that he might feed us with his Word and through the Sacraments, that we might have life and intimacy with him. Thus formed and nourished, he sends us in his name – all the baptized – into the world.
Every member of the Church shares in the mission of Jesus who came to reveal the love and mercy of God to the world.
“Through the Church, the Good News of Jesus Christ continues to be told and applied to the changing circumstances and challenges of human life. As Christians live their lives in the power of the Holy Spirit and in the assurance of Christ’s return in glory, they offer to others a hope to live by, encouraging them also to embrace Christ and overcome the forces of evil.” (National Directory for the Formation, Ministry and Life of Permanent Deacons in the United States, #21)
Dear brothers, Jesus summons you to fulfill this mission in each of your lives, and today bestows upon you a unique grace and office of charity and service through the Sacrament of Holy Orders as deacons.
In the first reading today from the Acts of the Apostles, we see how this mission of Jesus was extended through the first deacons and other members of the early Church: “And the Word of God continued to spread, and the number of disciples in Jerusalem increased greatly.” (Acts 6:7) Please God, your diaconal ministry will also spread the Word of God and help us renew and extend faith in Jesus Christ in Western Washington.
“The Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:28)
As you take up this sacramental role of service today, I cannot emphasize enough that it is to be modeled upon Jesus Christ, as a service of Christ in others, living as another Christ who serves — in the world.
The Church exists in Christ, thus each of her members are an extension of Christ. The charity and service of a deacon – all of the good works of the Church — are not simply another means of social service, but rather serving because we have been summoned by Christ, anointed by Christ, sent by Christ, and have modeled our lives on Christ, who came not to be served but to serve.
As deacons, part of your ministry is to assist the bishop and the priests at the altar. You assist in formulating the prayers of the people, because you are in their midst and know their needs. You assist at the altar in preparing the gifts which will become the Body and Blood of Christ precisely so that you can be a bearer of Christ to the People of God in the world. Once again, please allow me to quote from the National Directory for the Formation, Ministry and Life of Permanent Deacons in the United States (#37):
“…the deacon is a specific sacramental sign, in the Church, of Christ the Servant. His role is to ‘express the needs and desires of the Christian communities’ and to be ‘a driving force for service, which is an essential part of the mission of the Church. … there is a reciprocal correspondence between his role as a herald of the Gospel and his role as an articulator of the needs of the Church in the General Intercessions. In his formal liturgical roles, the deacon brings the poor to the Church and the Church to the poor … Likewise, he articulates the Church’s concern for justice by being a driving force in addressing the injustices among God’s people. He thus symbolizes in his roles the grounding of the Church’s life in the Eucharist and the mission of the Church in her loving service of the needy.
In other words, the deacon is a model of charity in a specific manner that which is true for every other member of the Church; the deacon’s service begins at the altar where he is nourished in the Lord, he brings this love of Christ into the world and returns to the altar where the cycle of charity is renewed.
As the promises you are about to make reveal, your lives, brothers, are now at the service of the Church – to the bishop and priests, as well as to the People of God. You will only be capable of the charity demanded of this new ministry and way of life by sustaining intimacy with the Lord through prayer. I encourage likewise to always grow in sensitivity to the Holy Spirit, who is the life-giving breath of the Church. Through your prayer and the grace of the Holy Spirit, you will gradually be conformed more and more fully to Christ.
Finally, a word of gratitude to the spouses and families of our soon-to-be new deacons. As we know, the love of husbands and wives made manifest in the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony is a concrete manifestation of the mystery of Christ’s love for the Church. (Ephesians 5:32) The love which has been shared and nourished through years of marriage is now at the heart of the charity and service which these deacons bring to the Church through Holy Orders. The unique gift of self which is expressed in matrimony and lived in the Domestic Church is also an important witness to the broader Church, and I thank each of the wives here present today for your participation in this great witness to Christ in the midst of the world.
Brothers, never forget it is Christ who has summoned you. As daunting as it may seem, you will be more than capable of bringing his love and mercy into the world because he has loved you first, and will always be faithful in sustaining you in his love. Live in the love of Christ, and be generous in your selfless love of his people.
Trust in the Lord, live the faith, and the Lord will provide for all the rest of your needs.