On Dec. 30 at St. Aloysius Church in Springfield, Bishop Thomas John Paprocki ordained James Dodge to the permanent diaconate for the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois. Concelebrating the Mass that day were Msgr. David Hoefler, Msgr. John Ossola, Father Christopher House, Father Brian Alford, Father Daren Zehnle, Father Clinton Honkomp, OP, and Father James Isaacson, SJC. Deacon Larry Smith and Patrick Hutt were masters of ceremonies and Deacon Dominic Rankin proclaimed the Gospel. Also in attendance were a dozen deacons from the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois, as well as some seminarians.
Deacon Dodge says he has known for years that he should be serving God’s people. “Actually, God has been working on me for a long time,” he says. “I started out as a deacon candidate in the Episcopal Church — my family and I are converts. It was during formation I realized that I was right about the call, but wrong about the church.”
Just prior to his ordination, Deacon Dodge said, “As I approach ordination, I am most looking forward to the grace of Orders, to the indwelling of the Holy Spirit that will enable me to (do) more than I ever could on my own, or on my own initiative, for God and to discover where that will lead in service to his church.”
A member of Blessed Sacrament Parish in Springfield since 2001, Deacon Dodge is married to Cynthia J. Dodge and they have two children, son James A. (wife Emily) and daughter Adrienne R. M. Dodge.
Deacon Dodge is an attorney and currently serves as the executive director of the Illinois Legislative Reference Bureau. “The Bureau is a nonpartisan legislative agency that drafts legislation for both parties in both chambers of the Illinois General Assembly,” he explains.
In 2017, while he was still a deacon candidate, Deacon Dodge initiated the pastoral program at Vibra Hospital in Springfield, becoming the hospital’s first chaplain. “I am a volunteer, providing both pastoral care visits and on-call service to Vibra patients,” he says. “The administration and staff at Vibra have been very supportive of my ministry.”
He also has a blog on the Sunday Mass readings called Moments before Mass. “The inspiration for the blog was a 20-something co-worker who told me she didn’t get anything out of Mass,” he says. “The idea for each post is: If you and I had 30 seconds together before Mass, what could I say to you in that moment that would help you get more out of Mass?” The blog is on Facebook and Tumblr and on the St. Aloysius Facebook page.
In his homily for the ordination Mass, Bishop Paprocki said he wanted to address Deacon Dodge directly. “James, following your ordination today, this will now be your task. God has chosen you to prophesy in the manner of Anna: persevering in prayer, fasting, worship and waiting, to live in that place where hope and memory meet in fulfillment.
“Here in this place you will meet Christ,” he said. “There it will be your joy and your sacred duty to praise God and to speak about Christ to all you meet in search of him. Wherever you are assigned, you will discern him at work among his people, and you will remind them of how he comes to them and saves them, repeating it, re-speaking it to them in a way they can meditate on for as long as God gives them.
“You will accomplish this in your ministry of the Word, proclaiming the Gospel, preaching, and counseling those who come to you, helping others to make the story of the Scriptures the story of their own life,” he said. “You will do so also through your ministry of charity, for a deacon is a minister of Christ’s own charity. Such works are the incarnation of Christian hope. They are the virtue of hope dressed in work-clothes.”
As a deacon candidate, Deacon Dodge was assigned to St. Aloysius, where he expects to continue serving. “The parish has had one deacon, Mick Palazzolo,” he says. “I will be doing my first preaching at St. Aloysius. After ordination, in addition to preaching and serving at Mass as a deacon, I will continue my work with hospital ministry and adult education.”
Deacon Dodge chose Msgr. Ossola to vest him at his ordination. “I have known Msgr. Ossola since I was a student at Griffin High School and he has meant a great deal to me ever since then,” he says. “Msgr. Ossola was my first spiritual director and my first pastoral supervisor in the deacon formation. He has been very supportive of my interest in becoming a deacon and was there for me during some very important moments during the formation process.”
Now that he is ordained, Deacon Dodge may assist at Mass, proclaim the Gospel and give homilies, baptize and witness marriages, and preside at wake services and at graveside services. Deacons are expected to be especially dedicated to the duties of charity and administration.