On the Friday within the Octave of Easter, Bishop Thomas John Paprocki ordained three seminarians to the transitional diaconate during an evening Mass at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Springfield.
Hundreds of people were at the Cathedral on April 21 in support of Robert Paul Johnson, Aaron Thomas Kuhn and Mark Walker Tracy as they received the sacrament of holy orders, ordaining them to deacons as a transitional step toward being priests for the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois.
Also taking part in the liturgy were dozens of diocesan priests; priests from Mundelein and St. Meinrad seminaries; Father Melvin Kuhn, brother of Deacon Aaron Kuhn; a good number of permanent deacons from the Springfield diocese; and other seminarians from both the Springfield diocese and other places.
Father Brian Alford, director of the Office for Vocations, presented the candidates and masters of ceremonies were Father Daren Zehnle, Deacon Jim Ghiglione and Deacon Larry Smith. Deacon Johnson was vested by Father Christopher House; Deacon Kuhn was vested by Father Kuhn; and Deacon Tracy was vested by Deacon Paul Koch.
As he began his homily, Bishop Paprocki said, “At the outset, I express my profound gratitude on behalf of the entire community of faith in this Diocese of Springfield in Illinois to the three of you for your willingness to commit your lives in the service of this local church. Your commitment to diaconal service as you continue your preparation for ordination to the ministerial priesthood helps to strengthen the ability of all the clergy, religious and lay Catholic faithful to work together as teammates in carrying out the mission entrusted to the church by Jesus Christ.”
Later, Bishop Paprocki spoke of the inaugural homily of the pontificate of St. John Paul II, who said, “… brothers and sisters, do not be afraid to welcome Christ and accept his power. Do not be afraid. Open wide the doors of Christ.”
“My dear candidates for ordination, Rob, Aaron and Mark,” said Bishop Paprocki. “I urge you to begin your ordained ministry by calling to mind those four powerful words of the Risen Christ with which St. John Paul II began his Petrine ministry: ‘Do not be afraid.’ As members of Christ’s team, we will be given a life of true joy, but we will also have crosses to carry; still, we are told, ‘do not be afraid.’ On Christ’s team we may be ridiculed by secular society, laughed at by neighbors or even shunned by some family members; still we are told, ‘do not be afraid.’
“Tonight the Lord asks you to dedicate yourself to serving his team, to tell others the Good News of his resurrection, to focus your eyes and hearts on following Christ, all the while remembering, ‘do not be afraid,’ for the Holy Spirit will be with you and your teammates, the communion of saints, will be helping you and will be praying for you.”
During the Mass, the three men were given the assent of the assembly, made a commitment to celibacy, promised to follow their vows and were vested with the stole and dalmatic, and received the Book of the Gospels from Bishop Paprocki.
As deacons the three men can assist at Mass, proclaim the Gospel and give homilies, baptize and witness marriages, preside at wake services and at graveside services. Deacons are expected to be especially dedicated to the duties of charity and administration.