Families and friends filled St. Patrick Cathedral Aug. 10 to watch as 15 men were instituted as acolytes – one of the final steps toward their formation as permanent deacons for the Diocese of Charlotte.
Paul Bruck, Ralph D’Agostino Jr., David Faunce, Steffen Fohn, Frank Moyer, Timothy Mueller, Matthew Newsome, Quang Nguyen, David Ramsey III, Martin Sheehan Jr., Francis Skinner, Paul Sparrow, Peter Tonon, Donald Waugh Jr. and Jack Yarbrough are candidates for the diaconate, expected to be ordained next year.
As acolytes, the men are now entrusted with the duties of attending to the altar, assisting the deacon and priest at Mass, and distributing Holy Communion as extraordinary ministers.
Bishop Peter Jugis celebrated the Mass on the feast of St. Lawrence, deacon and martyr, during which the diocese’s permanent deacons – as well as their wives – also renewed their commitment to serving the Church.
During the institution rite, the 15 deacon candidates,clothed in white albs, approached the altar one by one and knelt before the bishop. He placed a ciborium in the hands of each candidate and said, “Take this vessel with bread for the celebration of the Eucharist. Make your life worthy of your service at the table of the Lord and of His Church.” To which they replied, “Amen.”
In his homily, Bishop Jugis urged the deacon candidates to draw closer to the Eucharist in their daily lives, just as they are now drawing nearer to the altar with this step towards the diaconate.
“Because you are specially called to this ministry, you should strive to live more fully by the Lord’s sacrifice and to be molded more perfectly in His likeness,” he said.
“The Eucharist forms us and shapes us,” he said, referring to St. John Paul II’s 2003 encyclical “Ecclesia de Eucharistia” and Pope Benedict’s 2007 apostolic exhortation “Sacramentum Caritatis,” which describe the “Eucharistic form” of the Christian life.
“It is not the Eucharistic food that is changed into us, but rather we who are mysteriously transformed by it. Christ nourishes us by uniting us to Himself,” Pope Benedict wrote in “Sacramentum Caritatis.”
As “servants of the Eucharist, men of the Eucharist,” Bishop Jugis told the candidates, they must “allow the Body and Blood of Christ at Mass and at Eucharistic Adoration to form a Eucharistic shape to your life, constantly being renewed by the love of Christ which we celebrate at the Eucharist.”
The Eucharist “is bound to have an effect on our lives,” he noted. “That affects everything. It affects our thinking, it affects our affections; it has an effect on our behavior, on our attitude, on our words, on our actions.
“In fact, if it doesn’t affect our lives – if we’re not constantly being renewed by Christ’s love – Pope Benedict said, there is a fracture that has taken place, some breakdown has occurred between what we celebrate and what we do.”
Drawing closer to Jesus through the Eucharist should lead the candidates closer to others, Bishop Jugis said, so that building communion with Christ builds communion with their brothers and sisters in Christ.
This personal communion is particularly needed today, when contemporary society has turned away from God and glorifies individualism above all else, Bishop Jugis said. People end up marginalized, excluded or feeling like they don’t belong, he said.
As “servants of the Eucharist” and future deacons of the Church, he said, the men have a special responsibility to help the Church build communion – a relationship – with God and with each other.
“It’s the gift that Jesus wants to give to the world through the Church,” he said.
As the deacon candidates and the entire congregation bowed their heads, Bishop Jugis prayed, “Grant that they may be faithful in the service of Your altar and in giving to others the Bread of life. May they grow always in faith and love and so build up Your Church.”
After Mass several of the deacon candidates said they were touched by Bishop Jugis’ words calling them “men of the Eucharist,” feeling excited and a little nervous about taking on the ministry of acolyte, yet gladly abandoning themselves to whatever God wills for them.
“This makes it real,” said Matthew Newsome, a deacon candidate from Sylva who also serves as campus minister at Western Carolina University in Cullowhee. He and the other 14 candidates have been through years of preparation, study and discernment, and they have been given the ministries of lector and now acolyte.
As ordination day approaches, Newsome said, “I feel like we’re drawing closer to Christ. As a lector, you are called to be especially devoted to Him in the Word, His Scripture. Now as an acolyte, we’re called to be especially devoted to the altar and to the Eucharist. We’re just being drawn further and further into the mystery of Christ.”
Paul Sparrow said he felt uplifted by the bishop’s homily. “I definitely want to continue to grow” closer to Christ through the Eucharist, he said, especially by spending more time in Eucharistic Adoration in the months leading up to ordination day.
–Catholic News Herald