Navigate Up
Sign In

A message from the bishop

'Good News, Indeed!' (June 2016)
Diocese ordains largest class in 26 years, plans to resume diaconate program
My dear friends,
I am very happy to share some good news with you about vocations in our diocese. In early June, we ordained four men to the priesthood, marking the largest class in the diocese in more than 25 years. Additionally, three men were ordained to the transitional diaconate on May 17. They will continue their formation and studies at Mundelein Seminary and will be ordained priests in June 2017. These ordinations are good news, indeed!
Our diocese has a fine vocations director in Father Ron Hutchinson. After nine years of dividing time between parish ministry and his diocesan duties, Father Ron Hutchinson will become the fulltime diocesan director of priestly vocations on July 1. With this change, we will intensify our efforts to encourage young men to discern vocations to the ordained ministry. The people of our diocese have consistently supported priestly
vocations. Everyone wants to have a pastor in their parish – and a decent one, at that. Let us redouble
our efforts to pray for vocations and continue to boldly plant the idea in the hearts of young men when we see a possible priestly vocation in their lives!
Be assured that vocations of men and women to the religious and consecrated life are originating in our diocese, as well. Religious orders conduct their own vocational recruitment. I have no statistics to share, but ordained ministry hardly exhausts the ways in which God is calling men and women of our diocese to serve God’s people.
I have more good news to share! We will be resuming the permanent diaconate program in our diocese.
Our diocese is blessed with 37 deacons, 32 of whom are engaged in active ministry. What do deacons do?
In the Acts of the Apostles, we learn of the origin of the deacon and see indications of the role of the deacon – as ministers of charity, word and altar.
The catalyst for the establishment of the order of deacons came from a practical need for assistants within the community. The Greek widows were being neglected in the daily distribution of food. The apostles asked the community to select seven reputable men, filled with the Holy Spirit and wisdom, to be appointed to this task. Thus it is that one of the chief ministries of the deacon is that of charity. The deacon devotes himself to humble Christian service and calls others to join him in this important mission of Christ’s Church.
In the Acts of the Apostles, we encounter one of those first deacons, Stephen, who worked great signs and wonders among the people. Opponents came forward to debate with him, “but they could not withstand the wisdom and the spirit with which he spoke.” (Acts 6:10) Here it is revealed that one of the chief ministries of the deacon is that of the word. Deacons preach and instruct God’s people in the truths of the Catholic faith. Philip, another of the original seven deacons, exemplifies the deacon’s role as teacher and preacher. He approached a non-Jew, an Ethiopian court official who is reading from the
prophet Isaiah, and “proclaimed Jesus to him.” (Acts 8:35) In this time of the New Evangelization in the Church, the deacon is a key figure in reviving lukewarm hearts and inspiring a love for Christ in those who are open to the workings of the Holy Spirit.
Finally, deacons serve as ministers of the altar. In the case of Philip, he baptized the Ethiopian court official – perhaps the shortest RCIA process on record! In addition to celebrating baptism, the deacon assists the priest at the altar throughout the Mass. He celebrates the sacraments of baptism and matrimony, is an ordinary minister of holy Communion, and is able to preside at funeral liturgies celebrated apart from Mass. The worship of God in liturgy and the encounter with the risen Lord in the sacraments are the life blood and summit of the Church’s life, and the deacon is intimately involved in many of these moments.
The deacons serving the Diocese of Grand Rapids are doing fine work, the Lord’s work. They make Christ,
servant of His people, visible. Parishes offer the deacon valuable opportunities for service of the word, altar and charity. Especially during this Jubilee Year of Mercy, deacons can be a model and genuine catalyst for us to embrace anew the corporal works of mercy and thus extend Christ’s love in the
exercise of charity. I look forward to the day when we will once more celebrate the ordination of candidates to this important order in the Church!
Sincerely yours in the Lord,
Most Reverend David J. Walkowiak