As some of you may know, my brother-in-law, John Hilger, was recently ordained as a Deacon in the Catholic Church. He'll be serving in ministry at Queen of Angels Church in the archdiocese of Fort Wayne, Indiana.
The road to receiving Holy Orders was long and intense--truly a calling.
The permanent diaconate formation period in the Catholic Church entails a four- or five-year training period that resembles a collegiate course of study. Diaconal candidates receive instruction in philosophy, theology, study of the Holy Scriptures, homiletics, sacramental studies, evangelization, ecclesiology, counseling, and pastoral care and ministry before ordination. Although they are assigned to work in a parish by the diocesan bishop, once assigned, deacons are under the supervision of the parish pastor. Saint Stephen is considered to be one of the first seven deacons in the Christian Church.
The ministry of the deacon in the Catholic Church is described as one of service in three areas: the Word, the Liturgy and Charity. The vestments most particularly associated with the Western Rite Catholic deacon are the alb, stole and dalmatic. Deacons, like priests and bishops, must wear their albs and stoles; deacons place the stole over their left shoulder and it hangs across to their right side, while priests and bishops wear it around their necks. The dalmatic, a vestment especially associated with the deacon, is worn during the celebration of the Mass and other liturgical functions; its use is more liberally applied than the corresponding vestment of the priest, the chasuble.
For me, the most moving part of the ordination was when the 11 candidates for the deaconate lay prostrate upon the altar, deep in surrendered prayer to the God who called them to this vocation. My brother-in-law was also given the blessing of being able to serve with the Bishop during communion at this very special Mass. Another moving part of the ceremony is when the Bishop rested his hands atop the head of each candidate in blessing, and then gave them each a beautiful, leather-bound edition of the Gospels for use during Mass.
The day after his ordination, John delivered the homily and performed the duties of a deacon at his church home, Queen of Angels. This first mass was referred to as 'The Mass of Thanksgiving' and many family and friends were in attendance. We were truly blessed and thankful to be part of it, too, and witness him living out the call God placed on his heart. Receiving the Eucharist from my brother-in-law, then the Precious Blood from my sister-in-law touched my heart and brought me to tears of joy. Our family traveled bits and pieces of this road right along with him, and cheered him on all the way.
God has claimed a holy warrior in the gifts and talents of John Henry Hilger, and we're so very thrilled for him!
Until next time ~ Blessings!