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‘Go out to the world and teach all the nations’

By Bishop Terry R. LaValley

October 6, 2021

Editor’s Note: The following is Bishop Terry R. LaValley’s homily from the ordination Mass held Oct. 2 at St. Mary’s Cathedral. At that Mass, 12 deacons were ordained.

The diaconate is not just one among many ministries, but rather, as Pope St. Paul VI said, this ministry should truly be a “moving force” for the service of the Church. As I’ve mentioned before, I see the Permanent Deacons in our Diocese as a moving force in meeting our diocesan priorities and enhancing the vibrancy and vitality of our parish families in our beloved North Country. Soon, with the laying on of hands, as I ask Almighty God to draw near, you will hear me pray: “…in your eternal providence, you make provision for every age.” My sisters and brothers, today’s celebration is a treasured provision the Lord is making for the present and future Church of Ogdensburg. The Lord always provides. The Gospel is always Good News!

Today, the Psalmist issues the charge: “Go out to the world and teach all nations!” How does one do that? During today’s rite, you’ll hear me express how: “Do the will of God from the heart: serve the people in love and joy as you would the Lord.” Pretty tall order, isn’t it? I certainly agree with your Director of Formation when he wrote me about your readiness for ordination. In referring to this class, Deacon Drollette said, “They have the heart of a deacon.”

It’s been evident, particularly during these troubled times in which the Lord has been preparing you for ordination, the likes of which we have never seen before. For instance, brothers, you have given Christ-like care and support and then mourned the death of your fellow deacon candidate, Patrick Jank. We keep Mary and their children in our prayers as they mourn the loss of her husband, their father and our friend. Yes, you continue to do the will of God from the heart. It’s been evident in your generous care and heartfelt concern for your classmates and their families who have suffered extraordinary personal health and family difficulties these last few years. Thank you for giving remarkable witness to such compassion and concern for others. The Church is blessed!

COVID 19 continues to be a most unwelcome intruder during your formation, hasn’t it? Yet, you have taken the initiative of using social media for Tuesday evening prayer each week, continuing to this day. You know how essential fraternal support and daily prayer are.

Your patience and flexibility have been tested as classes needed to be changed, even canceled, thanks to the pandemic. You rose to the occasion. You did great assisting me at Confirmations throughout our diocese, some of you, more than once, traveling a considerable distance from your home to be there. Although, truth be told, for some of you, at one Confirmation, your care and concern for the physical well-being of your bishop was in doubt. At that solemn Mass, you know that the keeper of the censer left the chain dangling over the hot coals and when your bishop went to grab the chain, an odor of burnt skin filled the sanctuary. But you redeemed yourself. You provided me with proper personal protection equipment: these customized gloves, to use when certain deacons are assisting me at confirmations in the future. Especially these days, a sense of humor is so important in ministry.

As you know, with the sacrament of Orders, the deacon receives a special “configuration to Christ” through the laying on of hands of the bishop and the prayer of consecration. The deacon is ordained specifically for the exercise of a ministry proper to him that requires a spiritual availability of complete dedication. The Diaconate is not a profession, but a mission! As I mentioned earlier –you are a moving force in our local church – men on a mission.

Deacon candidates, like the Apostles, you too must feel impelled to proclaim by word and deed the Resurrection of the Lord Jesus. That’s your charge! You, like the early disciples, must experience the need to do good, to give of yourselves to others in the Name of the Crucified and Risen Jesus –to bring God’s word into the lives of His holy people. The integrity of your ordained ministry, your ability to communicate the Gospel effectively, will depend on your adherence to the faith of the Apostles and your disciplined prayer life.

When discussing Holy Orders as one of the sacraments “at the service of communion,” the Catechism teaches that the two sacraments, Orders and Marriage, “are directed towards the salvation of others; if they contribute as well to personal salvation, it is through service to others that they do so.” My and your holiness is either strengthened or found wanting to the degree that we are engaged in the works of mercy. Our personal holiness depends on and is nourished by our service to others, particularly the most vulnerable among us.

My brothers in Christ, in your diaconal ministry, your wives and the responsibilities that arise from the sacrament of Holy Matrimony do not play second fiddle. The sacred bond that your wife and you established on your wedding day is to be strengthened, not neglected as you fulfill your diaconal responsibilities. Dear wives, with the Church, I want to express my immense gratitude for the gift of your husbands to the Church’s sacred orders.

Since deacons are ministers of the Word, the Church urges you to constant reading and diligent study of the Sacred Scriptures. As deacons you are called to hear, guard and do the Word of God, in order to proclaim it worthily and effectively. The vocation of the deacon calls you as a child of God, to take the Gospel into your most inmost being and find it worth suffering for. Today you express your willingness to stake everything –on the Gospel. Make your life witness a real YES to the Gospel.

Daily pray the Liturgy of the Hours. This prayer should inform your whole prayer life since deacons, as ministers, intercede for the entire Church. Participate at Mass frequently, even daily, if possible, and spend time in adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. Purify your souls frequently through the Sacrament of Penance having prepared for it worthily through a daily examination of conscience.

Possess a deep, filial love and veneration for the Virgin Mary, Mother of God. As you strive to be the servant of the servants of God, turn to Mary, as she continues to proclaim: “I am the handmaid of the Lord.” (Lk 1:38) In the example of her servanthood, see the perfect model of our own call to the discipleship of our Lord Jesus Christ and to the service of His Church.

With great pride and gratitude, I join the Church of Ogdensburg confidently believing that your ministry of Word and Charity will bear much fruit. Serve the Church with an ardent love. Go out to all the world and teach all nations. Sing to the Lord a new song; Sing to the Lord; bless His Name!


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