SALT LAKE CITY — During a special Mass at the Cathedral of the Madeleine on June 7, Bishop Oscar A. Solis ordained to the deaconate Dominic Sternhagen, a seminarian for the Diocese of Salt Lake City.
“The Church of Salt Lake City rejoices in a particular way today in the Sacrament of Holy Orders,” Bishop Solis said in his introductory remarks. The deacons, priests and bishops who receive the Sacrament of Holy Orders minister to the people of God, proclaim the Word of God and restore communion with God by prayer and works of charity, Bishop Solis said.
Concelebrating the Mass were Msgr. Colin F. Bircumshaw, vicar general; Msgr. J. Terrence Fitzgerald, vicar general emeritus; Fr. Martin Diaz, rector of the cathedral; diocesan consultors Fr. Kenneth Vialpando, Fr. Gustavo Vidal and Fr. John Evans; and Fr. Joseph Delka, the diocesan vocations director; as well as other priests of the diocese. Deacon Guillermo Mendez was Deacon of the Mass. Numerous other deacons assisted. Among the congregation were members of the Sternhagen family, including his parents, brothers, sisters and grandparents.
The Liturgy of the Word consisted of the readings of Numbers 3: 5-9, Acts 6:1-7, and Matthew 20:25-28, which speak of men called to assist priests and serve the community.
In his homily, Bishop Solis spoke in both English and Spanish as he welcomed all those present to the cathedral.
“Our hearts are filled with gratitude and gladness as we celebrate Dominic’s ordination to the order of deacons,” the bishop said.
As mentioned in the reading from the Acts of the Apostles, deacons are called to serve the needs of the poor, he pointed out. “Tonight, by the grace of the Holy Spirit and by the laying of hands, Dominic will be consecrated to a life of service in the Church … for the ministry of the Word, of the altar, and of charity.”
In the Gospel reading, Jesus clearly stated “what greatness in the eyes of God is all about,” Bishop Solis said. Speaking to the deacon who was about to be ordained, he said, “Your ministry is, therefore, no other than that of Christ, who came not to be served but to serve. You can fulfill this responsibility with zeal and fidelity, not minding your own selfish interests, but always that of others.”
The bishop also recommended that the soon-to-be deacon anchor himself in and communion with Christ, “where you can grow in inspiration and gain the strength you need to fulfill your mission.”
Deacons proclaim the Gospel and preach and teach the faith of the Church, and this requires constant prayer, study and reflection, “and the power and the inspiration of the Holy Spirit so that you may proclaim the Word of God and not yours; to preach Christ and not yourself,” the bishop said.
Deacons also preside at baptisms, weddings and funerals, “to lead others to Christ and to holiness of life, so it is important for you to develop a special devotion to the Eucharist, and that the people experience the presence of Christ in you, by the way you serve and the way you proclaim the Gospel,” the bishop said.
The heart of a deacon’s ministry “is to manifest the love and concern, the compassion and mercy of Christ for others, especially to the most vulnerable in our midst: the unborn children, the elderly, the sick, the poor, the immigrants and the refugees,” the bishop said.
Following the homily, the deacon candidate lay prostrate before the altar, symbolizing his complete surrender to the will of God. Bishop Solis then laid on his hands and recited the Prayer of Ordination. Deacon Sternhagen then was invested in a stole and dalmatic. Afterward, Bishop Solis handed on the Gospel to the new deacon who, during the remainder of the Mass, served as a deacon.
After the Mass, Deacon Sternhagen said that while he was lying prostrate before the altar prior to the Laying on of Hands and Prayer of Ordination, he felt that “that is who we are before God … on the earth, and then rising.”
Upon being ordained, “I was just filled with joy, and I felt like I belonged here,” he said. “I did not expect that at all. I came here [to Utah four years ago] hoping that this is where I should be, but [ordination] was like God saying, ‘This is where you should be.’”
For the summer, Deacon Sternhagen has been appointed to serve at Christ the King Parish in Cedar City. In the fall he will return to Mt. Angel Seminary for a final year of study. He is expected to be ordained a priest next year.