SALT LAKE CITY — Five men who are in formation to be ordained deacons for the Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City will celebrate the Rite of Institution of Acolytes in a ceremony at the Cathedral of the Madeleine on May 11. The Most Rev. Oscar A. Solis, Bishop of Salt Lake City, will preside.
“It is a beautiful rite. … It allows for them to now assist the priest and assist the deacon in the liturgy,” said Deacon Drew Petersen, overall director of the diocese’s Diaconate Formation Program.
Acolytes have specific duties during the liturgy.
“The acolyte does all the setting of the tables, making sure the altar is organized correctly; they do a lot of the preparation,” Deacon Petersen said. “The acolyte is appointed to minister to the priest. It is their duty to attend the service of the altar and to assist the deacon and the priest in the liturgical celebrations, especially the celebration of the Mass.”
After the May 11 Mass, the deacon candidates also will be able to distribute Communion as special ministers, Deacon Petersen said.
The journey with the candidates has been a tremendous adventure, he said. Although the diocese has offered deacon formation programs in the past, this is the first time that all the candidates are certified lay ecclesial ministers, so the five men are going through a three-year accelerated diaconate program in the diocese. They began the program two years ago.
“It has been a challenge. … Father [Eleazar] Silva, the program’s director of academics, and I feel like we have been pushing them,” Deacon Petersen said, adding that the last group of deacons to go through formation had a five-year program.
Since October, the five men in the current deacon formation program – Greg Werking, Thomas Devereux, Robert Cowlishaw, Jeremy Castellano and Jeffery Allen – have been assigned to parishes other than their own to do the practicum part of the program.
“This will go through June; at the end of the month they will return to their original parish,” Deacon Petersen said.
In the practicum the candidates learn to adjust to a change in setting and to get involved with different parish communities.
It is important that all the community support these candidates because “once you are ordained as a deacon you will always be a deacon,” said Deacon Petersen, asking people to pray for the men.
The diaconate is one of the Roman Catholic Church’s three ordained ministries within the Sacrament of Holy Orders; the others are priest and bishop. The diaconate is open to married men in good standing with the Church, and does not lead to priesthood. (Seminarians typically spend a year as a transitional deacon before they are ordained to the priesthood.)
Deacons may read the Gospel, preach, and assist the celebrant priest at liturgical events. They perform various sacramental functions such as officiating at weddings without a Mass, funerals and baptisms; they also assist at the Eucharistic liturgy.
The five deacon candidates are scheduled to be ordained next January in the Cathedral of the Madeleine. There are currently 59 active deacons in the diocese.