Men Gather from Five Eparchies for Deacon Formation Program
We are ordinary men. Our names are Tom, Joe, Nathan, Ed, Larry, and Ray. We have come from all over the country -- from as close as south of Pittsburgh and as far away as California. We are bound together by a common desire -- to go through the Deacon Formation Program at the Byzantine Catholic Seminary of SS. Cyril and Methodius in Pittsburgh PA, discerning if we are truly called to the Order of deacon in the Church.
There are 20 men in this class. Along with us is a Franciscan priest who is attending some classes to be more grounded in Eastern Christian theology and spirituality because he wishes to serve as a bi-ritual priest. We arrived Sunday, June 12th. Over dinner that night, we began to know each other, our stories, our dreams, our parishes. Later that night there was a more formal time of introduction during an orientation session.
Tom is 55 and a doctor of psychology. "I want to become a deacon because I want to serve. I want to serve the people. I love the Church, I love God, and I feel the call. I would say I had the seeds of the call many years ago, early on, when I was in a dating relationship with my wife. I've been serving at the altar, I do adult Eastern Christian Formation, and formation of college seminarians. I believe my formation as a deacon candidate and, God willing, moving into that ministry will do nothing but enhance my work with seminarians and with the people of God whom I will be called to serve.”
Jeff is 47 and works with computers: "I've been looking for an opportunity to serve the Church. There is a lot to be done both in the Church and in the world and the diaconate seems to be the place that I can do it. I've been serving as an assistant cantor and teaching pre-school religious education."
William is 51 and works as an electrical and mechanical engineer: "It's not that I want to become a deacon, it's that I have experienced a calling to become a deacon. This is just the next step in my service. I've been an altar server, an Epistle reader, helped in facilitating Bible studies for our parish, and this is the next step."
Nathanael is 27 and works as a second year special education teacher for children with educational disabilities. "I want to be a deacon because I want to serve the people of God. I want to be committed to the Church and called on with the fraternity -- this wonderful fraternity of deacon candidates we have here -- along with our priests and bishops. I've done a lot of nursing home ministry and done a lot of things with fitness and youth. I'm looking forward to continuing those things and also hoping to get a little more into adult education and more into catechetical programs also."
Like three other men in the class, I am in my 60's and retired. I have run my course in the business world and now, as I look forward to the latter years of my life, I find that I want to do more than spend the rest of my time and money on myself. That is the American Dream. That is not the Gospel. Christ calls those who are His followers to lives of service. I want to answer that call, and in a deeper and more profound way than the service I have been privileged to offer Him so far.
The sense of unity in the classes and at the dinner table is strong. There is a bond here, a common desire in each of us that not only "I" succeed and go on to ordination, but that the men with me also go on to serve the Church. You can sense the strong ties of friendship that have developed in the few days we have been here. By the end of our two weeks, they will become the unbreakable ties of friendship and love in Christ for each other as brothers. We will pray for each other throughout the years and no doubt keep in touch by e-mail or other means. Moreover, when, by God's grace, we are ordained to the diaconate, we will rejoice for each other.
I feel honored to be in the presence of these men. I feel so because of their strong commitment to the Lord and their desire to be of service to others. The classes are difficult. I have spoken with a couple of men who share my sense of concern that I can make it in this difficult situation. However, by the third day, a sense of relaxation has taken over our classes. Yes, we face great challenges for the future. There is much to learn in the next four years, and sometimes it seems overwhelming as I think of the future. But…we take one day at a time.
We are the men who will someday be deacons in your parish. We are your friends and brothers in the Lord. We want to serve you and your priest. We ask for your prayers that God's will be done in our lives.
Edward A. Hara
in the 2011-2015 Deacon