When a man is studying for the priesthood, one of the final steps is to be ordained a deacon. Deacon, along with priest and bishop, constitute the three orders in the sacrament of Holy Orders. The ordained ministry of the diaconate finds its scriptural foundation in the Acts of the Apostles 6:1-6. There were some within the community of the early Church that were being neglected, so the apostles chose seven men to ensure that the needs of all were met. The apostles laid hands on the chosen men and ordained them for the sacred task of doing works of charity. The word “deacon” comes from the Greek word “diakonia,” which literally means “service.”
There are two forms of diaconal ministry within in the Church – deacons who are preparing for the priesthood and those who are called to serve as deacons for the rest of their lives. The former are commonly called “transitional deacons,” because they will eventually transition into the priesthood, and the latter are often called “permanent deacons.” The ordination for both forms is the same and shares the same responsibilities. The Dogmatic Constitution on the Church of the Second Vatican Council states in regard to deacons, “Strengthened by sacramental grace, they are dedicated to the people of God, in conjunction with the bishop and his body of priests, in the service of the liturgy, of the Gospel and of works of charity.” (Lumen gentium 29)
We have several men from the Diocese of La Crosse studying at Saint Francis de Sales Seminary, and two of them are now deacons. Deacon Kyle Laylan and Deacon Barry Saylor were ordained on May 6 at St. Joseph the Workman Cathedral. To reach this milestone, they spent three years fully participating in the Program of Priestly Formation set-forth by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. The program encompasses four areas of formation: human, spiritual, pastoral and academic. Deacon Kyle and Deacon Barry worked on goals to develop proficiency in personal maturity, spiritual maturity, commitment to the Church and its mission, commitment to justice, leadership in prayer and worship, theological competence, pastoral effectiveness and leadership, and effective communication. They were evaluated on their progress in these areas and then were recommended to Bishop William P. Callahan for ordination.
They will return to the seminary for a final year before their anticipated ordination to the priesthood in June 2018.
It is truly an honor and a joy to help form the future priests of the Diocese of La Crosse. The men are of the highest caliber and will make good, holy priests. We are grateful for the opportunity and appreciate the trust that Bishop Callahan and Fr. Alan Wierzba have placed in us.
By Very Reverend John D. Hemsing, Rector
Saint Francis de Sales Seminary