By JORDAN MCMORROUGH
CHARLESTON — Bishop Robert J. Baker ordained seminarians Carson Bush, Thomas Kingsley, and John Zimmerman to the order of deacons May 11. They were joined at their ordination Mass at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist by a crowd of family and friends and a number of priests of the diocese.
During the liturgy, Deacon Joseph Cahill, assistant director of vocations, called forth the candidates from the pews, and Father Dennis B. Willey, director of vocations, presented the candidates to the bishop, who received the consent of the congregation through a rousing round of applause.
In his homily, Bishop Baker said it is not without reason that the church calls men to the priesthood in stages, including the diaconal ministry. The church wants all to know that an important element of priesthood is the ability to get down on one’s knees in service of other people.
“This is your opportunity to give witness that ordained ministry is not a call to be above other people, but to be below them, as their servant, as your Lord and savior Jesus chose to be,” the bishop said. “You will not be a good priest one day unless you are seen by the Christian community as a good and holy servant of God and of his people.”
He said, “We need daily prayer that is real and from the heart to be able to rise to the challenge of a chaste life in a society that has need of models of chastity. Look upon all unchastity as worship of false gods; for no man can serve two masters. Remember, there is no charity without chastity.
“Deacons should be men of good reputation, filled with wisdom and the Holy Spirit,” said Bishop Baker. “Show before God and his people that you are above every suspicion of blame, a true minister of Christ and God’s mysteries, a man firmly rooted in faith.”
He called upon the three candidates to do the will of God generously, serving God and their neighbor in love and joy.
“Be men of hope, never turning away from the hope which the Gospel offers. From now on you must not only listen to God’s word but also preach it,” Bishop Baker said. “Express in action what you proclaim by word of mouth so that your words will be taken seriously. Then the people of Christ, brought to life by the Spirit, will be an offering God accepts.”
The three men made a commitment to celibacy and promise of obedience to the bishop, who placed his hands on the head of each candidate. The “Litany of the Saints” led by the Cathedral choir resounded throughout the worship area as the three candidates lay prostrate before the altar. After the prayer of consecration, Deacon Charles Easterling, Deacon Philip Myers, and Deacon Joseph Cahill invested each of the three with their stole and dalmatic before they were presented the Book of the Gospels by Bishop Baker. Then, they received the kiss of peace.
In his closing comments, the bishop spoke regarding the recent scandals the church has been facing. He quoted a statement from Pope John Paul II with which he said he strongly concurs: “We must be confident that this time of trial will bring a purification of the entire Catholic community, a purification that is urgently needed if the church is to preach more effectively the Gospel of Jesus Christ in all its liberating force. So much pain, so much sorrow, must lead to a holier priesthood, a holier episcopate, and a holier church.”
The bishop said he would add a “holier diaconate.” Regarding candidates for priesthood in the Diocese of Charleston, Bishop Baker said, “Only the highest quality morally and spiritually men must be given consideration for service as priests in the diocese.”
He expressed his appreciation to all who help in this effort, citing the parents and family members for sharing their sons with the Diocese of Charleston and the universal church,
The bishop also acknowledged the role of the seminaries in formation. Representing St. Mary of the Lake Seminary in Mundelein, Ill., at the ordinations was Father Thomas Birma.