The journey’s end is just the beginning: Deacon Skipper ordained

Father Richard D. Harris, diocesan vicar general and pastor of St. Joseph Church in Columbia, invests Deacon Malcolm J. Skipper Sr. with a stole during his ordination to the permanent diaconate. (Miscellany/Christina Lee Knauss)

Father Richard D. Harris, diocesan vicar general and pastor of St. Joseph Church in Columbia, invests Deacon Malcolm J. Skipper Sr. with a stole during his ordination to the permanent diaconate. (Miscellany/Christina Lee Knauss)COLUMBIA—Malcolm Jenks Skipper Sr. started a new life of service to God and a new chapter in his life as a Catholic.

The long-time member of St. Joseph Church in Columbia was ordained a permanent deacon at his parish by Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone on June 19.

More than a dozen deacons, priests, friends and supporters from St. Joseph and other churches were present.

“What a wonderful day this is, and how wonderful it is to come together to celebrate this ordination,” Bishop Guglielmone said during his homily. “It’s a wonderful testament to this parish that people have come out to support this family who will continue to serve you. Thanks to all who have come to pray for this new deacon.”

The bishop spoke directly to Deacon Skipper’s wife Gwen, who sat in the front row with her children and other family members.

“Gwen, thank you for your presence and loving support,” he said. “How beautiful it is to celebrate this gift of the sacrament of Holy Orders as well as the sacrament of matrimony.”

Bishop Guglielmone described the duties of a deacon and how they descend directly from the time of the early apostles. He said Deacon Skipper must live his life as a true witness to the Gospel.

“He is to go about all these duties, so you will recognize him as a disciple of Him who came not to be served, but to serve,” the bishop said. “Do the will of God from your heart. Serve the people in love and joy. Reach out to those in need of God’s healing love and God’s healing touch.

“Show yourself to be beyond reproach, and never allow yourself to be turned away from the hope of the Gospel. In our time, hope is so necessary,” he said.

During the Litany of the Saints, Deacon Skipper prostrated himself before the altar. Bishop Guglielmone laid hands on him and prayed, and he was presented with the Book of the Gospels.

Father Richard D. Harris, vicar general and pastor of St. Joseph, invested Deacon Skipper with the stole and dalmatic.  

Among their duties at a parish, permanent deacons distribute holy Communion at Mass and to the sick or homebound, baptize babies, officiate at funerals outside of Mass, and witness marriages when a priest is not present.

Deacon Skipper is now one of more than 100 permanent deacons who serve the diocese.

Men in formation for the diaconate generally attend classes for five years before they receive a degree and are ordained. They may be married or single.

Father Edward W. Fitzgerald, diocesan director of diaconate formation, said Deacon Skipper is “a very good man, and will be a wonderful addition to our diocese because Malcolm is a man filled with faith, enthusiasm and perseverance.

“He has a very gentle and caring heart, and comes across as someone who is a good listener,” Father Fitzgerald said. “He’s someone who can be compassionate, and he would be there to radiate Christ’s presence to someone in need.”

Born in Conway, his family moved to Columbia when he was a child. He worked for more than 30 years as an electronics instructor at area high schools and Midlands Technical College. He and his wife now live in Jenkinsville.

Deacon Skipper converted to Catholicism in 1999.

At the reception in Rowland Hall, he was surrounded by his two children who live in Columbia, grandchildren, siblings, nieces and nephews.

“I’m just so humbled by this day,” he said. “I really can’t explain what it means to me to be ordained. It’s been a long journey and I’m overwhelmed.”

His wife agreed. “It was very special to see him ordained today. I just feel like it’s been a wonderful journey, and the journey is not over,” Mrs. Skipper said. “All of faith is a journey, and it’s just a matter of listening to the Lord.”

Malcolm Jenks Skipper Jr. was moved also.

“I honestly never expected to see my father become a deacon, and I’m most certainly proud of him,” he said. “It was great that our kids were able to see this.”

His daughter, Tracy Lynn Skipper, said she was proud of her father because he had worked hard and overcome delays on his road to the diaconate.

“This is really special for him, and it’s a real testament to his faith,” she said. “He’s been very steadfast in his journey, and has always said that whatever God’s will for him was, he’d be satisfied. He’s a real inspiration.”