Deacon at St. Clare of Assisi undergoes trial by fire

Provided: Deacon Karl Eimers of St. Clare of Assisi Parish on Daniel Island officiates at the wedding of parishioners Denise and John Myers.

DANIEL ISLAND—When Deacon Karl Eimers of St. Clare of Assisi Parish was ordained recently, he had no idea just how soon he would be putting all of his new responsibilities to good use. 

On Saturday, Feb. 23, just two weekends after his ordination, Deacon Eimers received an emergency phone call from his pastor, Father Gregory West. 

At the time, Deacon Eimers was preparing to attend the wedding of some friends at the church, but that emergency call put a whole new spin on his plans. Now, he learned, he would be officiating at their wedding instead. 

It turned out that Father West had suffered a medical emergency and was at a local hospital, where he was being admitted for overnight observation. Suddenly, St. Clare of Assisi had no priest available for a weekend full of sacramental events. 

As a result, Deacon Eimers was called to step in and preside at the 3 p.m. wedding.

And that was just the beginning.

He was also moved from supporting player to point man as he was called to lead three Eucharistic Celebrations in the Absence of a Priest, which are held when a priest is unavailable to celebrate Mass. The deacon presided over one on Saturday night and two on Sunday morning. Also, one of the Masses on Sunday came with the sacrament of baptism as well.

According to Father West, he told his new deacon, “Suit up because you’re going in!” 

The weekend would turn out to be a proverbial trial by fire for Deacon Eimers, who found himself suddenly being asked to perform several of the key tasks of a permanent deacon — over a span of just 36 hours — when he’d only been in that role a couple of weeks. 

Permanent deacons have a wide variety of responsibilities in the life of a parish. They assist priests during Mass, proclaim the Word at Mass, preside at funerals and wakes, lead prayer services and benedictions, and visit the sick and dying. 

As Deacon Eimers’ busy weekend shows, they also can preside at weddings and baptisms, preach and lead communion services. 

With prayer and some coaching from his pastor, Deacon Eimers went to work. 

He officiated at the 3 p.m. wedding, led a Eucharistic Celebration in the Absence of a Priest at 5 p.m., and then went home to write what would be his first-ever homily for the celebrations the next morning. Deacon Eimers said he studied the readings for that Sunday and spent about 45 minutes preparing the homily. 

The next morning, he calmly led the Eucharistic Celebrations at 9 and 11:45 a.m., and baptized the daughter of Tim and Cassie Sinclair. 

There was a slight change in the schedule, with the baptism taking place after the 9 a.m. service instead of during a Mass. Mr. Sinclair said many parishioners remained after the Eucharistic Celebration in order to be part of the baptism with his family.

“We know the Eimers family, so we were so excited that our daughter’s baptism was also Deacon Eimers’ first baptism,” Mr. Sinclair said. “He stepped in and did an excellent job with it, and we were impressed because everyone knew he had been asked to do all of this at the last minute.” 

The new deacon said of all the weekend’s challenges, the wedding was the most daunting event for him. The Eucharistic celebrations were more familiar, he explained, because he had previous experience leading communion services at sea from when he was a Catholic lay leader in the U.S. Navy. 

“Doing all of this in 36 hours was a little exhausting, and it really made me feel for priests who are doing three or more Masses every weekend on top of whatever other sacraments and other events they have scheduled,” Deacon Eimers said. “It all takes quite a bit of energy.”

He considers the busy weekend a good experience, and said he is absolutely enjoying his life as a deacon. 

Eimers’ ‘yes’ at the last minute is a testimony to his dedication, said Deacon André Guillet, director of the Diaconate Office. 

“I was quite impressed by his quick reaction and his ability to cover the whole weekend,” Deacon Guillet said. “This is one of the proud moments when I see the results of the effort we put in educating these men.”

Father West said he is thankful for Deacon Eimers’ willingness to take on the challenge, which truly showed the important role that permanent deacons play in a parish. 

“These are gifted men who have answered a call by God to serve the Church,” Father West said. “Their life experiences are a treasure trove of wisdom, counsel and inspiration to people.”