This weekend we have a lot of stuff going on, even on a holiday weekend! First of all, three Paulists are being ordained as transitional deacons in Washington, DC. This is the last step before being ordained as priests next May. Two of the three, Stu Wilson-Smith and Steve Petroff, have been assigned here as part of their seminary training. Matt Berrios, the third candidate, has visited Austin. We wish them all well. This, of course, reminds me of my own diaconal ordination. It took place a long time ago. At that time deacons in the Paulists were ordained in their Pastoral Year assignment. So I was ordained where I was assigned, which was St. Nicholas Parish in North Pole, Alaska. North Pole, in case you haven’t been there, is located halfway between Fairbanks and Eielson Air Force Base—about 15 miles from each. North Pole serves as a bedroom community for both, and about 40% of our St. Nicholas parishioners were military service members and their families.
The church we had in North Pole at the time was just a block basement under the double-wide trailer that was the rectory, office, and ministry space of the parish. We had greatly outgrown the trailer and its basement and were in the process of constructing a new St. Nicholas Church, a real church with seating, a cry room, a pitched roof and a steeple. But by the time of my deacon ordination, we were only half way through construction.
Fortunately, however, the Lutherans down the road at Lord of Life Lutheran Church, being Germanic and Nordic types, and therefore much better organized and orderly than we Catholics, were much further along in the construction of their new church. In fact, they were all but done, just needing some finish details. We had a very good relationship with that Lutheran Congregation, conducting our Vacation Bible School together, working on various joint projects, etc. So we asked if we could borrow their church for my deacon ordination, and they said yes. This is how I came to be ordained a deacon in the Lutheran Church.
Well, I only had my Catholic deacon ordination ceremony in their space. But I did have two Catholic Bishops there (just to make sure it took!), and I was fortunate to have an Eskimo permanent deacon there to proclaim the Gospel. Originally we planned to have him proclaim the Gospel in the native Eskimo language, Yupik. However, his flight was delayed, he did not have his Yupik Gospel book with him, and so he proclaimed the Gospel in English, which probably was better for the congregation’s comprehension. The local Lutheran Pastor did one of the other readings. And to complete the ecumenical nature of the service, St. Herman of Alaska, a Russian Orthodox Saint who tried to found a monastery in Alaska back when it was owned by the Czar, was included in the Litany of the Saints. All in all my deacon ordination was a rather unique and very special celebration for me.
Please keep the Paulists seminarians in your prayers. Please pray for more vocations to the Paulists, the priesthood and religious life. Happy Labor Day!