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Bishop ordains two transitional deacons

By JOANNE FOX, Globe editor
(Email Joanne)

Holding a smile for almost two hours would tax anyone’s facial muscles.

That was not the case for the two young men who were ordained transitional deacons June 7 for the Diocese of Sioux City.

Michael Cronin and Brian Feller confessed they were not aware of their ear-to-ear grins for most of the service at Cathedral of the Epiphany, Sioux City.

“Really?” Feller asked. “I wasn’t conscious I was smiling that much, but I do remember grinning on several occasions.”

“It’s been an emotional roller coaster this week,” Cronin added. “I think smiling is a great response to that.”

Bishop Walker Nickless was the ordaining prelate for the Mass. The principal concelebrants were Msgr. Mark Duchaine, vicar general; Father William Vit, rector of the Cathedral; Father Brad Pelzel, director of vocations; Father John Vakulskas, pastor of St. Andrew Parish, Sibley; Father Richard Ball, pastor of Our Lady of Good Counsel, Holstein and Father Patrick O’Kane, pastor of St. John Parish, Onawa.

The other concelebrants were priests of the diocese and visiting priests. Vested permanent deacons were also present. The deacons for the Mass were Deacon Frank Lona, who will be ordained for the diocese June 21, and Brother Luke Waugh, OSB, from St. Meinrad (Ind.) Archabbey. Master of ceremonies was Father Brent Lingle, diocesan director of worship. The servers were diocesan seminarians. The Knights of Columbus provided an honor guard for the ceremony. Music was under the direction of Matthew Geerlings with vocals by the Cathedral of the Epiphany choir and a brass section provided by Bishop Heelan High School.

The first reading from Acts 6:1-7 was proclaimed by David Cronin and the second reading, Romans 12:4-8 was announced by Michael Feller.

Call to service
Prior to the homily, Father Pelzel presented the candidates for Holy Orders. He told the bishop that the two men had been found worthy for ordination and the bishop announced that the candidates were chosen for the Order of the Diaconate.

In his homily, Bishop Nickless shared with those present the “deep theological question,” the young men responded to in the May 29 edition of The Catholic Globe.

“They were asked if they prefer cake, pie or ice cream,” the bishop said, as the congregation laughed. “We know now Michael likes pie with ice cream and Brian likes cake with ice cream.”

Bishop Nickless noted Feller’s choice of cake tied in well with the June 8 feast of Pentecost, “the birthday of the church.”

“But along with cake, we must have gifts, and the church of Sioux City gives thanks to God for the gifts of Michael and Brian,” he said. “Thank you for your willingness to trust in the call of the Lord. We rejoice with you today.”

Bishop Nickless cited the first reading in which the disciples are called to follow the Lord.

“As deacons, you are called to be men of word, altar and charity to those in need,” he said. “The first reading says those were to be reputable men, filled with spirit and wisdom. All you will do as deacons will be done for the love of Christ.”

Bishop Nickless carried on with the second reading which notes the duties of Christians, which applies to deacons.

“God has chosen, called and appointed you to go out and bear much fruit,” he said. “When you prostrate yourselves, you are reminded to surrender all to Christ.”

Following the homily, Bishop Nickless encouraged those present to “consider carefully the rank in the church,” to which Cronin and Feller were about to be raised.

“Strengthened by the gift of the Holy Spirit, they will help the bishop and his priests in the ministry of the word, of the altar and of charity, showing themselves to be servants to all,” he said.

“They will preside over public prayer, administer baptism, assist at and bless marriages, bring viaticum to the dying and conduct funeral rites,” Bishop Nickless continued. “With the help of God, they are to go about all these duties in such a way that you will recognize them as disciples of him, who came not to be served, but to serve.”

Candidates examined

The examination of the candidates asked if Cronin and Feller would resolve to be consecrated to the church and “to discharge the office of deacon with humble charity in order to assist the priestly order and to benefit the Christian people?” to which the candidates responded, “I do.”

After each one approached the bishop, knelt and professed their obedience, the candidates prostrated themselves before the altar, while the choir and congregation sang the litany of the saints.

Then, Cronin and Feller individually knelt before Bishop Nickless, who laid his hands upon their heads, then extended his hands and offered the prayer of consecration.

“We beseech you, Lord, look with favor on this servant of yours who will minister at your holy altar and whom we now humbly dedicate to the office of deacon,” prayed the bishop. “Send forth upon him, Lord, we pray, the Holy Spirit, that he may be strengthened by the gift of your sevenfold grace for the faithful carrying out of the work of the ministry.”

The congregation was asked to be seated as Fathers Pelzel and O’Kane vested Deacons Cronin and Feller in the deacon’s stole and dalmatic. The newly-ordained each approached the bishop, who placed the Book of Gospels in their hands saying, “Receive the Gospel of Christ, whose herald you have become. Believe what you read, teach what you believe and practice what you teach.”

The ordination rite concluded with the sign of peace for the new deacons, first with those in the sanctuary and then, the permanent deacons in the congregation.

The Liturgy of the Eucharist began with the parents of the newly-ordained – Joseph and Peggy Cronin of Holstein and Joseph and Jane Feller of Sibley – presenting the paten and flagon to Bishop Nickless. Deacon Cronin served as deacon of the Eucharist, preparing the altar.

Service insights

Following the service, Cathedral of the Epiphany hosted a luncheon in the lower level of the church.
Deacon Feller’s parents, Joseph and Jane Feller, were also full of smiles as they reflected on the service.

“No, I didn’t cry!” Peggy insisted.

“If there were tears, they were tears of joy,” Joseph said, as he pulled out his handkerchief and blew his nose.

Peggy Cronin, mother of the newly-ordained, admitted to losing her composure a number of times.

“It’s soaking wet,” she said, displaying a handkerchief. “But it’s meaningful, because it’s a family heirloom from Ireland.”

“It was overwhelming,” Joseph Cronin, the deacon’s father, added. “I could just feel the presence of God.”
It was a sentiment shared by Deacon Feller.

“I just sensed God the father was with me,” he said. “During the bishop’s laying on of hands, that was the moment that I thought, ‘Whoa! I am a deacon!’ And, when I looked out in the audience and saw my family – I love them all so much – I told myself not to cry and I didn’t, but it was an emotional moment for me.”

For Cronin, the emotions surfaced as he heard the strains of the Gloria.

“When I was prostrate, it made me realize how I was truly laying down my life for the Lord,” he said. “Then when I was setting the altar for the Eucharist, I could see how truly I will be assisting the priest in my role as deacon.”

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