“We are called to serve, we are called by grace, to cherish Christ in every face.”
- hymn “We Are Called to Serve”
- GARY “May your service, in recognition of mercy and compassion for the needs of others, be one of fruitful ministry.”
With those words, Bishop Robert J. McClory sent forth seven new permanent deacons following their ordination Mass on June 5 at the Cathedral of the Holy Angels.
Noting that the new deacons “have the privilege of being the first diaconal class in the Diocese of Gary ordained as we are, pray God, coming out of this most intense of years where we have endured and are still working our way through a pandemic,” the bishop acknowledged that, “One might say that that would be an inopportune time to undertake anything new, any new ministry.
“But in fact and by God’s providence, the horizon of ministry has changed and is changing, the discernment as to what has been revealed over this last year as a need of healing and hope, the ways we are called to respond, will require exactly what was spoken of here,” he continued.
“Recognize where mercy and compassion are needed, and be ready to serve,” urged Bishop McClory. “So, it’s a great time to be ordained a deacon, because the needs are all the more intense.”
As Deacon Steve Zubel of Merrillville watched the seven men be formally presented to the bishop and individually pledge their “respect and obedience” to he and his successors as he laid hands on them, “I was thinking back to my own ordination 18 years ago, and how special it was to me, how life-changing.”
His advice to the new deacons was to “Trust in the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit will guide you and give you the words to say. You don’t need to worry, something I found out very quickly.”
While they lay prostrate around the altar in a sign of supplication, the congregation prayed to a litany of saints for the ordained, who were also invested with the stole and dalmatic of the diaconate, and received the Book of the Gospels “to preach and teach,” and received the Kiss of Peace from Bishop McClory, Bishop Emeritus Dale J. Melczek and their fellow deacons in attendance.
“I tried to empty myself and let the Holy Spirit do what he does,” said Deacon Peter Znika Jr., 55. “I feel like I’m floating on air.”
Mikinson “Mickey” Henry, 47, who immigrated from Haiti as a youth, said juggling studies with a career and family responsibilities was challenging, “but I feel great, blessed by God,” adding that the best part of studying for the diaconate was “to be able to learn how to serve the people of God to the fullest.”
As she watched her husband, Barry Cummins, 51, be ordained, Elise Cummins admitted, “I choked up, and felt so blessed. I was overwhelmed by the beauty, and so happy that so many of our family were able to be here.”
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations recently shared the results of the annual study “A Portrait of the Permanent Diaconate: A Study for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops 2020-2021.”
Bishop James F. Checchio of Metuchen, chairman of the USCCB Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations, emphasized the importance of the permanent deacons’ witness in the Catholic Church today. “As our world continues to grapple with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, permanent deacons provide an encouraging witness to the love and mercy of Christ. They bring the light and presence of Jesus into many different areas of society – preaching the Gospel in their jobs, within their families, to the poor, and among their broader communities. As this new study is released, I encourage my brother bishops and all the faithful to say a prayer of thanksgiving for the good ministry of our permanent deacons in the U.S.”
The 144 Latin Rite dioceses that responded to the survey report a total of 15,873 permanent deacons (both active and non-active). During 2020, 587 new permanent deacons were ordained in responding dioceses. At the same time, 410 deacons retired from active ministry and another 378 died.
More than nine in 10 active permanent deacons are currently married. Ninety-five percent are at least 50.
The diaconate is the first of three ranks in ordained ministry in the Catholic Church, and while men studying for the priesthood spend a year as a transitional deacons, those not pursuing the priesthood are ordained as permanent deacons, first completing the diocese’s Lay Ecclesial Ministry (LEM) formation and then studying two more years to become deacons.
According to the USCCB: “As ministers of Word, deacons proclaim the Gospel, preach, and teach in the name of the Church. As ministers of Sacrament, deacons baptize, lead the faithful in prayer, witness marriages, and conduct wake and funeral services. As ministers of Charity, deacons are leaders in identifying the needs of others, then marshaling the Church's resources to meet those needs.” They do not celebrate Mass, hear confession or administer the sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick.
The Second Vatican Council (1962-65) authorized the restoration of the early Church’s diaconate as a permanent order of ministry and in June 1967, Pope Paul VI implemented the council’s decree when he published the apostolic letter “Sacrum Diaconatus Ordinem” (“The Sacred Order of the Diaconate”).
This year’s diaconate class is the last to study six years in total, since the Diocese of Gary’s LEM program was recently reduced from four to three years.
Diocese of Gary
Deacons Ordained on June 5, 2021
Esteban Ramon ‘Ray’ Carattini, 50, of Hobart, St. John the Evangelist, St. John
Barry Scott Cummins, 51, of Lowell, Holy Name of Jesus, Cedar Lake
Michael Lamarr Cummings, 58, of Gary, Ss. Monica and Luke, Gary
Mikinson ‘Mickey’ Henry, 47, of Crown Point, St. Mary, Crown Point
Javier Martinez Patino, 64, of East Chicago, St. Patrick, East Chicago
Paul Stephen Progar, 61, of Whiting, Sacred Heart, Whiting
Peter Znika Jr., 55, of Hebron, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, Valparaiso