June 8, 2014
A journey for 10 men that began as deacon aspirants in August 2012 has drawn a major step closer to ordination.
Bishop Patrick J. Zurek installed the 10 as deacon candidates June 8 during the Pentecost Mass at St. Mary’s Cathedral. The men are part of the eighth deacon formation class in the Diocese of Amarillo and are scheduled to be ordained as Permanent Deacons in December 2016.
There are a number of requirements for admission into the deacon formation program, according to Deacon Blaine Westlake, Director of the Diaconate Program for the Diocese of Amarillo.
“Aspirants must be a male, at least 31 years old and must be functionally literate,” said Deacon Westlake. “If married, candidates must have a stable marriage of at least three years, must be able to demonstrate significant ministerial service and be Roman Catholic with a mature, spiritual prayer life.”
Other requirements include the ability to pass a criminal history background check, must be psychologically sound, in good health and must have no impediments to ordination.
The formation process takes four-and-a-half-years, according to Deacon Westlake, which requires a significant time requirement of 64 hours or more per month.
“Wives attend the formation classes and must be in full support of her husband,” said Deacon Westlake. “Each formation year is comprised of no less than 11 weekends, one per month. Formation places a large emphasis on academics, pastoral, human and spiritual development. There’s also prayer and study group meetings, parish and charity ministry. The commitment to the diaconate is a major endeavor.”
The installation to deacon candidate is one of three steps prior to ordination. The steps include installations to deacon candidate, lector, acolyte, and then ordination to deacon.
What exactly, is a deacon?
“A deacon is a wonderful gift of the Holy Spirit to help our Church spread the good news about Jesus Christ,” said Deacon Westlake. “Deacons have their origins in the New Testament and in particular the Books of the Acts of the Apostles and Timothy.
“Deacons are ordained clergy belonging to one of the three orders of the Sacrament of Holy Orders, which are deacon (permanent and transitional), priest and bishop. They receive this sacrament when the bishop imposes hands on them at their ordination as they make a promise of obedience to their bishop. As the needs of the diocese dictate, the bishop assigns deacons where they are needed.
Deacon Westlake said deacons have a threefold ministry of the Word, the Altar and of Charity.
“In the Ministry of the Word, deacons engage in evangelism and the teaching mission of the Church,” he said. “The ministry takes place both inside the parish walls and outside in the world. In the Ministry of the Altar, the deacon assists the priest at Mass, particularly by proclaiming the Gospel, leading the Intercessions, preparing the altar and ministering the chalice to the people at communion.
“Deacons can preside at baptisms, weddings, funerals, morning and evening prayer, benediction and give special blessings on varied occasions.
“Deacons are most visible in the parish, exercising what we call their ‘alb ministry,’ as they assist the priest at Mass. However, their primary responsibility is the Ministry of Charity. The deacon cares for the poor and forgotten. He is a minister of peace and justice in the community. Deacon means ‘servant,’ thus he is considered an icon of Christ, who came not to be served, but to serve.”
For a large majority of deacons, their responsibilities are a large part of their daily lives, according to Deacon Westlake.
“Most deacons are married, have secular occupations and minister outside work hours,” said Deacon Westlake. “They give witness to the spirituality of a married person who works in the world. Deacons normally do not receive any financial compensation from the parishes in which they’re assigned.
“An important part of the diaconal ministry are the wives of the deacons. They go through formation with their husbands and many are involved in ministries, either in conjunction with their husbands or on their own. Both deacon and wife are a dynamic gift to their parish.
“Newly ordained deacons usually begin their ministry in the parish where they live. Because of their promise of obedience to the bishop, they may be transferred, like any clergyman, to meet the needs of the diocese.”
The diaconate was in existence for several hundred years, but in the Latin Rite, according to Deacon Westlake, it has gradually evolved into a transitional step toward the priesthood.
“During the two World Wars, the concept of the diaconate was redeveloped and promulgated in the mid-1960s by the Second Vatican Council,” he said. “The permanent diaconate that resulted then continues to grow and evolve.”
The Deacon candidates installed June 8 are:
• Michael Anzaldua (wife Jovita) of St. Anthony of Padua Church, Dalhart;
• Robert Aranda (wife Linda) of St. Anthony’s Church, Hereford;
• José Joaquín Castañeda (wife Ericka) of San Jose Church, Hereford;
• Larry Gray (wife Tammie) of St. Mary’s Cathedral, Amarillo;
• Joe Hochstein (wife Angie) of Holy Family Church, Nazareth;
• Brian Lewis (wife Cindy) of St. Ann’s Church, Canyon;
• Richard Martinez (wife Bonnie) of Immaculate Conception of Mary Church, Dimmitt;
• Mark McVay (wife Ginger) of St. Vincent de Paul Church, Pampa;
• Alejandro Villalobos of Our Lady of Loreto, Silverton; and,
• Davin Winger (wife Teague) of Sacred Heart of Jesus Church, Spearman.