Bishop James P. Powers stands with four men he ordained to the permanent diaconate on Aug. 9. They are (from left) Dcn. Patrick Gierl, Dcn. Tim Mika, Dcn. Robin Major and Dcn. Steve Welter. (Photo by Dan Swanson Photography)

Jenny Snarski
Catholic Herald Staff

In the sixth chapter of the Acts of the Apostles, seven “reputable men, filled with the Spirit and wisdom,” are chosen with the mission of serving the neglected and preaching the Word.

Over the church’s first millennia, the diaconate had become merely a transitional stage for ordination to the priesthood. There were efforts to reinstitute a permanent diaconate in the 16th century, but it wasn’t until the Second Vatican Council that Pope Paul VI implemented the decision to restore the formal role, although it was recognized that men had been carrying out deacons’ functions.

On Sunday, Aug. 9, four men were presented as candidates for ordination to the permanent diaconate for the Diocese of Superior at the Cathedral of Christ the King, Superior.

Under the direction of Fr. William Felix, Director of Diaconal Formation for the Diocese of La Crosse, these men – accompanied and supported by their wives and families – discerned and prepared for this ministerial calling.

Newly ordained deacons and their wives are: Dcn. Patrick Gierl (Jeannette) for Sacred Heart of Jesus, Stetsonville; Dcn. Robin Major (Robyn) for St. Anne’s, Somerset; Dcn. Tim Mika (Becky) for Our Lady of the Lake, Ashland; and Dcn. Steve Welter (Alice) for Sacred Heart of Jesus, Almena.

Since 2013, the Diocese of Superior has partnered with the Diocese of La Crosse for the pre-ordination formation, which consists of two stages over five years.

The aspirancy stage introduces men and their wives – who are integral to their service and ministry – to the permanent diaconate and focuses on prayerful discernment. After two years, men can petition acceptance as candidates for a three-year period of continued discernment and intensive formation.

Adhering to the limited capacity for the Mass of ordination, the ceremony was livestreamed via the Cathedral of Christ the King’s Facebook
page and has more than 2,000 views.

Bishop James P. Powers, in his homily commenting on the readings for the 19th Sunday of Ordinary Time and relating them to the occasion, noted the bold proclamation of the call to discipleship and trust in God’s love.

The bishop described the dire circumstances under which the prophet Elijah, fearing for his life, is in a cave waiting for God to pass by – to be fortified and confirmed in his mission.

“He isn’t in the winds or earthquake or fire,” he said. “The God of all creation reveals himself in that tiny whisper … I pray that you’ve learned that, more often than not, our God does reveal himself in the quiet rather than the noise of our lives.”

He called the four men to “make time for quiet every single day” to themselves be fortified and confirmed in their mission, to have a close relationship with the Lord and to keep their eyes and hearts fixed on him.

“You will be ordained to be a living icon of Christ the servant,” the bishop continued and spoke of the three ministries of the permanent diaconate. Those of the ministry of charity and justice, ministry of the Word and the sacramental and liturgical ministry.

He encouraged them to draw strength from the gifts of the Holy Spirit, to let themselves be transformed by the Gospel in addition to proclaiming it, to worthily prepare the sacrifice of the altar and give the Eucharist.

“The ministry of charity,” he said, “is still fundamental to the order of deacon – the care of those on the edges of society, the neglected and needy.

“As you go forth from this day, know that it’s not always going to be easy to fulfill the promises you are about to make,” Bishop Powers confirmed. “And If you rely only upon your own power and ability, it will be impossible because of how easy it is to become discouraged or disheartened that you can’t solve all of the problems that you witness … you’ll need to find the time you need for quiet prayer so that the Lord God will fill you, strengthen you.”

The bishop concluded by referencing the forthcoming rite of ordination and the words said as the candidates kneel and are presented with the Gospel: “Receive the Gospel of Christ, whose herald you have become.”

He said, “Open yourself to the grace and strength of this sacrament, that these words of Scripture might truly become reality in your lives.”

Before the final blessing, Fr. Andrew Ricci, rector of the cathedral, welcomed Dcn. Tim Mika to the ambo on behalf of the newly ordained.

The deacon thanked many, starting with the Holy Spirit, “who guided us and strengthened us on our journey.”

He thanked their wives for “helping us become the men God has called us to be,” and the numerous family members and friends who “challenged and supported us over 60 weekends away from families and workplaces.”

Dcn. Mika acknowledged Bishop Powers and the formation team from the Diocese of La Crosse and thanked their many supporters and their hosts at the St. Anthony’s Retreat Center in Marathon, where the monthly gatherings are held.

“Lastly, to give credit where credit is due,” he continued, “To all the evil powers that worked so tirelessly to divert us from our calling and found us to be worthy opponents.”

Stating that “Christ is still very present in our modern lives,” the new deacon affirmed the church is alive and growing.

“As we go out to preach the Gospel, let the perfect words of today be our beacon,” he concluded. “Believe what you read, teach what you believe and practice what you teach.”

There are currently five men in the candidacy phase of diaconal formation: Russell Creel, Merrill; Patrick Haines, Shell Lake; Jeffrey Mason, Somerset; Rod Knight, Rice Lake; and Dan Kohler, Hammond.

There are also five men finishing the second year of their aspirancy: Paul Klappa, Robert King and Jason Martin, all of Woodruff; Michael Miller, Three Lakes; and Timothy Thom, Superior.

For more information about the ministry and formation, visit or contact the Diocese of Superior’s Director of Diaconal Life, Dcn. John Grek, at 715-394-0235 or .