Road to permanent diaconate

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GLOBAL.diocesan shieldWhen James Arndt, Edward Colosky and James Stroede answer the call to serve as a permanent deacon at 4 p.m., Sunday, Aug. 10, in the Cathedral of Christ the King, Superior, (the Mass is open to the public), they are answering a call that is first recognized in the Acts of the Apostles. The threefold ministry of the permanent diaconate is to serve in word (to evangelize and catechize); liturgy (at the altar and sacramentally); and charity (justice, advocacy and direct service).

In addition to serving his diocese and parish community, the deacon serves and attends to the needs of others in a variety of ways in the vast “marketplaces of life.” In particular, ministry of charity and justice calls the deacon to not only serve those in need, but also to defend and act as a voice for the poor, marginalized and defenseless, those who are victims and those who are ignored or despised by society.

St. Pope John Paul II stated, “This is at the very heart of the diaconate to which you have been called: to be servant of the mysteries of Christ and, at the same time, to be servant of your brothers and sisters.”

As the deacon’s service begins at the altar and returns there, “The deacons’ service in the ministry of word and liturgy would be severely deficient if his exemplary witness and assistance in the Church’s ministry of charity and justice did not accompany it,” the late pontiff observed.

By the end of the first millennium, the diaconate had lost its permanency and was then recognized as a transitional step for men seeking ordination to the priesthood. The Council of Trent (1545-1563) unsuccessfully called for the restoration of the permanent diaconate. It wasn’t until June 18, 1967, that Pope Paul VI implemented the Second Vatican Council’s decision to reinstitute the permanent diaconate in the universal church.

Just as the early church experienced transition, restructuring and growing pains as related to the role of the permanent diaconate, so too has the church today. However, despite these changes, the permanent diaconate has remained strong in the Diocese of Superior.

Since 1986, the Diocese of Superior has either ordained for or incardinated into the diocese more than 80 men who have answered the call to diaconal service. Forty-eight remain in active ministry.

The discernment undertaken by Arndt, Colosky and Stroede has not been without challenge, uniqueness and uncertainty since they began their diaconal journeys more than five years ago. In July 2012, the diocese’s Office of Permanent Diaconate was restructured for financial reasons.

As a result, the Diocese of Superior partners with the Diocese of La Crosse in offering formational programming for men aspiring to become permanent deacons.

This partnership could not begin until August 2013, so the challenge was providing formation for these three men while they continued their discernment.

Arndt, Colosky and Stroede did that, and in a variety of ways. Several of their remaining courses of study were provided within the diocese; they took online classes through the University of Dayton; they participated in the School of Servant Leadership; and they engaged in some independent study.

‘Dedicated in the face of challenges’

Christine Newkirk, director of diaconal formation for the Diocese of Superior, commended the men for “their dedication and diligence to their formational process despite the challenges.”

“Jim, Ed and James have done everything that has been asked of them and more,” she said. “They are truly men of compassion, humility, service to the common good and ‘exemplary witness and assistants in the church’s ministry of charity and justices.’

“They have been active in their parishes and have witnessed in the ‘marketplaces of life’ in so many different ways,” Newkirk continued, “from being confirmation catechists, to leading adult Bible studies, to conducting communion services, to caring for the sick and dying, to directing outreach ministries to the poor and needy in their local civic communities.”

Referencing Pope Francis’ words to the Catholic faithful about the importance of marriage and family as foundational to discerning life’s various vocations, Newkirk observed: “Some are called to holiness through family life in the Sacrament of Marriage,” and “precious is the family as the privileged place for transmitting the faith!”

Noting that the three men have the privilege of vocation of marriage/family and ordination, she added: “They have come from families of faith and are raising families of faith, all of which will serve them well as they seek to bring the Gospel to life in their many spheres of influence.”

She added that they will minister to families of faith and help other families come to faith. They will attend to the needs of the single, the elderly, the young and the poor.

Bishop Peter Christensen said he is pleased to be ordaining Arndt, Stroede and Colosky:
“These men have a nice spirit about them. I am impressed with Ed, James and Jim’s dedication, commitment to service, patience through change and their ability to adapt when necessary,” he said. “If they approach their diaconal ministry as they have their formation, the faithful will be in good hands.”

For more information on the permanent diaconate, contact Newkirk, 715-394-0204 or gro.s1568558439odcil1568558439ohtac1568558439@krik1568558439wenc1568558439, or Deacon Dennis Geisler, director of diaconal life, at 715-394-0235 or gro.s1568558439odcil1568558439ohtac1568558439@rels1568558439iegd1568558439.

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