Diaconate candidates celebrate mid-way point on road to ordination
Story and photos by Stephen Kiltonic
SPRINGFIELD – Eight men from the Springfield Diocese reached the mid-way point of their four-year journey to become permanent deacons at a special 11 a.m. candidacy Mass and ceremony held October 5 at St. Michael’s Cathedral here.
Springfield Bishop Timothy A. McDonnell administered the “Rite of Admission to Candidacy for Holy Orders” to the diaconate class of 2015.
“You are going forward to be co-workers with Christ in the harvesting of the fields,” the bishop told the men. “You’ve got most of what you need, but one thing remains before you become the master craftsmen on the day of your ordination,” said Bishop McDonnell. “Today marks the end of your apprenticeship and the beginning of being a journeyman, being on the road with Christ…being people who undertake the three-fold role in a special way - absorbing, digesting, reflecting upon, applying and proclaiming the Good News,” added Bishop McDonnell.
The highlights of the one hour ceremony included a calling of the candidates and an examination of the candidates before Bishop McDonnell. In attendance were approximately 100 people including family members, friends and clergy from parishes across the diocese. Diaconate candidates from the class of 2017 were altar servers.
Deacon Leo Coughlin, director of the Diocese of Springfield’s diaconate program, told iobserve that the candidates are just beginning their third year of discernment and rigorous college-level study at Chicopee’s Our Lady of the Elms College. The formal program involves the men spending two nights a week in classes ranging from theology and ecclesiology to social work.
“If they don’t have the support of their families, there is no way they are going to make it,” Deacon Coughlin said. “There is a lot of homework on the weekends. Sometimes they (candidates) miss family functions and that creates problems if everybody is not behind them.”
Thomas Lynch, a candidate from Belchertown, who is a member of the Newman Catholic Center in Amherst, agrees with Deacon Coughlin. “The courses are detailed. There is a lot of discussion. There is a lot of reading. There is a lot of prayer and reflection,” said Lynch. “The thing that is most beneficial, at least personally, has been the amount of really deep spiritual contact that you have with other members of the class.”
“But there is a sacrifice,” he told iobserve. “There are times when you feel like you’re passing your family in the night, but that’s why they have to be on board. This is really a family commitment and their support has been just phenomenal.”
James Marcus, a candidate from West Springfield who belongs to St. Thomas the Apostle Parish there, said the class work is daunting at times. “It’s a lot of study and I haven’t been in school in quite a while, so it’s a little bit of getting used to reading the books again,” said Lynch who said that his family is also very supportive.
Deacon Coughlin said that the 2015 class contains a diverse group of men, which includes two Hispanic men who are “going to help the diocese out immensely in the years to come.” According to Lynch and Marcus, the class is very close-knit. “I miss them over the summer when we have a break,” he said. “It’s great to be with them, to hear about what’s going on with their lives and their families.”
“It’s really a wonderful experience. They’re all great guys,” commented Marcus, who added that, although the men barely knew each other before the diaconate program, they now are becoming best friends. “We think about each other. We pray for each other and we really enjoy the camaraderie.”
After the ceremony, the candidates and their families gathered with Bishop McDonnell at a reception in the Bishop Marshall Center.
Deacon Coughlin said there are 75 active deacons in the diocese currently. The other six candidates from the class of 2015 include Gerald Campion of Mary, Mother of Hope Parish in Springfield; Jose Correa of Immaculate Conception and Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish in Holyoke; Joseph Kielbasa, Jr. of St. Thomas the Apostle Parish in West Springfield; Angel Diaz of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart Parish in Springfield; Andrew Nowicki of St. Cecelia Parish in Wilbraham and Michael Trznadel of St. Rose de Lima Parish in Chicopee.
For more on this story, tune into an upcoming edition of "Real to Reel," the Diocese of Springfield's weekly television newsmagazine that airs Saturday evenings at 7 on WWLP-22NEWS.