"I am so grateful for, and humbled by, the support of our St. Josaphat parishioners for my vocation and I am privileged to serve you." Deacon Pat Casey
Please join us at the 10am Mass on Sunday, and a special hospitality afterwards to celebrate Deacon Pat!
Wow! Pat Casey, a regular at the 8:00 am Mass, entered the Diaconate with 13 other Chicago-area men last Sunday at Holy Name Cathedral. He received the sacrament of Holy Orders*, i.e. was ordained a deacon, by Bishop Francis Kane at a celebratory mass.
During the ceremony, Fr Rich, Deacon Pat's sponsor, and Pat's wife, Judy, "vested" Deacon Pat with his Stole (sash) and Dalmatic (tunic), which was brought up to the altar by Judy. The Bishop then handed on the Book of Gospels to each new deacon, saying, "Receive the Gospel of Christ, whose herald you have become. Believe what you read, teach what you believe, and practice what you teach." The Rite of Ordination concluded with the Kiss of Peace from all the other deacons present, including our own Deacon Dave (who became a Deacon 5 years ago already!)
The required commitment of the deacons' wives was evident by the attention and thanks given to them for their support and participation in the process. The wives accompanied their husbands up to the altar, and also processed out with them. (This year, all the new deacons were married, however this is not a requirement. If an unmarried man becomes a deacon, he must take a promise of celibacy.)
Deacon Pat and Judy were overwhelmed by the show of support from their family, friends (even non-Catholics, non-Christians, and atheists!) and the St. Josaphat Community. Here's what they have to say about the journey:
JosaFAST: How did you realize you were being called to become a deacon?
Pat: Please come to the 10:00 am Mass on Sunday to find out!
JosaFAST: Was this a tough decision to make as a couple?
Judy: No, this was not a tough decision at all. When Pat brought home the bulletin announcement regarding the information session about deacons and asked me if he should attend, I knew immediately that he should investigate the program. Wise counsel from Deacon Dave Keene** and his wife Erin Shields assuaged any concerns. It helped that many of our friends had chosen to make, and survived, far more radical changes in their lives at this point - adopting another child, earning another degree, changing careers. Most important was that the decision felt right, outweighing misgivings we might have had about the time commitment required for the program and lifetime service.
JosaFAST: What was the preparation like?
Pat: A definite time sponge. The diaconate formation program is four years. It begins with an extensive psychological evaluation. I also had to obtain numerous recommendation letters from work, friends, and parishioners and pass a criminal background check. Both Judy and I had to complete the Archdiocese's Virtus (Protecting God's Children) training and become mandated reporters for the state of Illinois.
The coursework was rigorous amounting to about half a master's degree courseload, complete with quizzes, papers, midterms, and final exams. The coursework included Catechism of the Catholic Church, Old Testament, New Testament, Christology, Ecclesiology (study of the Christian Church), Canon Law, Modern Church History, the Sacraments of Initiation, Homiletics, Special Morals, and Rites and Rituals.
The program assigned three service projects over the course of the four years. The first project was to spend at least 24 hours assisting a charity during the summer. I assisted in the Catholic Charities Veterans Job Assistance office, cold calling law firms to try to persuade them to hire veterans, many of whom had had drug, alcohol, and other problems; I created a spreadsheet to document the results. The second project was designing a ministry that our parish does not currently have including a budget and full business plan. This project also included interviewing each member of the parish staff and observing several parish ministries. The third project involved nearly 70 practica of observations and participation in liturgy including prayer and communion services, baptisms, weddings, wake services, funerals, interments, and of course, Mass. By the way, we had to write up an extensive report on all three projects and submit all of our interview and observation notes.
We also were required to attend several weekend retreats. Each year we and our wives had to hand-write letters to the Cardinal and Archbishop before reaching certain milestones in the Program, i.e., being admitted to Candidacy, being Instituted as a Reader and later as an Acolyte, and, of course, prior to Ordination. Sometimes (actually, oftentimes), I wondered if the diaconate formation program had forgotten that we each have full time jobs, not to mention family commitments.
JosaFAST: Becoming a deacon is not for the faint of heart!
Judy: but, wait, there was more! Those in formation are required to meet with a spiritual director monthly; wives are required to do so for the first year. They also met monthly with their Pastor. Couples are required to meet monthly with two or three other couples in the program for a Theological Reflection Group led by a deacon and his wife. The leaders evaluate all the persons in the group, and at times each person is asked to evaluate the others. Throughout each year, special events such as the Institution of Readers at a special Mass at the seminary in Mundelein required attendance. Those in formation attended Reflection Days for Advent and Lent. Couples attended annual retreats at the Cardinal Stritch Retreat House in Mundelein.
Separately, wives attend three all-day Saturday seminars per year; these usually focus on a particular topic, such as Mary or prayer, and require some advance reading.
JosaFAST: How will you be helping out at St. Josaphat?
Pat: Fr. Rich and I will be discussing that soon. At the very least, I know that I will be offering a homily at Mass once a month and I expect to be involved in baptisms.
Note: 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. Deacons are also dedicated to eliminating the injustices or inequities that cause such needs.
JosaFAST: What is required from "the wife of a deacon", and (how) do you see your role changing at St. Josaphat?
Judy: After a deacon is ordained, nothing is required of the wife other than to support her husband. In particular, the diaconate community encourages a wife to monitor her husband's duties as a deacon, working with him to make certain that his responsibilities do not burden the family.
As a practical matter, many wives of deacons already are involved extensively in church ministries. Some cite the exposure to classes in the diaconate formation program as motivation for obtaining degrees or certificates in theology or ministry to enhance their ability to serve in religious education or lead other parish programs. Others, particularly those with younger children, choose to limit extending their roles for a time. Many report that parishioners seek them out for information or advice, and we are prepared to be sympathetic listeners while assisting them to find the best official source of information or counsel.
I hope to continue serving on the Parish Development Council and join one of the groups working on an Action Plan developed by the Parish Transformation Team. Once Pat's duties in the parish are established, I will join him in one of his ministries, for example, marriage preparation.
A big thank you to Pat and Judy Casey from everyone at St. Josaphat for taking on such an important role in the faith formation of and service to our parish!
*Did you know? There are three degrees of ministerial participation in the priesthood of Christ: the episcopacy (bishops) the presbyterate (priests) and the diaconate. The diaconate (deacons) is intended to help and serve the other two. All three conferred by the sacrament of Holy Orders.
**Deacon Dave also has this advice for Deacon Pat and other new deacons: I recommend you work with young couples who are preparing for marriage. The pre-cana participants always want to hear stories from "real" married couples. It could be the first time they come for any kind of catechesis since they were 13. If we do a good job, we will get them for life!