By Father Emmett Hall
Special to The Texas Catholic
On Saturday, March 20, Auxiliary Bishop Gregory Kelly installed 17 men to the Ministry of Acolyte, a stable lay ministry that has traditionally been a step in the process of preparation for the reception of Holy Orders. These men, along with one of their classmates who had previously been installed, will serve as acolytes at their respective parishes until next May, at which time they will (God willing) be ordained to the diaconate.
At the installation ceremony, which took place at St. Elizabeth of Hungary Catholic Church in Oak Cliff, within the context of Mass, the candidates were handed the chalice, of which they are now custodians, and exhorted to “take this vessel with wine for the celebration of the Eucharist. Make your life worthy of your service at the table of the Lord and of his Church.”
In his homily, Bishop Kelly cited Pope Francis’ recent apostolic letter on St. Joseph, “Patris Corde,” and drew a connection between the saint’s role in the Holy Family and the ministry being entrusted to the new acolytes. Just as St. Joseph obediently made preparations for the arrival and safekeeping of our Lord, so too acolytes are entrusted with making preparations for the celebration of the Holy Eucharist. And just as we do not hear the voice of St. Joseph recorded in Scripture, so too acolytes have no special “speaking part” in the Mass, beyond a whispered prayer while purifying the vessels: “What has passed our lips as food, O Lord, may we possess in purity of heart, that what has been given to us in time may be our healing for eternity.”
This installation marks the last “big step” before these men are ordained to the diaconate next Spring. Although diaconal service also entails ministry of the word and charity, the deacon’s liturgical ministry is central to his identity. In this role, the deacon is not a “glorified altar server”; rather, at ordination, deacons are set apart to assist at the altar, in a way analogous to the Levites who assisted at Temple services in the Old Testament. Serving as acolytes for the next year will prepare these men to serve well in their liturgical role as deacons.
The Diocese of Dallas is beginning the formation of a new class of deacon candidates, to be ordained in the Spring of 2027. A good deacon can be a great asset to the local Church, and we are in need of good men to answer the call, especially those who speak Spanish, as well as those who live in rural parts of the diocese.
If you know someone who might make a good deacon, please encourage him to visit http://www.cathdal.org/deacons, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Father Emmett Hall is the Diocese of Dallas Director of Diaconal Ministry and Formation.