Deacons convene, welcome 34 candidates for Class IX

Photo Caption: Bishop Jenky joins the candidates for the Diocese of Peoria’s ninth class of permanent deacons on the steps of St. Mary’s Cathedral in Peoria last Saturday.

By: By Jennifer Willems

Surrounded by the permanent deacons of the Diocese of Peoria, 34 men aspiring to join them in service to the people of God assured Bishop Daniel R. Jenky, CSC, of their resolve to complete the preparation that would lead to their own ordination.

“The church receives your declaration with joy,” said Bishop Jenky as they stood in St. Mary’s Cathedral in Peoria. “May God who has begun this good work in you bring it to fulfillment.”

Then he gave them their first direction as candidates for the diocese’s ninth class of permanent deacons.

“I would like to invite all of you to please turn around,” Bishop Jenky said, although he didn’t have time to invite their families, friends, pastors and the permanent deacons in attendance to show their approval. The applause was immediate, sustained and loud as it echoed off the walls of the cathedral.

The Rite of Admission to Candidacy to the Permanent Diaconate took place as part of the annual Deacon Convocation, which was held March 7. The Mass at St. Mary’s Cathedral included recognition of the members of Permanent Diaconate Class II, who are celebrating their 30th anniversary of ordination this year.

After the liturgy, the permanent deacons and their wives reassembled at the nearby Spalding Pastoral Center for a question-and-answer session with Bishop Jenky and lunch. They also heard about “The Art of Pastoral Conversation” from Donald R. McCrabb, a full-time learning leader for the Catholic Leadership Institute in Washington, D.C.

The members of Class IX, who were called by Msgr. Charles Beebe, episcopal vicar for the permanent diaconate, include: Stephen C. Bohn, Immaculate Conception, Monmouth; James A. Brewer, St. Joseph’s, Ivesdale; Patrick J. Comfort, St. John the Baptist, Clinton; Michael P. Crummer, Corpus Christi, Galesburg; Gayle E. Cyrulik, St. Patrick’s of Merna, Bloomington; Donald J. Fraley, St. Matthew’s, Champaign; Thomas C. Gainey, Mary Our Lady of Peace, Orion; Dennis J. Gillan, St. Anthony’s, Spring Valley; Gabriel G. Guerrero, St. Patrick’s and St. Hyacinth’s, LaSalle; James F. Heatwole, St. Mark’s, Peoria; Harold A. Herdrick, Sacred Heart, Dallas City; Antonio J. Herrera, St. Mary’s, Bloomington; and Aaron Hoste, St. Patrick’s, Colona.

Also accepted were: Thomas C. Jagiella, St. Joseph’s, Peru; Loren F. Keim, St. Mary’s, Bloomington; Matthew S. Kelly, St. Louis, Princeton; Mark T. Kelsch, St. Thomas the Apostle, Peoria Heights; Donald P. Koeberlein, St. Mary’s, Pesotum; Gary D. Koerner, St. Mary’s, Downs; Jose J. Lopez, Holy Cross, Mendota; Michael A. Marvin, Holy Trinity, Bloomington; John W. Merdian, St. Edward’s, Chillicothe; Thomas L. Mueller, Holy Family, Peoria; John R. Nelson, St. Thomas the Apostle, Peoria Heights; Craig Reaktenwalt, St. Ann’s, Peoria; Robert L. Rodriguez, Corpus Christi, Galesburg; and Edward F. Ryan, St. Malachy’s, Geneseo.

Rounding out the list of candidates for Class IX are: Michael C. Schallmoser, St. Philomena’s, Peoria; William S. Scott, St. Jude’s, Peoria; Terry L. Stalsberg, St. Joseph’s, Roanoke; Steven R. Tamburini, St. John the Baptist, Clinton; Samuel W. Taylor, St. Mary’s, Canton; Leslie W. Wright, St. Patrick’s, Galesburg; and David Zola, St. Patrick’s, Urbana.

“When Christ chooses men to share in the ordained service of Christ, he moves and helps them by his grace,” Bishop Jenky told them during his homily.

When they celebrate the sacrament of holy orders, they will share in the ministry of salvation that Christ accomplished in the world, he explained, building up by word and sacrament the Christian communities to which they will be sent to serve.

“Our brothers here present have already begun their preparation,” Bishop Jenky said. “Day by day they will learn to live the life of the Gospel and deepen their faith, hope and love. In the practice of these virtues they will gain the spirit of prayer and grow in zeal to win the whole world for Jesus Christ.”

The theme of gratitude and congratulations continued after Communion when the members of Class II, who were ordained on Nov. 18, 1979, were recognized with certificates for 30 years of service. Their wives received roses for their own service and their support of the diaconate.

Msgr. Beebe also offered special thanks and prayers for those permanent deacons who had died. They are Deacons Harry Chase, John Curry, Earl Hietter, John Holtzman, Leonard Iverson, Jessie Ramirez and William Shipp.

Their widows were called forward to receive certificates and roses as well.

Those who have been granted senior status include Deacons Herman Bott, Robert England and John Landry.

Continuing in active ministry are: Deacon William Clark, who serves at Immaculate Conception, Monmouth, and St. Theresa’s, Alexis; Deacon Richard Grimler of Fort Collins, Colo.; Deacon Jack Kettering, who is assigned to St. Pius X, Rock Island; Deacon William Sloman, who is assigned to St. Ann’s in Peoria and serves as a chaplain at OSF Saint Francis Medical Center, Peoria; Deacon Vincent Slomian, who is assigned to Holy Cross, Mendota, and serves as spiritual director of TEC, Peterstown, and assistant director of the Illinois Valley Cursillo community, and directs youth ministry at Holy Cross and Sts. Peter and Paul, Peterstown; Deacon Louis Tomlianovich, who is assigned to St. Anthony’s, Bartonville; and Deacon Martin VanMeltebeck, who serves at St. Mary’s, Kewanee.

“You are a gift to this local church,” Bishop Jenky told permanent deacons when he met them at the Spalding Pastoral Center after Mass.

“The diaconal ministry is irreplaceable,” he said. “Deacons are called to be the hands of the bishop in the diocese.”

While they are already active in a variety of parish and diocesan ministries, as well as TEC and Cursillo, the bishop said he hoped to find new ways for permanent deacons to serve over the next decade.

“I do think your essential role is the corporal works of mercy,” he said. “But I would like to see more deacons in this chancery and in leadership roles in the diocese.”

He also challenged them to be “a visible sign” in the community by being present at cathedral liturgies and at special times when the church gathers.

Questioned about what to do in situations where a priest — through illness or emergency — is unable to celebrate Sunday Mass, Bishop Jenky said the church does provide an option for Communion services. The best solution, however, is for priests, deacons and parish councils to talk and have a plan in place before the need arises, he told them.

And asked for suggestions on how to keep young people coming to church after they have been confirmed, the bishop recommended a continuum of spiritual growth from high school retreats and TEC to Koinonia retreats in college and Cursillo. He also encouraged the deacons and their wives to remember that they are also parents and grandparents and to use that parental concern to emphasize the importance of the church and the sacraments.

“And don’t forget prayer,” he said. “Raise them up to the Lord and pray that God will touch their hearts.”

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