Celebration of four new deacons to continue at home parishes

By: By Tom Dermody

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The joy experienced at a packed St. Mary’s Cathedral on Sunday will echo in the coming days at the home parishes for four seminarians ordained May 22 as transitional deacons of the Diocese of Peoria.

“It is an exulting church that assembles this morning in our cathedral,” said Bishop Daniel R. Jenky, CSC, in greeting an assembly that included the family and friends of Deacon Daniel Gifford, Deacon Timothy Hepner, Deacon Joel Phelps, and Deacon Johnathan Steffen.

Moments later in the liturgy, Bishop Jenky presided at ordination rites for the seminarians, who are called transitional deacons because they intend to go on to ordination as priests.

Two of the new deacons — Deacon Hepner and Deacon Steffen — are from St. Mary’s Parish in Pontiac, which was represented at the cathedral by about 100 members, including Msgr. Thomas Mack, pastor. More than 40 made the trip on a bus chartered by the Knights of Columbus.

Deacon Hepner and Deacon Steffen will each preach at two Masses this weekend at their home parish. A reception is planned for both in the parish hall following the 10:30 a.m. Mass on Sunday, May 29.

Deacon Gifford will preach at all Masses on Sunday, May 29, at his home parish of Blessed Sacrament, Morton. An open house is scheduled in the parish hall after each liturgy.

Deacon Phelps, a member of St. Philomena’s Parish in Monticello, will preach at all Masses there next weekend, June 4-5. A reception will follow each liturgy.

Last Sunday’s ordination Mass was concelebrated by about 20 priests of the diocese. Also in the opening procession were more than 30 seminarians of the diocese and a dozen permanent deacons, who embraced the new transitional deacons following the ordination rite.

Music was provided by the cathedral and chant choirs as well as children from the diocese’s new Cantus Choir School.

During the ordination rite, the new deacons made a commitment to celibacy, promised obedience to Bishop Jenky and his successors, were presented with the Book of the Gospels, and received the vestments of stole and dalmatic. The four seminarians lay prostrate on the sanctuary floor for several minutes as the assembly sought the support of the saints for them and their ministry.

Bishop Jenky said the new deacons should be “recognized as disciples of (Jesus) who came not to be served, but to serve.”

The transitional deacons will be in service this summer at parishes of the diocese before returning to their seminary studies in the fall. Deacon Gifford will serve at the parishes of LaSalle, Deacon Hepner in the Peoria area Hispanic community, Deacon Phelps at St. Patrick’s Church of Merna in Bloomington, and Deacon Steffen at Sacred Heart Parish in Moline.

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