Holy Family in Peoria hosts Friar Bede’s ordination as transitional deacon

Bishop William Patrick Callahan, OFM Conv., smiles as he lays his hands on the head of Father Bede Thigpen, OFM Conv., calling down the Holy Spirit as he ordains the friar to the transitional diaconate on Jan. 15 at Holy Family Church in Peoria. (The Catholic Post/Jennifer Willems)

Gratitude is the primary emotion Friar Bede Thigpen, OFM Conv., feels after being ordained a transitional deacon on Jan. 15 at Holy Family Church in Peoria.

Well, that and “being thankful for the opportunity to serve people as a deacon and, God willing, some day as a priest,” he told The Catholic Post.

The celebration brought several Conventual Franciscans back to the Peoria parish, including Bishop William Patrick Callahan of the Diocese of La Crosse, Wisconsin, who served as pastor from 1987 to 1994. Smiling broadly, he said Holy Family still holds “a very, very soft, important part in my heart.”

“And many of you, even behind masks, I know you,” he said. “It’s good to be here.”

Bishop William Patrick Callahan, OFM Conv., presents the Book of the Gospels to Friar Bede Thigpen, OFM Conv., instructing him to “Believe what you read, teach what you believe, and practice what you teach.” (The Catholic Post/Jennifer Willems)

It was Bishop Callahan who presided over the Rite of Ordination for Friar Bede, calling it an opportunity for the church to claim another one of “her sons” as a deacon and send him out into the ministry of service in the name of Jesus Christ.

During his homily, Bishop Callahan reminded those present that St. Francis of Assisi was a deacon, thinking himself unworthy to be a priest.

“But (he) served the church to the full extent of Gospel charity, a life filled with authentic service to Lady Poverty as she expressed herself in all areas of his life,” he said. “And all of this because of his service and reverence to Our Blessed Lord in the Most Holy Eucharist, the living presence of Jesus in the Most Blessed Sacrament of the altar.”

The Gospel passage for the Mass told of an encounter between Jesus and St. Peter. Bishop Callahan explained that while Peter was only able to offer conditional and fraternal love, Jesus was seeking unconditional, unlimited God-like love from him.

“He seeks the same from you today, Friar Bede,” the bishop said. “You, like Peter, will offer your life for Jesus. He will gladly accept what you offer with a pure and sincere heart.”

REORIENTING PRIORITIES

This was something Friar Bede has been yearning for — although he didn’t always know it — since he came into the Catholic Church during his junior year at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

An “encounter” with St. Francis led Friar Bede to the Conventual Franciscans. “It just felt very natural being with them and praying with them.”

Engaged in religious studies, where he learned about the history of the early church, the church fathers, and the formation of Scripture, the young Episcopalian “ran smack dab into the Catholic Church.”

“When I graduated in 2007, I was really trying to find a way to live the faith in a more concrete way, so I moved to Chicago and started working for a street ministry that serves homeless men that are caught up in prostitution,” Friar Bede said. “That was kind of a life-changing experience for me in terms of reorienting my sense of priorities and what was important to me.”

He did that for two years and said that’s when he realized he was being called to consecrated life. He visited a variety of communities, including the Dominicans, Jesuits, Carmelites, and Augustinians, and explored diocesan priesthood.

“IT JUST KIND OF CLICKED”

An “encounter” with St. Francis of Assisi helped him realize what kind of life God wanted for him. A Conventual Franciscan friary was about five minutes from where he lived and after he started visiting them, “It just kind of clicked.”

For the first time, it just felt like I wasn’t trying to force myself into it,” Friar Bede told The Post. “It just felt very natural being with them and praying with them.”

He entered the community in 2013, professing simple vows in 2015 and solemn vows in 2019.

Newly ordained Deacon Bede Thigpen, OFM Conv., distributes Communion to Father Paul Joseph Langevin, OFM Conv., pastor of Holy Family Church in Peoria. (The Catholic Post/Jennifer Willems)

Friar Bede started his seminary studies at Mundelein, and then pursued a dual master’s degree in divinity and sacred theology at The Catholic University of America. He graduated last May and was sent to Holy Family in Peoria.

Since Holy Family School was in need of a teacher for literature and language arts for the sixth, seventh, and eighth grade, he has been working there as he prepared for his ordination to the diaconate.

Friar Bede now looks forward to assisting at Mass and preaching, and will soon baptize three children during a school Mass. He anticipates ordination to the priesthood in six months to a year.

So is he Friar Bede or Deacon Bede?

“I say either is perfectly fine. For the kids here, since they’ve always known me as Friar Bede, I said, ‘You can just keep calling me Friar Bede,’” he said. “There are some friars that are deacons and priests, but we are all friars.”

The one person who has no question calls him “son.”

“He’s probably the happiest person I’ve ever seen over the last 10 years as he’s gone through this journey. It’s been wonderful,” said Richard Thigpen of Charlotte, North Carolina. “I just couldn’t be prouder of him.”

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