Sean Gallagher, ArchIndy.org
Ten years ago, 25 men from across central and southern Indiana began a formation program through which they would be ordained in 2008 as the first permanent deacons in the history of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.
A decade later, a third group of men—21 this time—were received as candidates for the diaconate by Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin during a Sept. 27 Mass at SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis.
In the 10 years since the deacon formation program began, deacons have ministered in parishes across central and southern Indiana. Their presence has affected the vocational discernment of the men currently in formation.
This is especially true for deacon candidate Matthew “Tom” Scarlett, a member of St. Vincent de Paul Parish in Bedford, who has observed the life and ministry of Deacon David Reising in the Bloomington Deanery faith community for the past six years.
“It’s absolutely influenced me, without a doubt,” Scarlett said. “I’d go so far as to say if it hadn’t been for what Deacon Dave has done, I wouldn’t have discerned this call. This is where I’m supposed to be. But seeing what he’s done and his leadership has affirmed it. It brought me to where I need to be.”
Although Deacon Reising was part of the first class of deacons and has seen another group ordained and other deacons move into the archdiocese, he’s still excited by seeing new men step up to answer God’s call to the diaconate.
“This is seeing God work,” Deacon Reising said. “This is seeing the Holy Spirit come upon these guys. It strengthens me to see Tom. I see the Holy Spirit working in him. I can see how it’s going to affect the parish.”
Father Clement Davis, pastor of St. Bartholomew Parish in Columbus, has witnessed up close the effects of the diaconate on parish life.
St. Bartholomew has had four men ordained deacons who are ministering there and in other parishes. Two more men from the parish are in the latest formation class.
“These are men who have been very dedicated, very active in the life of the Church,” Father Davis said. “They’ve given of themselves and their time. Now, they’re not just being recognized for that. But, on the basis of that, they’re being called to this ordained ministry in the Church.
“I think it’s a net gain for the Church at large.”
In his homily at the Sept. 27 Mass, Archbishop Tobin reflected that deacons are called, however, not simply to enhance a parish community through their life and ministry, but the broader community as well.
“Deacons, I believe, have a unique gift to give,” Archbishop Tobin said. “When they are present at the Eucharist, it is they who disperse the community. They say, ‘Go in peace’ or ‘Go announce the Gospel with your lives,’ making a connection between what happens here [in church] and what happens there in the streets, in the schools, in the hospitals and the jails and the families.”
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