Catholic Transcript Magazine of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Hartford Connecticut

Sunday, June 24, 2018

acolytes_dac013Fourteen men who were installed in the Ministry of Acolytes on Nov. 22 stand with Auxiliary Bishop Christie A. Macaluso and seminarian James Gentile, at right, on the altar in the chapel at the Archdiocesan Center at St. Thomas Seminary in Bloomfield. Mr. Gentile was a member of their class before he decided to study for the priesthood. The 14 new acolytes are scheduled to be ordained to the permanent diaconate in June. The new acolytes are Robert Barry, Manuel Cordero, Salvatore Fusco, Alan Germain, Peter Hyde, Edward Kensah, Robert Magnuson, John Mordecai, Stephen Savarese, Mark Stevens, Henry Szumowski, James Tanguay and Richard Wisniewski. (Photo by Lenora Sumsky)

BLOOMFIELD – Fourteen men from parishes across the Archdiocese of Hartford continued their journey of faith and commitment to the permanent diaconate on Nov. 22 at the Archdiocesan Center at St. Thomas Seminary.

They were installed in the Ministry of Acolytes at a Mass celebrated by Auxiliary Bishop Christie A. Macaluso of Hartford.

Installation in the Ministry of Acolytes is a final step for the candidates, who are expected to be ordained permanent deacons next June, he said.

The Church calls men who are ordained on the path to priesthood transitonal deacons. Permament deacons are not.

Their journey began in the spring of 2007 when they applied to the diaconate studies program. Over that summer, 19 of the 45 applicants were accepted, and began the program in September of that year.

The formation program for the permanent diaconate includes a year of aspirancy, or discernment, followed by four years of classroom instruction and pastoral training.

"All of the classes are condensed versions of what priests would learn," said Stephen Savarese, one of the newly instituted acolytes and a parishioner at St. John of the Cross in Middlebury. "The first one was the Old Testament," he said. "We learned all 46 books of the Old Testament again. Going forward, we would write papers."

A typical paper might require candidates to select a story from the Bible, study the exegesis, understand the historical relevance and then reflect upon its meaning, said Mr. Savarese.

Diaconate candidates receive formal grades each semester. Prior to ordination, they must take a comprehensive oral and written exam and pass a liturgical and preaching exam.

The program challenges candidates in many ways. There is a lot of reading, studying and speaking practice. In addition to meeting requirements of the formation program, candidates must also balance family life and their day jobs.

"Probably the biggest challenge for some people is when they have young children," said Mark Stevens, a member of Blessed Sacrament Church in Waterbury, who went through the program with Mr. Savarese.

"[For me, the biggest challenge was] just studying at my age. I am 54 years old and it’s not the same as when you are 18 and going to college," said Mr. Stevens.

"You are away from that for several years and you’ve been working; you’ve got a house, a wife and family and all of a sudden, you’re studying again. To get myself back into that routine of reading, writing and studying, that was the biggest challenge," he said.

Mr. Savarese said that although his class is made up of different people, "we have a lot of similarities. We all love the Church, but we have very different backgrounds. We have a police officer from Bridgeport, retired firefighters and programmers from CIGNA," said Mr. Savarese, who is an attorney. "We have a man from Ghana and a man from Puerto Rico who is very musically oriented," he added.

Other newly installed acolytes are Robert Barry, Manuel Cordero, Salvatore Fusco, Alan Germain, Peter Hyde, Edward Kensah, Robert Magnuson, John Mordecai, Henry Szumowski, James Tanguay and Richard Wisniewski.

Despite the challenges, most candidates successfully complete the program. While a few drop out, one member of this class "fell up." That’s how the new acolytes described former classmate James Gentile’s decision to enter the priesthood.

Classes meet Tuesday evenings at Sacred Heart Parish in Bloomfield. They are taught by Father Aidan N. Donahue, director of the diaconate’s Office of Formation and pastor of Sacred Heart; and Deacon Robert Pallotti, director of the Office of the Permanent Diaconate.

"They do a very nice job. We all enjoy each other’s company; we have summer retreats together and get to know the class ahead of us," said Mr. Savarase. "They pay a lot of attention to us, so I think that’s why we drive ourselves to do our best work."

Current classes are focused on homiletics. While only those ordained as deacons can deliver homilies, the candidates prepare homilies based on Mass readings and present them to their classmates, priests and to Father Donahue for critique.

The group also is involved in pastoral service.

Mr. Savarese has served at St. Mary’s Hospital in Waterbury and was involved in campus ministry in Waterbury. Mr. Stevens serves in a prison ministry.

"Deacons are to serve; that’s what the word comes from," said Mr. Savarese. "It’s a great honor to serve the Church in this way, and we look forward to assignment within a church."

During the ceremony, Bishop Macaluso referenced words from the instruction in his homily. "Live more fully the Lord’s sacrifice; mold yourself; offer yourself; share the one bread," he said.

"It is precisely because you are aware of your inadequacies and fortunate that God has chosen to work through you that [you should] continue your journey," he added. "You have a special role in the Church [and] responsibility to assist priests and deacons in carrying out their ministries."