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|Eric Johansen, above, pledges obdience to the bishop and his successors as the the others wait their turn. Bishop David Choby ordained five men, Ben Butler, Austin Gilstrap, Eric Johansen, Delly Matajuka, and Dan Reehil to the transitional deaconate during a Mass at the Cathedral of the Incarnation. Photos by Rick Musacchio
Five seminarians of the Diocese of Nashville, awaiting ordination as transitional deacons, laid face down before the altar in the Cathedral of the Incarnation as the prayers of the congregation echoed throughout the church asking for the help of the saints.
During the Litany of the Saints, “I was asking for God’s help and assistance,” said Deacon Ben Butler, one of the seminarians ordained a transitional deacon on Friday, April 11.
“It’s a grace filled moment from beginning to end,” he said of the ordination.
Joining Butler as new transitional deacons were Austin Gilstrap, Eric Johansen, Delphinus Mutajuka and Daniel Reehil.
|Newly ordained Deacon Austin Gilstrap talks with his niece, Isabella Saenz after his ordination to the transitional diaconate as her brother, Michael Saenz, his parents Michael and Donna Gilstrap and his sister Catherine Gilstrap watch. Deacon Gilstrap will return to Rome to complete his formation in preparation for his ordination to the priesthood in 2015.
Becoming a transitional deacon is one of the final benchmarks on the journey to priestly ordination. One of Gilstrap’s professors told him the ordination as a transitional deacon “is the church offering you the acknowledgement of your yes,” he said. “That’s really what it felt like.”
Butler and Johansen are both seminarians at Notre Dame Seminary in New Orleans and Gilstrap is a seminarian at the North American College in Rome. All three are scheduled to be ordained as priests in 2015.
Gilstrap’s classmates at the North American College will be ordained transitional deacons in October. But because his mother is ill and would be unable to travel to Rome for the ordination, he requested and received permission to be ordained in Nashville where she could witness it with the rest of his family, he said.
Mutajuka and Reehil have both completed their seminary studies and will be ordained as priests at 10 a.m. Saturday, July 26, at the Cathedral of the Incarnation. Nine men are scheduled to be ordained on that day, which will be the largest group to be ordained at one time in the diocese’s history.
As deacons the five men have the faculties to preside at baptisms, marriages and funerals, to preach, to proclaim the Gospel, to assist the priest at the altar during Mass, and to assist in other ways they are needed.
“The diaconate fulfills two roles in building up the body of Christ,” Bishop David Choby said during his homily at the ordination Mass. “One role would be in relation to service at the altar,” where the new deacons will “encounter in a deeper way the reality of the Eucharist,” he said.
“The second role is the service we offer one another,” Bishop Choby said.
“As a deacon you will serve Jesus Christ, who was known among his disciples as the one who served others,” Bishop Choby read during the rite. “Do the will of God generously. Serve God and mankind in love and joy.”
At the end of the Mass, Bishop Choby congratulated the new transitional deacons. “We are looking forward to the next step in your life,” he said. “We appreciate the generosity of your spirit that has motivated you.”
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