By EmmaLee Italia | Contributing Editor
Taking the next steps on their journey to the permanent diaconate Feb. 2, the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord, 15 men of the Diocese of Trenton participated in the Rite for Institution of Lectors and Acolytes during a Mass celebrated by Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M, in St. Mary of the Assumption Cathedral, Trenton.
Photo Gallery: Institution of Lectors, Acolytes
“This great feast that we celebrate in the Church is a happy coincidence for you,” Bishop O’Connell said to the candidates during his homily. “For just as our Blessed Mother and St. Joseph presented the Lord in the temple, and as the Lord Jesus was recognized as the glory that had been prophesied for all the ages – so, too, today, you are being presented in the Church, and you are being recognized.”
The installation rites to the Ministry of Lector and Ministry of Acolyte are conferred respectively upon third-year and fourth-year candidates in the Diocese’s five-year diaconate program. Lectors are commissioned to proclaim the Scriptures, with the exception of the Gospel, during the Liturgy of the Word at Mass and other liturgical celebrations; acolytes are given the responsibility of serving at the altar, assisting the priest and deacons, as well as special ministers of Holy Communion during the Liturgy of the Eucharist and to the sick.
Bishop O’Connell shared with the candidates the words of the Church for their particular ministries.
“Jesus Christ … entered his Church with a mission of preaching the Gospel to the whole world,” he said to the candidates for lector. “As lectors and bearers of God’s Word, you will assist in this mission. … In proclaiming God’s Word to others, accept it yourselves. Meditate on it, in obedience to the Holy Spirit, do it constantly so that each day you’ll have a deeper love of the Holy Scriptures.”
To the candidates for acolyte, he said, “The summit and source of the Christian life is the Eucharist, which builds up the Christian community and makes it grow. … Because you are specially called to this ministry, you should strive to live more fully by the word sacrifice … You should seek to understand deep, spiritual meaning … so that you may offer yourselves daily to God as a spiritual sacrifice.”
Nine candidates were installed to the Ministry of Acolyte, and six were installed to the Ministry of Lector – a rite that followed the Bishop’s homily, beginning with Msgr. Thomas J. Mullelly, diocesan vicar for clergy and consecrated life, presenting each candidate by name. In turn, each lector candidate placed his hands upon the Bible while kneeling before Bishop O’Connell for the installation. Then acolytes were called to do the same with a ciborium, symbolic of the commission as Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion.
Following Mass as diaconate candidates gathered with their spouses and families for fellowship, several reflected on their journey thus far.
“It’s one step closer to the diaconate, and one step closer to serving in the parish, in the community,” said lector Jorge Valente of St. Rose of Lima Parish, Freehold. “So it’s a great blessing. I think we have to really fall in love with serving the Lord – it’s our mission in the Church to serve. … I think that’s my goal, to be closer to my parish, to help them grow in holiness and achieve heaven.”
Acolyte Mark McNulty, who has worked for 14 years in St. Catharine-St. Margaret Parish, Spring Lake, found the installation rites helpful “because you see the progression. [The formation process] is a lengthy time. …I’m looking forward to helping in parish life, wherever I’ll be needed.”
A member of the first diaconate class since the program was revised, acolyte Russell Greiner sees his role in St. Joseph Parish, Toms River, as one built on service.
“We’re in our fourth year now, so it’s really coming together,” he said. “It’s been a culmination of what we’ve learned, especially in our theology, and now we’re going to put that into practice. It’s more than just being a Eucharistic minister.”
Fellow candidate and lector James Winters, also of St. Joseph Parish, agreed.
“It’s one day at a time, and it’s getting to know Jesus one day at a time, getting closer to him,” he reflected. “I look at it as the will of Jesus [to be in this process] … You have to be open to it. When God presents you with a door, you run through it.”