Diocese offers prayers for pope, welcomes acolytes
By Mary Stadnyk | News Editor
Faithful from throughout the diocese kept newly elected Pope Francis close in prayer during a Mass of Thanksgiving celebrated by Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., in St. Mary of the Assumption Cathedral, Trenton, March 17.
“We celebrate Mass of Thanksgiving for the election of our Holy Father, Francis,” Bishop O’Connell said.
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Referring to the March 13 election of Pope Francis as being a “witness for the entire world,” the bishop spoke of how the Holy Father was the first to be elected to the papacy from the Americas and the first pope to choose the name, Francis, after St. Francis of Assisi.
“We keep him in our prayers and intentions and offer him up to the Lord as he begins his service to the Church,” said Bishop O’Connell. In addition to the Mass of Thanksgiving, Bishop O’Connell also presided at the installation of 12 men into the ministry of acolyte, which is the third step in a four-year process to completing the diocesan diaconate formation program.
Joining Bishop O’Connell at the altar as concelebrants of the Mass, which was held on the Fifth Sunday of Lent, were several priests including Msgr. Joseph Roldan, cathedral rector; Msgr. Thomas Mullelly, diocesan vicar for clergy and consecrated life; Father Doug Freer, diocesan vicar for Catholic education, and Father John Chang, pastor of St. Raphael-Holy Angels Parish, Hamilton.
Among those present in the congregation were parishioners from the cathedral, the 12 men who the bishop installed into the ministry of acolyte, and their family members, friends and fellow parishioners. Acolytes are instituted to serve at the altar and to assist the priest and deacon, and as special ministers to administer Holy Communion to the faithful at the liturgy and to the sick.
The 12 men who were installed as acolytes were: Christopher H. Chandonnet, St. Joseph Parish, Millstone Township; Timothy R. Collins, St. Mary of the Lakes Parish, Medford; Richard D. Coscarelli, Ascension Parish, Bradley Beach; Gregory J. Costa, St. Raphael-Holy Angels Parish, Hamilton; Philip T. Craft, St. Pius X Parish, Forked River; Peter F. Downing, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish, Whiting; Richard J. Hobson, St. James Parish, Pennington; John R. Isaac, St. Gregory the Great Parish, Hamilton Square; Christian Knoebel, St. Monica, Jackson; Sean McMahon, St. Mary of the Lakes Parish, Medford; Daniel C. Sakowski, St. Catherine of Siena Parish, Farmingdale; and Steven A. Wagner, St. Mary Parish, Barnegat.
Not present for the Mass and installation was deacon candidate, Joseph Gili of St. Pius X Parish, Forked River, who was hospitalized. Gili will be installed as an acolyte at a later date.
“We gather for a joyful occasion to celebrate the installation of acolytes,” said Bishop O’Connell. “These men are offering their services to the Church as they prepare to become ordained deacons for the Diocese of Trenton” in May, 2014.
In his homily, Bishop O’Connell reflected on the day’s Gospel which told of the Scribes and Pharisees bringing the woman who committed adultery before Jesus. Though Jewish law insisted that the woman be executed, Jesus instead forgave and showed mercy to her.
“Jesus had a deeper vision and insight,” Bishop O’Connell said. “Law doesn’t exist for its own sake and there are times when law must be balanced with mercy…But that does not mean that people do whatever they want. Jesus showed mercy and said ‘sin no more.’” “Mercy is meant to lead to a better life, a holier life,” he said.
Bishop O’Connell exhorted the congregation to remember that although “we are sinners,” it’s important to remember “that God is merciful and forgiving.”
“We cannot presume on it; we need to believe and follow what Christ taught. And when we fail, we seek mercy and strive to sin no more,” said Bishop O’Connell. “As we begin to draw this season of Lent to a close, those are good thoughts to keep in mind.”
The Rite of Institution of Acolytes, which followed the homily, opened with Msgr. Mullelly presenting the candidates to Bishop O’Connell.
One by one, each acolyte came forward and knelt before the bishop. The bishop handed them a paten containing the host that was to be consecrated during the Liturgy of the Eucharist, designating them acolytes.
For Wagner and Chandonnet, the day offered them a time to reflect on their respective journeys to becoming deacons and what they look forward to once they are ordained.
“Anything I can do in ministry in the name of Christ is what I’m looking forward to,” said Wagner, whether it’s serving at the altar, visiting and bringing the Eucharist to the sick and those in nursing homes. Wagner added that he would enjoy getting more involved with the parish Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, especially since he had “gone through the RCIA” himself several years ago. Wagner was Lutheran prior to completing his Sacraments of Initiation.
For Chandonnet, at the heart of being a deacon is receiving the Sacrament of Holy Orders.
“You can certainly help people and volunteer in the parish without being a deacon,” he said.
“But I wanted to do something more and give back because I’ve been so blessed,” said Chandonnet, who spoke of how grateful he is to be the father of six children, ages seven to 23.
Father Chang reflected on the two reasons why he attended the March 17 Mass. He wanted to be present for the Mass of Thanksgiving for Pope Francis and he also came in support of parishioner Gregory Costa, who was installed as an acolyte.
“It’s wonderful,” Father Chang said of the election of Pope Francis.
“He is so humble.”
After noting how particularly pleased he was to see a “Jesuit” priest elected to the papacy, especially “with my being a Jesuit alum.” A graduate of Boston College, Father Chang reflected on how “it was also to St. Francis that Jesus said, ‘Rebuild my Church.’” Since the March 13 papal election, Father Chang said he has reminded his parishioners that rebuilding a Church is not something that Pope Francis can do by himself.
“If the Holy Father is going to rebuild the Church, he is going to need all of us – his 1.2 billion fellow Catholics to help him,” said Father Chang.
Similar to Father Chang, Rick Benner was also at the cathedral for both the Mass of Thanksgiving for the pope and to show his support the newly installed acolytes.
Benner, who is a deacon intern from Jesus the Good Shepherd Parish, Riverside, and is expected to be ordained a deacon by Bishop O’Connell in May, remarked on the Holy Father’s non-pretentious manner.
“I read that he flew economy class to the conclave, that he lived a very humble life and about his solidarity with the poor and the weakest among us,” said Benner.
“My hope for the Church moving forward is that we listen to this new vicar of Christ,” Benner added. “He was chosen for this special time to lead Christ’s Church. I believe he will be the ‘pope of the people’ and will do what he can to help draw people to Christ.”
Class Photo – The newly installed class of acolytes gathered for a group photo after their installation by Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., in St. Mary of the Assumption Cathedral March 17. Jeff Metzner photo
Ministry of Acolyte – Shown are several of the 12 men who were installed to the Ministry of Acolyte by Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., during a Mass celebrated March 17 in St. Mary of the Assumption Cathedral, Trenton. Jeff Metzner photos
Offering Thanks – Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., celebrated a Mass of Thanksgiving for the election of Pope Francis March 17 in St. Mary of the Assumption Cathedral, Trenton. That day, the diocese offered prayers and intentions for the new Holy Father who was elected to the papacy March 13. During the Mass, the bishop also installed 12 men to the Ministry of Acolyte.[[In-content Ad]]