Nine deacons ordained – and they’ve only just begun


By Barb Arland-Fye
The Catholic Messenger

BETTENDORF — Sixteen days after his ordination and installation as Bishop of the Diocese of Davenport, Thomas Zinkula ordained nine men to the diaconate as hundreds of people witnessed on July 8 at St. John Vianney Church.

Anne Marie Amacher
Nine men were ordained deacons for the Diocese of Davenport by Bishop Thomas Zinkula on July 8 at St. John Vianney Church in Bettendorf. Front, from left are Deacons Dan Freeman, Mike Snyder, Joseph Welter, Chris Kabat, Lowell Van Wyk; back, Tom Hardie, John Jacobsen, Bishop Zinkula, Joe Rohret and Steve Barton.

“It was really cool,” Bishop Zinkula said after the Mass. “These guys were energized and excited. I felt that.” Prior to being ordained a bishop on June 22 in the same church, then-Msgr. Zinkula spent a few hours on retreat with the deacon candidates so that he could get to know them before their own ordination. Now he feels a sense of closeness with them.

He acknowledged his newbie status at the beginning of Mass and expressed gratitude for the 12 men who have been ordained in the diocese in just two months’ time: two priests, himself as bishop, and now nine deacons.


Father Thom Hennen, diocesan director of vocations, testified that each of the nine deacon candidates — Steve Barton, Dan Freeman, Tom Hardie, John Jacobsen, Chris Kabat, Joe Rohret, Mike Snyder, Lowell Van Wyk and Joseph Welter — had been found worthy of ordination to the diaconate. “We choose these our brothers for the order of the diaconate,” Bishop Zinkula responded.

His homily focused on the paramount role of the deacon: service, and how that ministry has its roots in the Last Supper when Jesus washed the feet of his disciples. While people generally associate the Last Supper with the initiation of the priesthood, the washing of the feet can be seen as the initiation of the diaconate, Bishop Zinkula observed. Charity, another important role of the deacon, is at the heart of foot washing. “We take the Eucharist into our mouths, our bodies, and we become what we eat, what we drink. We are to give what we receive. We are to act like Christ.

What did he do? He served people…. He washed feet,” the bishop said. “We, like Jesus, are to use our gifts to serve others in love, in a humble, Christ-like manner. Deacons epitomize this.”

Each deacon knelt before the bishop, seated in a chair in front of the altar, to express vows of faithful service and obedience as ordained ministers of the Catholic Church. After each one affirmed his commitment, Bishop Zinkula said: “May God who has done the good work in you bring it to fulfillment.”

During the Litany of Supplication, the deacon candidates lay prostrate, forming a circle at the foot of the altar on the floor. Cantors Mary Jacobsen and Mark Carroll sang the litany. Deacon John Jacobsen confessed after Mass that he was proud to hear his 18-year-old daughter sing the litany. But he was grateful to have been facedown on the floor so that he wouldn’t be overcome by emotion.

After the litany, the men knelt one by one before Bishop Zinkula, who bowed his head deeply in prayer and laid his hands on each one’s head. He prayed for the gift of the Holy Spirit “so that they might be strengthened by the sevenfold gift of (God’s) grace for the faithful carrying out of the work of the ministry.”

For the vesting ritual that followed, the wives draped over their arms the stole and dalmatic that their husbands would be vested in by ordained deacons. Bishop Zinkula quipped afterwards, “It’s kind of embarrassing to get dressed in public.” The congregation chuckled.

In the ministry they have been ordained to, the deacons will reach out to the poor, the sick, the elderly, the divorced, the imprisoned and others who are voiceless or on the “margins” of the church or society in order to first address their human needs. The deacons will be teachers of the faith, by their words and by their actions.

During Mass, they will assist the priest, especially at the altar. As an ordinary minister of Communion, the deacon helps with the distribution of the Eucharist, in particular, the chalice. The deacon may also bring Communion to the sick and dying, and preside over the rites of distributing Communion outside of Mass on weekdays and Sundays. He may also lead other rites and sacramental celebrations, such as baptism, marriage, funeral rites, the Liturgy of the Hours, and Eucharistic exposition and benediction.

After their ordination, The Catholic Messenger asked the deacons to share a highlight from the liturgy:

Chris Kabat of St. Wenceslaus Parish-Iowa City: “The laying on of hands. That quiet peace was awesome.” He felt nervous before the liturgy. But “as soon as the organ started playing, it was pretty amazing.”

Joe Rohret of St. Peter Parish-Cosgrove: The Litany of Supplication was a highlight —- “just listening to the people praying over us. Equal to that was when the bishop laid hands on us. It was amazing. I felt the Holy Spirit, the love, the community. It was the most powerful moment I’ve had in a long time.”

Lowell Van Wyk of St. Mary Parish-Pella: “When I was prostrate on the floor, listening to the litany of the saints, (it was amazing) to have all those people praying for me. By the grace of God, I’m worthy of this.”

Joe Welter of the Newman Center/St. Mary Parish, Iowa City: I think it was at the point when we put our hands in the bishop’s and also when he put his hands on our heads. Having that physical contact with the bishop, who was acting as the minister of the church. It was explained to us in rehearsal, but the reality was so powerful.” Seeing the smiles of his fellow deacon candidates “put me at ease.”

Mike Snyder of Our Lady of Lourdes Parish-Bettendorf: “I think (the highlight) came during the singing of ‘You are Near,’ right after the vesting, handing on of the Book of the Gospels, and the sign of peace with the order of deacons. The Lord is always with us, and I was realizing how much the Lord has been with us and leading us through this whole journey.”

Tom Hardie of St. Anthony Parish-Knoxville: “When the bishop laid his hands on us that was very powerful for me.” Hardie thought about this ritual in terms of the tradition and history of the church and how many times rite or ordination has been bestowed. “And I’m part of it.”

Dan Freeman of St. Andrew Parish-Blue Grass: Taking his vow and distributing the blood of Christ to the people were highlights. As Freeman distributed the blood of Christ, “tears started rolling. That was very powerful for me. My job was to serve them (the people).” The sense of unity, everybody coming together in the liturgy, was very moving to him.

Steve Barton, Holy Family Parish, Davenport: “Lying on the floor and hearing the invocation of the saints, just having everybody pray for us, was very moving,” as was the kiss of peace with the bishop and all the deacons. The laying on of hands and prayer of ordination was special, too, “because I thought about the bishop being in the person of Christ laying his hands on my head for this call to service.”

John Jacobsen of Sacred Heart Cathedral-Davenport: The litany of the saints was a highlight, particularly because his daughter Mary sang it as a cantor. “I’m glad I was lying down because I didn’t think I’d be able to hold it together,” he said. Ordination to the diaconate “is like a marriage. What does it hold in store for us? God only knows, but the grace of God, and the guidance of the priests, the community and the diocese will lead us on.”

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