Journey to the diaconate

Barb Arland-Fye
Bishop Thomas Zinkula calls eight men as deacon candidates for the Diocese of Davenport during the Rite of Candidacy on July 14 at St. John Catholic Church in Burlington during the 10 a.m. Mass.

Eight men are now deacon candidates

By Barb Arland-Fye
The Catholic Messenger

BURLINGTON — Inside a church full of worshippers for Sunday Mass, eight men dressed in albs entered a new stage in their discernment of a call to the diaconate. Bishop Thomas Zinkula presided at the Mass in St. John Church on July 14 and called the eight as deacon candidates during the Rite of Candidacy. The married men, from parishes throughout the Diocese of Davenport, are two years into the five-year formation process.

This milestone, “is kind of like an engagement,” the bishop said at the beginning of Mass. “They’re getting engaged to the church.” At the end of their engagement, three years from now, “They will be ordained deacons, God willing.”


The Gospel for the 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time, the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37), provided the framework for Bishop Zinkula’s homily on mercy, service and charity. “All of the baptized are called to the service of charity,” he said, “and most especially deacons, who make a commitment of service to the Word of God, the sacraments of the church and a life of heroic charity.”

The Samaritan who came to the aid of the robber’s victim “knew what it was like to feel despised, rejected, to be an outsider… maybe that’s why he reached out to another wounded soul.” Bishop Zinkula challenged the congregation to consider some hard questions:

“How about us? When we encounter other wounded people, do we view them through the lens of our own woundedness?” Regarding immigrants: “Do we make an attempt to know them and their stories? To discover that they have the same joys/sorrows, wounds/blessings as we do? Do we see them through unbiased eyes or do we avert our eyes and not make eye contact with them — like the priest and the Levite in the parable?”

Regarding our LGBTQ brothers and sisters, let’s not talk right now about sexual activity or same-sex marriage, but simply about them as fellow wounded persons … can we see them as neighbors? Can we be neighbors to them?”

He continued, “May we — like the Samaritan, like Mother Teresa — know what it is like to discover the presence of God in our service to those who are poor, lonely, hurting or cast aside.”

While Bishop Zinkula’s message applied to all, its implication for the deacon candidates echoed in the Prayer of the Faithful. The congregation prayed: “That these, our brothers, may listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit, draw closer to Christ, and be enabled to witness him in the world…” “That they may share the burdens of their neighbors, be ministers of God’s mercy, and love the Lord with their whole being…”
After Mass, each of the deacon candidates shared thoughts about this new phase of their discernment process with The Catholic Messenger.

• Mike Linnenbrink of St. Boniface Parish-Farmington, had four generations of his family present. He said he is grateful for “the people who got me to this place — my parents, my wife, all of whom helped me to grow in my faith … the litany of people who have influenced my faith formation.”

• Andrew Reif of St. Mary Parish-Dodgeville, said he sees his candidacy “as a sign I’m moving in the direction God may be calling me to and to continue to take it one day at a time.” This journey is as much about “the church also accepting us.”

• Kent Ferris of Ss. Mary & Mathias Parish-Muscatine, said he was struck by the bishop’s words, likening this new phase of formation “to an engagement as we continue on the path forward to holy orders. It’s a profound statement to ponder.”

• Ryan Burchett of St. Paul the Apostle Parish-Davenport, described the Rite of Candidacy as “a really great benchmark — to stop and look back over our shoulder and then to look ahead to what’s in front of us.” To celebrate this rite as “part of a diocesan community is very special.”

• Gary Johnson of Divine Mercy Parish-Burlington, said “It’s a step on the journey, an unexpected journey. I’m a convert of 18 years ago.” He sees himself growing slowly through the process. “There are a lot of things I need to learn.”

• Angel Hernandez of St. Patrick Parish-Iowa City, said this milestone “became real when (the bishop) said, ‘you are now engaged to the church.’ I gave myself to Jesus and Mary. I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for my wife, and for my brothers in the diaconate and in the community.”

• Brian Dugan of Our Lady of the River Parish-LeClaire, said, “It’s surprising; there’s that fine line going from one phase (aspirancy) to another (candidacy).” Having the bishop celebrate the Rite of Candidacy was especially meaningful. Seeing a full church also made the experience “awesome,” Dugan said

• Andy Hardigan of Jesus Christ, Prince of Peace Parish- Clinton, said his journey to the diaconate “is allowing me to serve my diocese and the people on the peripheries with the best of my God-given abilities.” He’s grateful for the learning experience. “Most importantly, how the Holy Spirit has been revealed in the ministries I’ve been able to be involved in.”

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