By Barb Arland-Fye
The Catholic Messenger
DAVENPORT — Hundreds of the faithful, including more than 60 priests and 24 deacons, welcomed Fathers Isaac Doucette and Duoc (Dominic) Nguyen to the priesthood and Deacon Dane Dickinson to the diaconate June 3 at Sacred Heart Cathedral. Bishop Thomas Zinkula presided at the Liturgy of Ordination. Afterwards, Deacon Dickinson’s father Ed summed up the experience succinctly: “It was a very blessed day,” a sentiment echoed by many others in attendance.
The liturgy included a prelude and the second reading in Vietnamese, Father Nguyen’s native language. His parents, who live in Vietnam, could not be present in person. “I know they love me and are here in spirit,” he said afterwards. The Mass was livestreamed, which gave his parents an opportunity to watch it.
A family of faith, seated in the pews, expressed their love as well, in heartfelt singing, prayers and embraces afterwards. Their thunderous applause during the Election of the Candidates to their respective orders — deacon and priesthood — brought smiles to the faces of each one.
In his homily that followed the candidates’ election, Bishop Zinkula reflected on a shepherd’s role in walking with his people, using as the framework a passage from a speech Pope Francis gave in 2021. “The flock knows we are shepherds, (walking) in front to show the way, in the middle to sense how people feel, behind to help the stragglers, letting people sniff out where the best pastures are found,” the bishop said.
A synodal path
He examined each aspect — walking in front, in the middle and behind the flock — within the context of priests and deacons as leaders today. “Without good leaders, sheep get lost (stray), devoured by predators or may not find the best pastures… Priests and deacons are to be pastoral leaders, servant leaders, vulnerable, humble, and selfless.”
“Priests and deacons are to encounter and accompany the people they serve, walk alongside them, listen carefully to them and love all of them, including and especially those they may not like. If clergy follow the synodal path, they will be aware of the joys, sorrows, hopes, dreams, fears and anxieties of the faithful. They will be one with them … they will take on the smell of sheep.”
Walking behind the flock, “there needs to be greater collaboration among clergy and laity, greater co-responsibility,” the bishop said. “Clergy don’t have it all figured out and they don’t have all the gifts that are to be had. I know I don’t. I am learning, trying to step back more and watch and listen. Others often have a better sense of smell than I do, and not simply because I lost my sense of smell due to COVID! By the way, it’s much more palatable to be among the sheep and to take on the smell of the sheep when you have lost your sense of smell!”
“Leading from behind isn’t about hanging back and failing to lead. It is about empowering others to lead in addition to oneself,” Bishop Zinkula said. One way to encapsulate a shepherd who walks with people — at times in front, at times in the middle and at times behind — is the bishop’s favorite definition of a preacher, substituting shepherd for preacher. “A shepherd is one poor beggar telling other poor beggars where he found food.”
Following the bishop’s homily, the candidates sealed their election with promises. Deacon-elect Dickinson promised faithful service, obedience and lifelong celibacy as an ordained minister of the Catholic Church. Priests-elect Doucette and Nguyen promised faithful service in caring for the Lord’s flock and obedience to the bishop as ordained ministers of the Catholic Church.
Afterwards, the elect lay prostrate, face to the ground, for the Litany of Supplication. The laying on of hands and prayer of ordination to the diaconate followed for Deacon-elect Dickinson. Father
James Flattery assisted with vesting the new deacon with stole and dalmatic, finishing with a bear hug. Bishop Zinkula handed the Book of the Gospels to Deacon Dickinson and said “Receive the Gospel of Christ, whose herald you have become. Believe what you read, teach what you believe, and practice what you teach.”
Priests-elect Doucette and Nguyen received the Prayer of Supplication and the Laying on of Hands as the choir led the congregation in the stirring song to the Holy Spirit, “Veni Sancte Spiritus.” One by one, Bishop Zinkula and the other priests laid hands on the two clergymen and prayed for them. Deacon David Montgomery, one of three Masters of Ceremony, offered a hand to some of the diocese’s oldest priests as they carefully climbed the steps to the altar afterwards.
In the Prayer of Ordination that followed, Bishop Zinkula asked that the Spirit of holiness be renewed deep within the two men called to the dignity of the priesthood. Then, Father Ken Kuntz assisted with vesting Father Doucette with stole and chasuble and Father Quan Nguyen assisted with vesting Father Nguyen. Hugs followed their vesting as well.
Bishop Zinkula anointed the new priests with the sacred Chrism and then handed them the bread and wine, saying: “Receive the oblation of the holy people, to be offered to God. Understand what you do, imitate what you celebrate, and conform your life to the mystery of the Lord’s Cross.”
The bishop shared the sign of peace with the newly ordained, then the deacons exchanged the sign of peace with their brother deacons and the new priests shared the sign of peace with their brother priests. Fathers Doucette and Nguyen and Deacon Dickinson joined the bishop at the altar for Liturgy of the Eucharist.
At the altar, concelebrating with Bishop Zinkula, Father Nguyen said he thought to himself, “From now on, I can consecrate the host.” During the Litany of the Saints, “I was able to ask the angels and the saints to intercede for me and to be with me in my priesthood.” Throughout the Mass, he felt “peace, calm and excitement.”
“The Laying on of Hands was a highlight for me,” Father Doucette said. The ritual gave him the sense of “the broader presbyterate of the diocese and fraternity with the rest of my brother priests.” It also gave him a deeper awareness of being more closely configured to Christ.
Deacon Dickinson described being “completely overwhelmed by the Holy Spirit’s presence in the entirety of this liturgy today.” He was deeply moved by “all of the people who have come to support me, so many people I haven’t seen in years.” The new deacon became a little teary-eyed thinking about his journey toward a vocation to the priesthood. “I think I felt God tugging in that direction” but resisted. “I’ve spent the last five years wrestling with God.” However, “coming into today was truly a blessing and leading up to today was peace-filled.”
“He’s prepared for this,” Deacon Dickinson’s mother, Teri, said after Mass. “He’s really excited. I can see it on his face,” added Teri, who could be seen wiping tears of joy from her eyes during the liturgy. “I cry at everything,” she laughed.
Father Doucette’s dad, Bill Doucette, said he and his family were feeling full of joy after witnessing the newly ordained clergymen commit to serving the Lord. So many people have been a part of the journey supporting Father Doucette’s vocation to the priesthood, Bill said. Many of them were present at the Mass. “We’re feeling uplifted by the community,” he added. “It’s humbling, joyful, I’m feeling blessed,” his wife, Jane, said as she watched her son give his first blessing after Mass to his aunt Jude Stevenson.
Greta Doucette, Father Doucette’s sister, said, “I’m excited to celebrate with him and with family and with the whole diocese.”