By JOANNE FOX
In a departure from a traditional homily, Bishop Walker Nickless informed those gathered for the transitional deacon ordination what he was not going to preach on.
“I took the three seminarians to lunch and I told them I would not talk about the oldest one in the group,” the bishop said, referring to 56-year-old Tim Pick.
“I also told them I would not talk about a well-known meteorologist’s background,” Bishop Nickless continued about Ross Caniglia’s weather casting at a Sioux City television station.
“And I told them I would not talk about the broken leg one of them suffered during a friendly soccer game,” the bishop concluded, looking right at Pedro Pablo.
Instead the bishop focused on the celebration of the “choice” all three had made in saying yes to pursuing the priesthood.
The ordination of three men to the transitional diaconate – the largest class in almost three decades – took place June 2 at Cathedral of the Epiphany.
Bishop Nickless was the ordaining prelate at the bilingual Ritual Mass for the Conferral of Holy Orders. Present for the ordination were seminarians serving as acolytes, deacons, priests and representatives from St. Meinrad (Ind.) Seminary and St. John Vianney Seminary of Denver. Deacons of the Mass were Jorge Fernandez and David Lopez; master of ceremonies was Father Brent Lingle. The Knights of Columbus provided an honor guard for the ceremony. Music was under the direction of Matthew Geerlings with vocals by the Cathedral of the Epiphany choir. Deacon Caniglia served as deacon of the Eucharist, following his ordination.
In his welcoming remarks, Bishop Nickless pointed out that “today was a major step” in the seminarians’ journey to ordination to the priesthood.
“Last night I lost power at my house,” the bishop noted, referring to the severe thunderstorms that made their way through Siouxland. “Perhaps, it was God’s way of telling us something special was going to happen today.”
Following the Liturgy of the Word, Father Shane Deman, director of vocations, presented the candidates for holy orders. He told the bishop that the three men had been found worthy for ordination. The people responded, “Thanks be to God” and the congregation showed its support in applause.
In continuing with his theme of “choice,” Bishop Nickless paraphrased the words in the first reading from Jeremiah, “It was not you who choose me; it was I who chose you.”
“They (the seminarians) may have thought they took the initiative in choosing their vocation, but God is the true initiator,” he said. “We respond in faith and trust as to what God wants to have us accomplish.”
Bishop Nickless pointed out the two great tasks the deacons faced: embracing the word of God and being close to the Eucharist. However, the bishop assured the deacons they were not alone in the ministry they were about to embrace.
“You will be surrounded by deacons, priests and others who will all pray for you every day,” he emphasized.
The three men were called forward, as a group, to stand before the bishop and promise to fulfill the ministry of deacon. After each one approached the bishop, knelt and professed his obedience, the candidates prostrated themselves before the altar, while the choir and congregation sang the litany of the saints.
Then, each came forward individually for ordination by the laying on of hands by Bishop Nickless, followed by the prayer of consecration.
The newly-ordained were next vested in the stoles and dalmatics. Then, each approached the bishop, who placed the Book of Gospels in their hands saying, “Receive the Gospel of Christ, whose herald you have become. Believe what you read, teach what you believe and practice what you teach.”
Following the service, Cathedral of the Epiphany hosted a luncheon in the lower level of the church.
All three men found joy and emotion in the litany of supplication.
“When I was prostrate and hearing the prayers of the people, it just resonated with me,” Caniglia said. “But I think what really moved me was the opening hymn (All Creatures of Our God and King), which said to me how much God loves me and I need to give that love away.”
Pablo was also impressed with the opening hymn.
“I listened as I walked in and I thought, ‘This is it!’” he said, grinning from ear-to-ear. “But when the bishop lay his hands on my head and prayed the prayer of ordination – that was the moment for me.”
Pick took a few seconds to gain his composure before reflecting on the Mass and ordination.
“It took a lot not to tear up when the litany of supplication began,” he admitted. “Hearing all of the saints’ names and the congregation asking for prayers, it just said to me, “We are all there for you.’”
Rite of Candidacy
The evening before the ordination, adoration with solemn vespers and benediction were part of the Rite of Candidacy for seminarian Zach Jones.
Bishop Nickless told the congregation the call of the Lord must be heard and understood when revealed daily “to the wise and the will of God.”
The bishop called Jones forward and asked, “Do you resolve to complete your preparation so that in due time through holy orders, you will be prepared to assume ministry within the church?”
Jones responded, “I do.”
Bishop Nickless concluded the service praying, “Lord, graciously bless him that he may persevere in his vocation, and that in holding fast with undivided charity to Christ the Priest, he may be worthy to take up the apostolic mission.”
After completion of their seminary formation and studies, Deacons Caniglia, Pablo and Pick will be ordained to the priesthood on June 1, 2019, at the Cathedral of the Epiphany.