By Jay Nies
God’s love changes everything.
All who come to believe in Jesus and accept Him with all their whole heart are transformed by God’s love, which radically alters the course of their lives.
Christ’s followers, in turn, help transform the world around them.
“Love, specifically sacrificial love, has the power to reshape who we are,” Bishop W. Shawn McKnight said before instituting 18 men as acolytes for the Jefferson City diocese.
He did so during Mass on Saturday evening, March 10, in the Cathedral of St. Joseph.
The new acolytes include: Derek Long, a member of Holy Spirit parish in Centralia; Jon Bequette, a member of Sacred Heart in Columbia; John Watkins, a member of Holy Family parish in Hannibal; Mike Berendzen and William Seibert, members of Immaculate Conception parish in Jefferson City; Chis Korte, a member of Mary Immaculate parish in Kirksville; Pedro Almazan, Jaime Medina, J. Amparo Orozco, Luis Reyes and Santos Rubio, members of St. Peter parish in Marshall; Jeronimo Chinchilla and Edwin Pacheco, members of St. Mary parish in Milan; Chris Sago and Bob Schowengerdt, members of St. Pius X parish in Moberly; Brad Jones, a member of St. Martin parish in St. Martins; Luke Mahsman, a member of St. Joseph parish in Palmyra; and Nestor Montenegro, a member of St. Patrick parish in Sedalia.
The ministry of acolyte is an important step in the preparation of these men from parishes throughout the diocese for becoming permanent deacons.
“For you who have been presented as candidates for acolyte, you are here because Christ has changed the course of your lives as you journey to the sacrament of holy orders,” Bishop McKnight told them.
Blessed Pope Paul VI, in his 1972 apostolic letter “Ministeria quaedam” (“Certain Ministries”), prescribed that men preparing for the sacrament of holy orders as priests or permanent deacons should serve as lectors and acolytes for a time during their formation “in order to be better disposed for the future service of the word and of the altar.”
“The acolyte,” Blessed Pope Paul wrote, “is appointed to aid the deacon and to minister to the priest. It is therefore his duty to attend to the service of the altar and to assist the deacon and the priest in liturgical celebrations, especially in the celebration of Mass; he is also to distribute Holy Communion as a permanently-instituted Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion.”
Therefore, Bishop McKnight noted, “one who ministers at the altar should serve as a reminder of the connection between what we do at the altar and what we do in our worship of daily life.”
This is why the acolyte also serves as an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion, the sacrament of Christ, especially in the form of Viaticum for the dying.
“As acolytes, you are also called to be ministers of charity, recognizing your obligation to bring the love of God to all who are in need,” Bishop McKnight stated. “You are called not to step over or avoid, but to meet, to encounter the presence of Christ in the poor.”
He instructed them to “live more fully by the Lord’s Sacrifice and to be molded more perfectly in His likeness.”
“Be obedient to the commandment the Lord gave to His Apostles at the Last Supper: ‘LOVE one another as I have loved you,’” he told them.
Bishop McKnight noted that the acolytes were instituted at a Saturday evening Mass attended by many people.
“It’s good to have people representing the Church, representing this diocese, for whom these men shall serve, to be present with us at this sacred celebration,” he said.
Also present were most of the active permanent deacons of the diocese, who with the new acolytes were participating in the diocese’s March 10-11 deacons’ retreat.
Bishop McKnight prayed over the 18, asking God to accept them as acolytes in His Church.
“Grant that they may be faithful in the service of Your altar,” the bishop prayed. “In giving to others the bread of life, may they grow always in faith and love, and so build up Your Church, through Christ our Lord.”
To each who knelt before him, the bishop ceremonially presented a paten of bread for the Mass, saying, “Take this vessel with bread for the celebration of the Eucharist. Make your life worthy of your service at the table of the Lord and of His Church.”
The new acolytes began with a year of formal discernment and have been in formation for two years.
They hope to be ordained deacons in 2019.