This month of June has already brought several moments of great blessing for me. On the first Saturday of the month, I was blessed to ordain Mr. Martin Smay as a deacon. With hope and the help of grace, he will be ordained a priest for the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston in June of next year after completing his studies for the priesthood at the North American College in Rome.
The Mass of Ordination was a joyful and spiritual experience held here at our Cathedral of St. Joseph in Wheeling. Deacon Martin has a large extended family, who gathered around him for this celebration, together with many visitors, friends, parishioners, as well as fellow students from throughout his life at Wheeling Central Catholic High School, West Virginia University, and Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg and North American College. At one point during the reception following the Mass, I watched as Deacon Martin and his fellow alumni from WVU took a photo together. It was wonderful to see so many young people who have helped and supported each other in their faith. Indeed, the whole day was a joyful and beautiful time with so many good people praying and celebrating together. I am so grateful to the many people who worked so hard to make this ordination a joyful and enjoyable experience.
The evening before the Ordination, I hosted a dinner for our permanent deacons and their wives. This evening turned out to be a beautiful preparation for the Ordination as I was able to hear these deacons talk about their lives and their ministry within our diocesan Church. Before coming to Wheeling-Charleston as Bishop, my own experience of deacons was primarily their service at the Mass and other Liturgies. At the National Shrine, I witnessed the great dedication and beautiful service of these men who dedicated themselves as deacons: the wonderful attention they gave to proclaiming the Gospel and the great reverence and care that they took with the preparation of the Altar and with the handling of the Blessed Sacrament and distribution of the Precious Blood. They were a great model to me of what it meant to be a deacon.
When I came here as your Bishop, I experienced the other aspect of the diaconate: the beautiful ministry of charitable service to those in need. In our Diocese, we have deacons in ministry to the poor, deacons who provide a very important ministry to the imprisoned and to the homebound, deacons who visit the sick and work with groups in our parishes, and a deacon who gives his life to caring for our beloved dead and for those grieving their loss. These deacons are responding to the reading from The Acts of the Apostles which shows us that the Church has always been aware of her responsibility to both liturgical prayer and to serving the temporal needs of the community. The deacon, in fact, is an important bridge between the Liturgy and the service of the poor. The deacon who serves at the altar and serves the poor of the community has the opportunity to be a visible sign of the coherence of Christian life. I am grateful to those permanent deacons for reminding me of this important reality as I approached the Ordination of Deacon Martin Smay.
On Sunday, I was fortunate to have a Confirmation at Sacred Heart of Mary Parish in Weirton, while Msgr. Frederick Annie assisted me by taking other celebrations of the Sacrament of Confirmation in the Diocese. I know Msgr. Annie has enjoyed these celebrations and I am thankful for his help in meeting the demands of a very busy schedule. These parish celebrations are great occasions for our good and kind people who truly work hard at every level of preparation so that those who are participating can enjoy a deep moment of faith while receiving the Holy Spirit.
Now, we make our way into the beauty of summer. I pray that this summer may be a time of rejuvenation for you, enjoying the warmth of the sun and the beauty of God’s creation which surrounds us in this Mountain State.