Following the Church’s tradition of many centuries, candidates for Holy Orders are instituted into the ministry of Acolyte as they continue their studies toward ordination. The General Instruction of the Roman Missal indicates “the acolyte is instituted for service at the altar and to assist the priest and deacon. It is his place principally to prepare the altar and the sacred vessels and, . . . to distribute the Eucharist to the faithful as an extraordinary minister. In the ministry of the altar, the acolyte has his own proper functions . . . which he must carry out in person.”
In appointing the candidates as Acolytes on Dec. 2 during the Vigil Mass of the First Sunday of Advent, Bishop Robert J. Baker, S.T.D., charged them “to live more fully by the Lord’s sacrifice and to be molded more perfectly in its likeness. . . . In performing your ministry bear in mind that, as you share one bread with your brothers and sisters, so you form one body with them. Show a sincere love for God’s holy people, and especially for the weak and the sick.” In concluding the rite, the bishop presented each candidate with the ciborium of hosts to be consecrated at the Mass, charging them to: “Make your life worthy of your service at the table of the Lord and of His Church.”
Concelebrating the Mass with Bishop Baker at Sacred Heart of Jesus Church in Cullman were Father Patrick Egan, O.S.B., Father John O’Connell, O.S.B., and Father Jose Luis. Assisting the bishop were Deacons Michael P. Sudnik, Peter C. Nassetta, Douglass C. Moorer, Kenneth M. Kreps, John C. Cooper, and Maronite Subdeacon James M. Wehby. Deacon J. S. Anzalone, Director of Diaconate Formation, served as Master of Ceremony. Present as well were the wives of the candidates, who participate in formation in support of their husbands, and the wives of the formation team leaders.
Those instituted as Acolytes included: John J. Barisa (St. Joseph in Huntsville), James L. Barrett (Resurrection in Clanton), Gregory J. Beam (St. Paul in Athens), Rufus N. Biggs, Sr. (Our Lady Queen of the Universe in Birmingham), Philip F. Boettcher (St. Mark in Birmingham), Kevin M. Brady (St. John the Baptist in Madison), Charles L. Butler (St. Paul in Athens), Robert M. Catanach (Resurrection in Moulton), George R. DiGiorgio (St. Peter the Apostle in Hoover), Lee G. Heckman, Jr. (Holy Spirit in Huntsville), David M. Hicks (St. Thomas the Apostle in Montevallo), Stephen J. Kirkpatrick (St. Michael in St. Florian), Matthew J. S. Koh (Holy Spirit in Huntsville), Lawrence R. Magner, Jr. (St. Francis in Tuscaloosa), Robert A. McCormick (St. James in Gadsden), Jeffrey M. Montgomery (Most Merciful Jesus in Madison), Antonio Moreno (Holy Spirit in Huntsville), Antolin Padron (Most Merciful Jesus in Madison), Jacky Rodgers (St. Mary in Fairfield), George M. Schaeffers, Jr. (Sacred Heart in Cullman), Louis J. Scironi (Annunciation of the Lord in Decatur), Craig R. Smith (Sacred Heart in Cullman), Peter V. Smith (St. Mary in Fairfield), and Richard E. Tuggle (Most Merciful Jesus in Madison).
The current formation class began in 2014 with classroom instruction and annual scrutinies beginning in 2015. These candidates were previously instituted as Lectors in 2016 and have exercised that ministry in distinctive ways throughout this year as their 2017 studies included sacramental and moral theology, prayer, adult catechetical formation, and ministerial practicums. Each candidate will exercise the ministry of acolyte under the supervision of the pastor during Mass and on other liturgical occasions at the local parish throughout 2018 in anticipation of formal admission to candidacy and ordination to the permanent diaconate.
The permanent diaconate for-mation curriculum during 2018 will emphasize homiletics, diaconate spirituality, Church history, canon law, and missionary discipleship, including a practicum in the deacon’s ministry of charity. Pastoral supervision and spiritual direction of the candidates is provided by priests of the diocese. The Mass of Ordination for this class is scheduled to be celebrated on Dec. 1, 2018, at the Cathedral of St. Paul.