By Kiply Lukan Yaworski, Catholic Saskatoon News
Another step on a journey of discernment and formation was celebrated on the Vigil of the Solemnity of St. Peter and St. Paul, June 28, 2023 at St. Mary Parish in Saskatoon, as three candidates for the permanent diaconate and a diocesan seminarian were instituted to the ministry of acolyte.
Bishop Mark Hagemoen presided at the institution of acolyte celebration for permanent diaconate candidates Nicholas Blom, Ryan LeBlanc and Paul Wheeler, and for diocesan seminarian Luke Van Tam Tran.
“Acolyte” derives from a Greek term, akolouthos, meaning “attendant” or “server.” In the Roman Catholic Church, a person is installed in the ministry of acolyte in order to assist the deacon and the priest in liturgical celebrations, especially the Eucharistic liturgy.
Candidates for diaconate and for priesthood must receive the ministry of acolyte, and exercise it for some time, before receiving holy orders.
The General Instruction of the Roman Missal states: “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, if necessary, to distribute the Eucharist to the faithful as an extraordinary minister.” (GIRM 98)
It is appropriate that the institution of the four new acolytes was celebrated at St. Mary Parish in Saskatoon, noted St. Mary pastor Fr. Kevin McGee, Vicar General for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon, who has also been journeying with those discerning ordination as permanent deacons in the diocese. Both Nicholas Blom and Paul Wheeler are St. Mary parishioners, and Ryan LeBlanc serves as teacher-chaplain at E.D. Feehan High School, which is a Catholic school served by St. Mary Parish. As well, diocesan seminarian Luke Van Tam Tran has just started a pastoral internship year at St. Mary Parish.
In his homily, Bishop Mark Hagemoen reflected on the role of acolyte. He noted that some may have heard more about the ministry of acolyte in January 2021, when Pope Francis announced a change in canon law to make the ministries of both lector and acolyte permanent in the life of the church, as well as officially opening both ministries to both men and women.
Since that announcement, the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) has been developing a theological and liturgical treatise about the ministry of acolyte, as a resource to making this a permanent ministry in the life of the Church, added Hagemoen.
However, the institution of these particular four candidates as acolytes is undertaken in the context of their “journey of ordination to the clerical status in the life of the Church; to diaconate and to priesthood,” he noted.
“The call and discernment for ministry in the Church occurs at the intersection of several components – the Church’s need, personal attributes and gifts, a desire to consecrate oneself to God through service to God’s Church and ministry, a call to ministry by the Church,” Hagemoen said, noting that the ministry is not merely about one’s own journey and giftedness, but is instituted within a discernment by the wider Church.
“The ministry of the acolyte is connected to the celebration of the Holy Eucharist. It is a part of the Church’s mission to the body of Christ,” he added. “The Eucharist is the theological foundation of the Church’s mission for the acolyte, for the acolyte serves not only the sacrament of the altar, but also the sacrament of the ecclesial body of Christ. We gather for the Church’s source and summit of Holy Communion, so that we may meet Jesus, receive Jesus, and become what we receive and then go forth to be for others what we have received.”
Citing a resource reflection on the ministry of acolyte, the bishop continued: “The spirituality of the acolyte is shaped by his or her service on behalf of the liturgical prayer of the community. It is the Eucharist in the broadest sense. The acolyte strives to be moulded more perfectly in the likeness of the Lord’s sacrifice, in giving his body and his blood for us and for our salvation. Thus a Eucharistic spirituality is for others. As the acolyte offers himself daily to God as a spiritual sacrifice, acceptable to him through Jesus Christ, he is reminded to be obedient to the Great Commandment – Love one another as I have loved you – by showing sincere love for Christ’s mystical body, for all God’s holy people, especially the weak and the sick. In doing this, the acolyte strives to make his life worthy of the service at the table of the Lord and of his Church. The acolyte enters more deeply into the Eucharistic mystery, more deeply into the life of the Eucharistic community as he shares the One Bread with brothers and sisters, he forms one body with them, sharing the joys and hope, as well as their grief and much anguish. Acolytes share a deep solidarity with the people of God because theirs is a community nourished by the Body of Christ, united in Christ and animated by the Holy Spirit in the pilgrimage from this life to the Father’s kingdom.”
The ministry is not about function first, but about a vocational call, said the bishop, “a relationship with the life and ministry and mission of Jesus Christ and his Church.” In terms of function, an acolyte is appointed to aid the deacon or priest in service of the altar and at the celebration of Mass. Other possible functions of the acolyte, when needed: distribution of communion, exposition and repose of the Blessed Sacrament, instruction of others to assist in liturgical celebrations, distribution of communion to the sick, and to celebrate or preside over Liturgy of the Word with distribution of communion when Mass is not available.
Institution to the ministry of acolyte followed the homily.
Video of Bishop Mark Hagemoen homily:
Kiply Lukan Yaworski is the communications coordinator for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon – rcdos.ca