This Sunday, 25 March 2018, is Palm Sunday. But 28 years ago, it was the Fourth Sunday of Lent (Laetare Sunday) — and on that date I was ordained a deacon of the Catholic Church in the Archdiocese of Washington, DC by our Cardinal-Archbishop, James A. Hickey.
At that time I was a Commander in the United States Navy, under orders to report to the US Naval Security Group Activity, Hanza, Okinawa, Japan as Executive Officer. For the previous three years, while assigned to the National Security Agency, I had participated in the deacon formation program of the Archdiocese of Washington, DC. When my orders to Okinawa arrived, I contacted Deacon Tom Knestout, our deacon director, and then-Father Bill Lori, priest-secretary to Cardinal James Hickey (and now the Archbishop of Baltimore). Father Lori, God bless him, jumped to the meat of the issue, “Shall we ask the Cardinal to ordain you early, before you leave?” Within 10 minutes, the Cardinal had approved the request and the date was set.
It seems unbelievable that this time in ordained ministry has passed so quickly, and with countless blessings. To have been so privileged to serve in so many ways, in so many places, and to walk with people in their joys and sorrows — and the baptisms! (I have to mention the baptisms. To see families, large and small, approaching the font, is an inexpressible joy.) Twenty-eight years ago, I could not have imagined the journey to come; I suppose we can all say that about our lives!
As we enter into this holiest of seasons I simply want to thank God for the great grace of serving as a deacon of the church. And of course, no family man can serve in this way without the deepest love and gratitude for his family and for the many challenges (along with the blessings) they have faced on this journey.
If past is prologue, the next 28 years should be very interesting! Deo gratias!
Deacon Bill is a deacon of the Archdiocese of Washington, DC, but currently is Executive Professor of Theology at Santa Clara University and serves as Director of Faith Formation, Diaconate, and Pastoral Planning for the Diocese of Monterey. A retired Navy Commander, Bill also served as Executive Director of the Secretariat for the Diaconate at the United States Conference of Catholics Bishops. He is the deacon of St. Joseph Parish, Spreckels, California.