Six years ago this past Sunday (June 9th) a historic event in the history of the Diocese of Knoxville took place, one so historic that the men who participated in it directly remember the date each year. It was the day the first class of permanent deacons in the history of the Diocese of Knoxville was ordained by then-Bishop (now Archbishop) Joseph E. Kurtz. There were deacons serving in the diocese prior to that time, some were ordained for the Diocese of Nashville, from which this diocese was born, and some came from other places. The 2007 class was the first class of home-grown deacons that came from our diocese, a tremendous sign of growth.
The men of this class have all gone on to be active and vital to our diocese. Two of them, Deacon Tim Elliot and Deacon Joe Stackhouse, are helping to direct my own formation and that of the other Aspirants in our class. A commenter to my personal blog pointed out that Deacon David Lucheon is the Chief Finance Officer for the Diocese. Deacon Bob Smearing was serving at St. Patrick in Morristown, which is my parish, until he moved to Knoxville and now ministers to the sick and homebound of St. Albert the Great. Deacon Jim Prosak is at Holy Trinity, and he is acting as my mentor, he preaches at least once a month and coordinates that parish’s RCIA program. Deacon Pat Murphy-Racey is also at St. Albert, and you can find him doing a great deal of the photography and video work for diocesan events like the Chrism Mass, ordination masses, and confirmations. The deacons from the 2007 class are active all over the diocese in a myriad of ways. Nearly all of them serve at the altar. Many are involved in hospital chaplaincy, prison ministry, catechesis, visitation to the sick, ministry to the homeless and to other marginalized people, and a whole host of other ministries, including communications in various forms and even working for the diocese directly.
We are indebted to the previous class because members of that class are helping in various ways to help form those of us who are a part of the current class of Aspirants, of which this writer is one. The deacons of 2007 set the standard by which we can be sure that our own class will be measured. It is my prayer that our own class will carry on this tradition that these men began. I do not yet know what my own ministry will be for certain, since we aren’t halfway through the process (realistiically speaking, I can’t tell you that I will be a deacon-that’s up to the bishop on the advise of our formators Deacon Tim Elliott, Deacon Jim Lawson, and Deacon Joe Stackhouse as much as it is up to me), but whatever it is, I want to do it for the Glory of God.
As the members of that Class of 2007 remember their ordination anniversaries this week, let us thank God for each of them and the ministries and gifts that God has given and is giving our local Church through their hands.