Venice | A group of eight men were instituted as Acolytes during a June 8 Mass at Epiphany Cathedral in Venice as friends and family looked on. For seven of the men, this is the next major step in their journey to become Permanent Deacons. For the eighth man, it is the culmination of a great goal to serve the Church.
Bishop Frank J. Dewane instituted Jeffrey Ball, Enrique (Rick) Castro, Ramiro Hernandez, Jack W. Milholland Jr., Roberto Pagán, Vern W. Smith, and Dr. William Soscia, of the Diaconate Formation Program for the Diocese of Venice as Acolytes. The Acolyte has a special role in the Church as it is now their responsibility to assist priests and Deacons in carrying out their ministry; this is most commonly done through assisting the priest during Mass.
This was a crucial hurdle before these men are ordained as Permanent Deacons in 2020. In addition, Albert Howes, one of the Head Sacristans at Epiphany Cathedral, was also instituted as an Acolyte, but Howes is not seeking ordination as a Deacon and will permanently remain as an Acolyte.
During the institution, the men were called forward for presentation to Bishop Dewane by Deacon William Ladroga, Director of Formation for the Permanent Diaconate. Individually, Bishop Dewane presented each new Acolyte the paten with bread. This bread was not consecrated at the time, but the bread and paten symbolize the service that the Acolyte can now provide for the Church, in particular during the Mass.
Bishop Dewane told the men that by becoming Acolytes they are more bound to the flesh and blood of Jesus Christ and Holy Mother Church.
“Strive to live your life more fully in the Lord’s sacrifice,” he continued. “Place the presence of God at the forefront of your life so as to understand who you are and who you are becoming.”
Bishop Dewane said each man has been given talents, gifts and inspiration and they need to focus those on their new role in the service to the Lord. He also thanked the men for the decision they have made to commit to their faith.
The Bishop went on to recognize the wives and families of the diaconate candidates for their commitment and support during the formation process.
The Acolytes come from across the Diocese: Ball of Ave Maria Parish, Ave Maria;
Castro of St. Cecilia Parish, Fort Myers; Hernandez of St. Michael Parish, Wauchula; Milholland Jr. of Our Lady of the Angels Parish, Lakewood Ranch; Pagán of Jesus the Worker Parish, Fort Myers; Smith of St. Martha Parish, Sarasota; and Soscia of St. Joseph Parish, Bradenton.
Hernandez said he was extremely excited to reach this important milestone on his path to becoming a permanent Deacon. “This is wonderful. I was nervous at first but now I am very happy.”
This group will be entering their fifth and final year of studies in the Diaconate Formation Program in September, with ordination to the Permanent Diaconate anticipated sometime in 2020.
During the process to become a permanent Deacon, they receive training in theology, canon law and pastoral ministry. They were previously admitted as candidates when they publicly declared their intention to become Permanent Deacons and the Bishop accepted, and then he instituted them as lectors.
For Howes, being instituted as an Acolyte allows him to better serve the priests and Deacons at the Cathedral during the celebration of the Mass. Although he will not become a Deacon, Howes took part in the institution process requiring a life-long commitment to a ministry in service to the Church.