Janna Reynolds, The Catholic Virginian

Nearly 200 people were in attendance at the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart, Richmond, on Saturday, May 18, to see Bishop Barry C. Knestout ordain Anthony Ferguson to the transitional diaconate for the Diocese of Richmond.

Anthony Ferguson stands with his parents, Kathy and Tom, at the Mass during which he was ordained to the diaconate, Saturday, May 18, at the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart, Richmond. (Photo/Michael Mickle)

Deacon Ferguson is on track to be ordained to the priesthood in spring 2020.

In his homily, Bishop Knestout spoke of the first reading in which Jeremiah is called by God to speak his word. When the prophet says he does not know how to fulfill God’s call, God grants him the power to do so.

“Yet, despite that sense of inadequacy and fear about his circumstances, his readiness, grace is granted to him to fulfill his calling. Jeremiah is not left alone or abandoned,” the bishop said. “God touches his mouth, a gesture of ordination, like the laying on of hands, that grants him the grace and power he needs to be able to carry out his mission.”  

The second reading from the Acts of the Apostles was the account of Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch traveling and reading the Scriptures. Philip was full of confidence from his encounter with God that marked him as one of the first deacons. The Ethiopian, though open to the Spirit, was aware of his shortcomings with preaching.

“The Ethiopian eunuch receives the help of Deacon Philip who himself relies upon and is filled with the Holy Spirit, ready at a moment’s notice to respond to God’s call to preach and teach,” Bishop Knestout said. 

The bishop drew a parallel between the readings and the candidate’s “personal limits and human frailty” when taking on diaconal ministry, noting that ordination to the diaconate makes the elect “an icon of charity, of God’s sacrificial love for each of us in the Paschal Mystery of his son, our Lord Jesus Christ.”

He then explained what the Order of Deacons means in the eyes of the Church.

Through the ordination rite, the elect is strengthened by the Holy Spirit and becomes a servant of God to help the bishop and priests of the diocese “in the ministry of the word, of the altar and of charity.”

Among the duties the newly-ordained deacon will perform are proclaiming the Gospel, preparing the sacrifice and distributing the body and blood of Jesus to the faithful. He can also baptize, bless marriages, conduct funeral rites and instruct the faithful in the doctrine of the Church.

“With the help of God, he is to go about all these duties in such a way that you (the faithful) will recognize him as a disciple who came not to be served, but to serve,” Bishop Knestout said. 

The bishop then spoke directly to Deacon Ferguson.

“Since, by your own free choice, you present yourself for the Order of Diaconate, you should be a man of good reputation, filled with wisdom and the Holy Spirit, as were those once chosen by the Apostles for the ministry of charity,” said Bishop Knestout.

The bishop urged him to always act chastely with an undivided heart, as the ordination rite makes him both a hearer and minister of the Gospel. 

“Hold the mystery of faith with a clear conscience. Express by your actions the Word of God which your lips proclaim, so that the Christian people, brought to life by the Spirit, may be a pure offering accepted by God,” said the bishop. “Then on the last day, when you go out to meet the Lord, you will be able to hear him say, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of your Lord.’”