‘A minister of charity and a servant of love’: Seminarian Matthew Lyons ordained to the transitional diaconate

Matthew Lyons (right) with his parents, Thomas and Nancy, and sister, Monica (left) at the start of his Transitional Diaconate Ordination Mass at St. Joseph's in Endicott May 28. (Sun photo | Chuck Haupt)

By Katherine Long, Editor

ENDICOTT — In the parish where, as a child, he first heard the call to the priesthood, diocesan seminarian Matthew Lyons was ordained to the transitional diaconate May 28.

St. Joseph Church was full of family, friends, clergy, and parishioners Saturday as they gathered to witness the rite that promoted Lyons to the Order of Deacon and brought him a step closer to his anticipated ordination to the priesthood next year.

Bishop Robert J. Cunningham celebrated the Mass, joined by Auxiliary Bishop Thomas J. Costello, clergy, religious, and seminarians.

Following the gospel reading proclaimed by Deacon Kenneth Kirkman, who will be ordained a priest of the diocese June 4, Deacon Peter Tassini, also to be ordained June 4, called Lyons forward. Father Thomas Servatius, diocesan director of seminarian formation, presented Lyons to Bishop Cunningham as a worthy candidate. Bishop Cunningham then elected Lyons for ordination to the diaconate, which those gathered affirmed with enthusiastic applause.

In his homily, Bishop Cunningham noted that the readings heard at the celebration spoke of election and service.

“Christ’s invitation to service has been mysteriously felt by Matthew,” he said. “In his years of preparation, he has come to a better knowledge of the Lord and his message. Having responded freely to the Lord’s call, we are about to consecrate him for the service of the word, of the liturgy, and of charity. As we witness his generous response, may all of us be moved to serve one another in love and thus fulfill our Lord’s command.”

Speaking directly to Lyons, Bishop Cunningham told him to consider carefully the role he will have in building up the Body of Christ.

“As a servant of the word, you are to share with all the joy of the gospel, the message of hope and salvation which has been handed down to us in sacred scriptures and the tradition of the Church,” he said. “You must fulfill this sacred function not only by preaching the word, but especially by the witness of your life, which manifests gospel values.”

“As a minister of the liturgy, you are to assist the bishop and his priests in the service of the altar,” the bishop continued.

“As you lead God’s people in prayer, may your service strengthen that union which has God’s spirit as its origin and peace as its binding force. May you find in the liturgical aspect of your ministry a source of grace supporting all other facets of your life,” he said.

“Most especially,” Bishop Cunningham said, “you are called to be a minister of charity and a servant of love.” During this Year of Mercy, the corporal and spiritual works of mercy provide a plan, he noted: “Whatever you do on behalf of others, whether caring for the sick and elderly, clothing the naked, visiting prisoners, teaching the ignorant, do it always as the apostle Paul tells us: with perfect humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another lovingly.”

“You will exercise your ministry committed to the celibate state,” the bishop said. “Know that celibacy is both a sign of pastoral charity and an inspiration to it, as well as a source of spiritual fruitfulness for the world.” He reminded Lyons to be attentive to the teachings of Pope Francis, mindful of his promise of obedience and respect to his bishop, and of his bond to the diocesan family of God.

“Finally, Matthew my son, remember that you did not choose Christ — it is Christ who has mysteriously chosen you and who has been generous in bestowing special graces…. As you strive to live a life worthy of the calling you have received, be comforted by the fact that you are never alone because one God and Father of all is over all, works through all, and is in all,” Bishop Cunningham said.

Before the bishop, Lyons declared his intention to undertake the office of deacon and promised respect and obedience to the bishop and his successors. Lyons then prostrated himself as the assembly sang the Litany of Supplication.

As Lyons knelt before him, Bishop Cunningham silently placed his hands on Lyons’ head, then offered the Prayer of Ordination.

Father Michael Ackerman, a seminary classmate of Lyons’ from the Diocese of Pittsburgh, and Father Christopher Seibt, who also attended Theological College with Lyons as a diocesan seminarian, vested Lyons in a stole and dalmatic, the vestments of a deacon. Bishop Cunningham presented Lyons with the Book of the Gospels and then offered him the fraternal kiss of peace.

After the celebration, Deacon Lyons said it was hard to describe how he felt, but that the most memorable part of the rite came as he knelt for the Prayer of Ordination. Hearing those words, he said, “It hit me at that point — I’m a deacon now!”

Deacon Lyons will spend his summer serving at Holy Cross Church in DeWitt.

See more photos from the ordination below. All photos by Chuck Haupt for the Sun.

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