When Donald Morris is ordained as a transitional deacon on May 1, he will enter the final year of formation before ordination to the priesthood.
But more importantly, the transitional diaconate is Morris’ entry into the clerical state, meaning he becomes a member of the clergy. With that comes three promises that are made for the first time: obedience to the bishop, celibacy for the sake of God’s Kingdom, and an obligation to pray daily the Liturgy of the Hours.
“There’s a certain way in which you start praying (The Liturgy of the Hours) as a deacon,” said Morris, who has discerned a priestly vocation since childhood. “You’re newly configured to Christ, so you’re praying with Christ for the Church.”
As a transitional deacon, Morris will spend more time on weekends at the parish to which he will be assigned. He will be given faculties to preach, so writing homilies during the week will become a new part of his routine. Transitional deacons also become more involved in sacramental-related activities, including marriage prep, RCIA formation, burials and baptisms.
Ultimately, a transitional deacon is there to assist the priest in serving the people. “In the Acts of the Apostles, they chose seven reputable men to assist the priest, so the priest could be more free for the ministry of the Word and the Eucharist,” Morris said. “The ministry of the deacon is really ordered toward the service of the priest — and ultimately the bishop — that is manifested at Mass in a very visible way. The deacon serves the priest so as to free him to be reverent and prayerful and focusing on the mysteries” rather than the practical aspects of the Mass.
First Mass preaching as a transitional deacon: 11 a.m. Sunday, May 2, at St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Oakville
Family: Parents, Larry and Mary Ann Morris, and the late Madonna Morris; sisters, Renee Hill and Maya Morris
Home parish: St. Francis of Assisi
Education: St. Gabriel the Archangel (Kindergarten-4th grade); St. Katharine Drexel (5th-8th grade); Northwest High School; Rockhurst University (2 years).
The call: The seeds of my vocation were first planted by Bishop Robert Shaheen of the Maronite Catholic Church. Growing up at St. Raymond’s, Bishop Shaheen would often make comments encouraging me to consider being a priest. Most especially, he would put his vestments on me after Mass and make comments such as “this will be you one day.”
As a young child, though I never revealed it to anyone, I had a strong desire to one day be a priest. As I grew up, this desire ebbed and flowed, though there were a number of events that deepened my conviction that our Lord was calling me to serve His Church as His priest.
In seventh grade, then-Msgr. Edward Rice came and spoke to our class about vocations. I distinctly remember him asking: “Have any of you thought about being priests?” I wanted to say yes, but out of embarrassment I kept the desire to myself.
In high school, my youth minister, Terry Ostlund, enkindled in me a growing love for God and His holy Church. Her formative presence and encouragement to consider priesthood were instrumental in my discernment.
Finally, I can remember praying one evening in eucharistic adoration while in college at Rockhurst University. I said to the Lord in my heart: “If you tell me your will, I’ll do it.” For the first time, I heard God’s voice clearly say in my heart: “You already know my will for you.” I left prayer that evening with the conviction that I was called to be a priest and the peace to follow God’s will.
>> Transitional deacons
The term “deacon” comes from the Greek word diakonia, which means “service.” A deacon is someone who serves Christ and His Church. Through the sacrament of Holy Orders, he participates in the ministry of Christ, who came “to serve and not to be served.” The diaconate is considered the first rank of “orders,” of ordained ministers in the Church: deacons, priests and bishops.
A transitional deacon is a man who, God willing, will eventually be ordained to the priesthood. As a priest, he will not cease to be a deacon through his service to others. He is distinguished from a man who is ordained as a permanent deacon — those who are not planning to be ordained priests. The Second Vatican Council in the 1960s authorized the restoration of the diaconate as a permanent order of ministry. There is no difference in the sacramental character of the transitional and permanent diaconate.
>> Transitional diaconate ordination
WHEN: 10 a.m., Saturday, May 1
WHERE: Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis
WHO: Donald Morris; Archbishop Mitchell Rozanski will confer the Sacrament of Holy Orders
MORE INFO: A livestream of the Mass will be aired at cathedralstl.org