GREEN BAY — Bishop David Ricken told four deacon candidates for ordination that there are great needs for their ministerial service. Before ordaining John Bundra, Ernesto Gonzalez, Jr., Mark LeGreve and Michael Zebroski to the diaconate May 10 at St. Francis Xavier Cathedral, Bishop Ricken encouraged the men to embrace the new evangelization and share the Gospel with others.
In his homily before the ordination rite, attended by several hundred people, Bishop Ricken explained that the church is faced “with many new challenges.”
“Not long ago, maybe 50, 60 years ago, most people went to church on Sunday almost all of the time,” he said. “The person who did not attend Sunday worship expressed a choice that was countercultural. Today the entire scene has flipped. Today it is countercultural to attend regular Sunday worship and to live a Christian life.”
This secular climate, he told the four deacon candidates, is what they face. “To choose a Christian life has become an expression of personal conviction” rather than a way of life, he said. “The whole church that many of us grew up with has changed. It’s a whole new scene out there and we bishops, priests, religious, deacons, lay faithful, we all have to change up the way we are doing things and that is called the new evangelization.”
Bishop Ricken explained that the new evangelization “is all about evangelizing Catholics.”
Evangelization has traditionally meant “going out to those who have never heard of the name of Christ,” he said. “But first, we ourselves have to be evangelized anew, with the power of the holy Gospel and with reaching out with the good news of our relationship with Christ and sharing that with others.”
According to Bishop Ricken, deacons “are a great gift to the church. But it is a very hard vocation to live because they have one foot in the church and one foot in the world.”
He said part of their task is to “bring those two worlds together so that this hunger for souls and the gift of salvation can be passed on by proclamation of the word of God.”
He gave an example of how the new deacons can live out their ministry.
“I believe today there are fields all around us of people … who are not making connections (to the church),” he said. “Did you know, for example, that children in our Catholic schools are not going to Sunday Mass with their families? This is a perfect field, a rich field for us and I would ask the deacons to pray about this and to see if you could work to help those children and their parents to connect to Sunday Mass, to full engagement in their parish.”
Along with Catholic school families, there is a need to reach out to religious education families, he said. “We need to help all of them to connect the dots.”
“So, my brother deacons, I would ask you to help your pastors and parish staffs and pastoral leaders to help people to make connections so that people who are going along thinking everything is OK and missing out on the practice of the faith,” he added.
Bishop Ricken told the congregation that his new pastoral initiative, “Disciples on the Way,” will serve as a roadmap for new evangelization efforts in the diocese. He asked everyone to take a six-year journey with him and implement his new evangelization plan.
“We as brothers and sisters who are already here, we need to help those wonderful people who come to Mass every Sunday, that 25 to 28 percent in our diocese, to know about Jesus as a friend,” added Bishop Ricken. “It is up to us to help people to fall in deeper love with Jesus so they are on fire with passing on this great message to this generation and to the next generation.
“You and I have an obligation to pass on the legacy, not just to take care of the ones here, but to enable them to live in the world in a way that gives light to the darkness. In order to do that, we need to be on fire with divine love ourselves, by making time with Christ every day. … That’s what the world needs today.”
Following the ordination Mass, Bishop Ricken recognized Deacon Paul Grimm, director of the diaconate office for the past 12 years, who is retiring from his position in June. Deacon Grimm has served the diocese for 35 years.