COLUMBIA—An event held at Our Lady of the Hills Church on Sept. 20 highlighted a bright future for the permanent diaconate in South Carolina.
Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone celebrated Mass and officiated at a Rite of Admission for diaconate candidates and a graduation ceremony for the class of 2016, whose members will be ordained in January and February.
Twenty-nine men and three wives, who also completed the course, were the first diaconate group to earn a master’s degree in theology from St. Leo University since the diocese started working with the Florida-based Catholic university. Six men also received undergraduate certificates.
That same day, 14 men from the class of 2017 received the ministry of acolyte, which allows them to serve at the altar and assist during Mass, including preparation of the sacred vessels and serving as an extraordinary minister of holy Communion. One man from that class was given the ministry of lector, which allows him to deliver the readings at Mass.
For the class of 2019, 21 were admitted to candidacy, which comes after the completion of their first year of study.
Bishop Guglielmone thanked the participants for their commitment to the four and a half years of study required to become a permanent deacon in the Diocese of Charleston.
“Your reason for going through this program is to be of service to the people of God, and also to be more of a reflection of the people of God,” he said.
This was the first time in the diocese that candidates’ wives were able to study alongside them.
Pursuing a theology degree together led to hours of interesting discussion for Gustavo and Veronica Salazar, who attend St. Peter Church in Cheraw. Mrs. Salazar said they travel frequently and had many of their best talks about theology while in the car.
“Initially, I was a little afraid of theology, but I wanted to support my husband and be with him all the way,” she said. “Then, when I started my study, I really started growing in my faith. It became like a force within me.”
“I feel very happy but I also feel a little nervous about what’s coming up,” Mr. Salazar said. “Now that I’m going to be ordained, I have to trust in God and know he brought you here.”
Thomas and Dorothy Whalen of Greenville said studying theology side-by-side strengthened their 41-year marriage, along with their family and professional lives.
“I don’t think I could have done this without Dorothy’s support,” Mr. Whalen said. “We came at theology from different perspectives and ended up growing spiritually through the discussions we had.”