CHARLESTON—Before he walked into the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist on May 17 for his ordination to the transitional diaconate, Michael Cellars was feeling a tremendous sense of gratitude about the journey he has undertaken.
The native Charlestonian reflected on his path to the priesthood and, while it wasn’t a straight line, the possibility of a vocation was definitely a steady presence in his life.
Cellars grew up attending St. Mary of the Annunciation and was a student at Nativity School and Bishop England High School. He is thankful that his parents, Karen and Mike Cellars, made the sacrifice to send him to Catholic schools. He was also mindful of the support he has received from priests and seminarian friends, his parish, the Knights of Columbus, the Hibernian Society, and church ladies’ guilds that have encouraged him along the way.
The new transitional deacon said he was so thankful for their prayers and support and wouldn’t be where he is today without them.
“Most people don’t know how far [prayers] go, but they do, they are felt,” he said. “I would encourage you to keep praying, not just for me, but for all the other seminarians and those who are considering a vocation to the priesthood and religious life. Your prayers work and they matter.”
Cellars was ordained by Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone. Many of his family and friends came from far and wide to witness his election to ordination by the bishop, followed by an examination and his promise of prayer and obedience. Cellars lay prostrate on the floor while the congregation knelt, and the bishop extended his hands for the prayer of consecration. Cellars then knelt before the bishop, who laid his hands on him in prayer. He was vested by Father Greg Wilson, pastor of St. Mary Help of Christians Church in Aiken. He received the Book of the Gospels so he can proclaim the Word of God. The bishop told him to “believe what you read, teach what you believe and practice what you teach.”
At the end of Mass, Bishop Guglielmone joked that his newest deacon took his time figuring out he wanted to be a priest. Cellars went to The Citadel and started seminary in 2004 but left after 18 months and worked in sales. He continued praying about his future over the course of many years and eventually returned to the Diocese of Charleston’s vocations program and St. Mary’s Seminary in Houston.
“It’s been a 17-year journey and here I am today,” he said. “I think there’s that initial seed bed of faith that everyone has and just like a seed it needs to be nourished, watered and loved. The core of my faith that was instilled into me as a child is still there, it’s just, I’ve grown to appreciate the faith more through learning and prayer, especially.”
Cellars will now begin a year of parish work before receiving the sacrament of orders in 2020. Candidates for the priesthood must serve at least six months as a deacon before they can be ordained as a priest. As a deacon, he may proclaim the Gospel, give homilies, baptize, assist at the liturgy and witness a marriage outside of Mass. The deacon will work in other capacities at a parish to gain as much knowledge and practical experience as possible. His supervising pastor will delegate specific duties to him
“The call of the deacon is to serve primarily at the altar and primarily with the people,” he said. “That’s something I very much enjoy doing. I am looking forward to getting to know people and better serve them in whatever way I can.”