Diocesan News

Deacon ordained in Rome

Pilgrims from Lincoln Diocese attended ordination events

Special to the Register by Fr. Kenneth Borowiak

St. Peter Basilica, Rome (SNR) - In a spectacular liturgy at the origins of Christianity, Andrew Schwenka was ordained a transitional deacon for the Diocese of Lincoln in St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican Sept. 27.

Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, Cardinal Archbishop of Galveston-Houston and the president of United States Catholic Conference of Bishops was the celebrant. Forty fourth-year theologians from 33 dioceses in the United States and Australia were ordained for service in their respective dioceses.

The newly ordained deacons reside at the Pontifical North American College (PNAC) and take graduate theological studies at various universities in Rome.

Deacon Schwenka, one of five children of Dean and Mary Jo Schwenka, is a native of Heartwell. They are members of the Holy Family Parish in Heartwell.

Deacon Schwenka’s family organized a pilgrimage to celebrate his ordination to the diaconate. Pilgrims from Heartwell, Minden, Crete, York, Omaha, Grand Island, Hastings, Seward, Kenesaw, Fargo, N.D., Buffalo, N.Y., and Lincoln participated in the pilgrimage which included visits to shrines in Rome and Assisi. Pilgrimage highlights included visits to the four major basilicas of Rome: St. Peter’s, St. John Lateran’s, St. Paul’s Outside the Walls, and St. Mary Major, the Scavi Tour to the tomb of St. Peter, the Sistine Chapel and the Vatican museums.

Deacon Schwenka’s parents spoke of the impact of the pilgrimage for them and those who joined them.

“This is one of the most humbling and gratifying events of our lives, to be able to witness the diaconate ordination of our son at this holy place.  To be able to share this with our family and friends who made the sacrifice to join us there was an awesome experience,” Dean and Mary Jo said.

The Rite of Ordination
The ordination of the 40 deacons from all across the United States took place Sept. 27, the feast day of St. Vincent de Paul – the patron saint of and for the poor.

On a cool, bright sunlit morning pilgrims crossed through Bernini’s colonnade and began to fill St. Peter’s Basilica shortly after 7 a.m. For many in the pilgrimage this was their first visit to the threshold of the apostle.

More than five million pilgrims visit St. Peter’s Basilica and the Vatican City-State each year.

The pilgrims from the Diocese of Lincoln were awed by the history and architectural magnificence of Rome and Vatican City State.

“It’s hard to put into words the feelings I had while on our pilgrimage,” said Amy Kissinger, a member of St. John Parish in Minden. “Attending daily Mass and praying in such important churches of our Catholic faith gave me such a sense of peace and reflection.

“Praying for Mary’s and other saints’ intercessions at the various shrines allowed me to truly feel God’s love and graces in a way I have never felt before,” she continued. “It was incredibly moving to be in St, Peter’s Basilica witnessing Andrew being ordained... What a beautiful journey it was to see Catholics from all over the world converging together in community of prayer and our faith.”

The ordination Mass was celebrated at the chair of St. Peter – an altar directly behind the well-known papal altar in the apse of the Basilica. More than 2,000 people, from nearly every state in America and from many other countries, participated in the ordination Mass.

In addition to Cardinal DiNardo, four cardinals: Cardinals Raymond Burke, Francis Stafford, James Harvey and Baltazar Porras; 16 bishops and archbishops and more than 200 priests concelebrated the Mass.

The ordination Mass in Rome included a diverse selection of liturgical music including Latin compositions by noted composers Jean-Paul Lecot, Franz Beibl and Wolfgang Mozart as well as contemporary American authors Richard Proulx and Michael Perry. The Mass setting was Missa de Angelis (Mass of the Angels).

Following the proclamation of Scripture and the Cardinal DiNardo’s homily, the ordination rite continued with several key elements: the deacon’s promise of respect and obedience to his bishop; the invocation of the Litany of Saints; the laying on of hands and the prayer of ordination; the vesting of the new deacons and the handing on of the Book of the Gospels.

Sacrament of Holy Orders
There are three levels of the sacrament of Holy Orders – the diaconate, priesthood and bishop. The diaconate comes from the Greek word diakonian, meaning “to serve.” We hear of the origins of the diaconate in the Acts of the Apostles, when seven reputable men were called to tasks in service of the Church.

Deacons assist bishops and priests in the celebration of the Eucharist. A deacon may proclaim the Word of God, preach homilies, officiate at marriages, and preside at funerals. The liturgical documents indicate a preference that the Gospel be proclaimed by a deacon, if possible.

Deacon Schwenka served summer assignments at St. Michael Parish in Lincoln in 2017 and Sacred Heart Parish in Beaver Crossing and St. Patrick Parish in Utica in 2018.

Deacon Schwenka is one of four deacons for the Diocese of Lincoln in his ordination class. Deacons Carson Kain, Tony Bedient and Allan Phan were ordained by Bishop James Conley May 25. The four deacons’ priestly ordination is scheduled for May 25, 2019 in the Cathedral of the Risen Christ in Lincoln.

Seminarians and priests of the Diocese of Lincoln had a visible and active role in the ordination Mass. Second-year theologian James O’Neil of St. Mary Parish in Nebraska City proclaimed the first reading:  Jeremiah 1:4-9. Third-year theologian Joseph Wahlmeier of St. Michael Parish in Hastings, served as master of ceremonies for the concelebrating cardinals, archbishops and bishops.

Father James Morin, assistant pastor of St. Mary Parish in Nebraska City; Father Robert Matya, pastor of St. Thomas Aquinas/Newman Center on the University of Nebraska-Lincoln campus and diocesan director of vocations, Father Brian Kane, dean of men at St. Charles Seminary in Philadelphia and diocesan director of seminarians, Father Matthew Rolling, pursuing doctoral studies in Rome; Father Christopher Miller, pastor of St. James Parish in Trenton, Holy Family in Palisade and St. John in Wauneta; Father Benjamin Holdren, pastor of St. Peter and St. Joseph parishes in Bellwood; Father John Rooney, vice rector, assistant professor and director of technology at St. Gregory the Great Seminary in Seward; and Father Kenneth Borowiak, pastor of St. Michael Parish Lincoln, concelebrated the ordination Mass.

Father Borowiak vested Deacon Schwenka in dalmatic and stole.

Deacon Schwenka preached his first homily at a Mass celebrated by Father Matthew Rolling at Sant’Andrea delle Fratte Sept. 28.

Dean and Mary Jo Schwenka expressed their gratitude to everyone who made their son’s ordination and the pilgrimage a reality.

“We want to thank Bishop Conley, the many priests, and the catechism teachers who have contributed to Andrew’s formation in the faith throughout his journey,” they said.

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