Two ordained transitional deacons in Monona Print
Around the Diocese
Written by Kevin Wondrash, Catholic Herald Staff   
Thursday, Jun. 14, 2018 -- 12:00 AM
transitional deacons
Transitional Deacons Lawrence Oparaji, left, and Stephen Brunner, right, stand with Bishop Robert C. Morlino of Madison following their Ordination Mass to the diaconate at Immaculate Heart of Mary Church in Monona on May 25. To view or purchase photos, go to (Catholic Herald photo/Kevin Wondrash)

MONONA -- On May 25, at Immaculate Heart of Mary Church in Monona, Bishop Robert C. Morlino ordained Deacons Stephen Brunner and Lawrence Oparaji to the transitional diaconate.

God-willing, both men will be ordained to the priesthood next year as they complete their seminary studies.

Thanks and welcome

At the start of the Mass, Bishop Morlino, thanked everyone for “coming to participate in faith tonight.”

He also thanked the families of the men who were “named after two great deacons . . . I don’t think you ever thought it would end up here, but clearly the Holy Spirit was inspired. Thanks for the wonderful gift of these two great young men.”

St. Stephen and St. Lawrence, deacons in the first few centuries of the Catholic Church, were both martyrs, and later canonized as saints.

Bishop Morlino also thanked some notable people in attendance such as his “brother priests” from the Diocese of Madison who concelebrated the Mass, including Fr. Chad Droessler, pastor of Immaculate Heart of Mary.

He also thanked Fr. John Klockeman from St. Paul School of Divinity in St. Paul, Minn. -- where Deacon Oparaji is studying -- who served as the elector, presenting the two men as “worthy” to be ordained to the diaconate.

Bishop Morlino also acknowledged the diocesan deacons who were in attendance, along with diocesan seminarians, members of the Madison Diocesan Choir, and the Mass servers.

“Your faith means everything as we begin our prayer tonight,” said the bishop.

Also in attendance were the Knights of Columbus Honor Guard Assembly 1200 Madison and the Knights and Ladies of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre.

Other transitional deacons to be ordained in 2018
• Austin Steffen: Thursday, Sept. 27, at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.
•  Cristian Valenzuela and William Van Wagner: Friday, Dec. 7, at St. Paul Church in Madison.
A ministry of word and charity

As Father Klockeman presented the men, asking the bishop to “ordain these men, our brothers, to the responsibility of the diaconate,” Bishop Morlino replied, “Relying on the help of our Lord God and our savior Jesus Christ, we choose these men, our brothers, Lawrence and Stephen, for the Order of the Diaconate.”

In his homily, Bishop Morlino called the evening a “great moment of joy for the angels and saints in heaven, with whom we join in this solemn celebration.”

The bishop told the two men, upon receiving their sacrament of Holy Orders to the diaconate, “You will be completely possessed by Christ . . . and become a new creation.”

“We know that the deacon is called, at the deepest level, an icon of Christ the servant,” Bishop Morlino added, and said, “The deacon is the minister of the word and of charity . . . charity is another name for that service.”

The bishop told the men, quoting St. Thomas Aquinas, that a work of charity is to “hate wickedness,” but not hate wicked people.

“Hating wickedness is a work of charity,” he said, and “that work of charity becomes central in your ministry of the word and charity.”

Encouraging the men, the bishop said, “I want you, during the next year, to really give the devil the reputation he deserves -- a very bad one.

“I want there to be no sense of guilt whatsoever . . . you are free to hate [wickedness], and that’s where the aggressive energy for hatred leads you.”

Bishop Morlino also emphasized that, as they near the priesthood, with a charism of ruling and governing, their duty “means saying no to wickedness and without ceasing to love [those who are wicked].”

He added, they are called to say no “to those who promote wickedness, while continuing to love them, doing it because you love them.”

Ordination rites

Following the homily, Deacons Brunner and Oparaji participated in the Promise of the Elect where they declared their intention to undertake the office of deacon.

They resolved to be consecrated for the Church’s ministry, to discharge the office of deacon with humble charity, to proclaim faith in word and deed, to live celibately, and to conform their lives as an example of Christ.

They approached the bishop separately promising respect and obedience to him and his successors.

The next rite was the Litany of Supplication, where the men lie prostrate symbolizing their unworthiness for the office and their dependence upon God and the prayers of the community.

The congregation sang a Litany of Saints during this time, led by Fr. Brian Dulli, pastor of St. William Parish in Janesville.

Following the litany, the bishop placed his hands upon the men’s heads in a blessing, followed by the Prayer of Consecration.

The new deacons were then vested in the stole and dalmatic. Deacon Brunner was vested by Deacon Ray Lukesic from Cathedral Parish in Madison and Deacon Oparaji was vested by Fr. Paul Arinze, pastor of St. John Vianney Parish in Janesville.

Both men then knelt before the bishop as he placed the Book of the Gospels in their hands and exhorted, “Believe what you read, teach what you believe, and practice what you preach.”

Bishop Morlino greeted them both with a sign of peace, followed by other deacons present doing the same, welcoming them to the Order of Deacons.

Family members of the newly ordained deacons assisted in the Presentation of the Gifts, bringing the bread and wine to the bishop.

The new deacons

Deacon Brunner is the son of Tom Brunner of Yardley, Pa., and the late Denise Brunner.

He is in his third year of theology studies at Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, Md.

His parish deacon summer assignment is at Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish in Monona.

Deacon Oparaji is the son of Kenneth Ndukauba and Calista Ijeoma Oparaji of Orozo, Abuja, Nigeria.

He is in his third year of theology studies at St. Paul School of Divinity in St. Paul, Minn.

His parish deacon summer assignment is at St. Thomas Aquinas Parish in Madison.

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