Three transitional deacons ordained: ‘Our response is: Yes, I will serve you, Lord’

Deacon Andrew Clark, Deacon Samuel Hill, and Deacon Matthew Kelly were ordained to the transitional diaconate on May 18, 2024, at the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart, Richmond. (Photo/Michael Mickle, The Catholic Virginian)

The day of the diaconal ordination began with hours of steady rainfall – perhaps a sign that the Holy Spirit would fall upon three seminarians as they were ordained deacons on their journey toward the priesthood.

Bishop Barry C. Knestout ordained Andrew Clark, Samuel Hill and Matthew Kelly to the transitional diaconate at the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart, Richmond, on Saturday, May 18.

During his homily, Bishop Knestout told the men that the gift of the Holy Spirit would strengthen them in their ministry as deacons, including proclaiming the Gospel, administering baptisms, blessing marriages, bringing Viaticum to the dying, and conducting funeral rites.

The bishop also told them that charity must inspire every aspect of their lives. “Always see those works of charity as both a source – and the fruit – of the ministry of your holy orders,” the bishop instructed them.

The ordination happened just hours before the Vigil of Pentecost Sunday, and Bishop Knestout noted the symbolism in being ordained the same weekend as Pentecost.

Bishop Barry C. Knestout shares the Fraternal Kiss of Peace with Deacon Andrew Clark during the diaconal ordination on May 18, 2024, at the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart, Richmond. (Photo/Michael Mickle, The Catholic Virginian)

Deacon Andrew Clark, 25

After Mass, the young Deacon Clark said that he had a lot going through his mind throughout his ordination because he was trying to stay focused on everything he needed to do.

However, he said it was the last verse from the responsorial psalm that was echoing through his mind the most.

The responsorial was Psalm 116:12-13, 17-18: “How can I repay the Lord for all the great good done for me? I will raise the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord. I will offer a sacrifice of praise and call on the name of the Lord. I will pay my vows to the Lord in the presence of all his people.”

He explained that he and his two brother seminarians had chosen the readings as the options from the lectionary that spoke to them. “That psalm really jumped out to us in so many ways, but it really is, for us, an expression of … what’s going on in all three of our hearts today, namely this response to the Lord’s invitation to serve him,” said Deacon Clark.

“I sum it up with the Latin word ‘servio’ – ‘I will serve’ – it’s been echoing in my prayer all week,” he added.

“This day has been, for me, that response to the Lord – he has called us, the three of us from very different ways, but we are here and our response is ‘Yes, I will serve you, Lord,’” Deacon Clark said.

His father, Rob Clark, a 24-year Navy veteran, said it was powerful for him to see his son vested as a deacon. “Coming from a military [background], when you change over a part of your uniform, there is a significance … [it’s] the culmination of years of work,” he explained.

Deacon Clark’s mother, Carlene, said, “When we met with the bishop this morning, he thanked us for giving Andrew, but – I didn’t give Andrew. He was born for this.”

“I think he started talking about the priesthood when he was in first grade,” Mrs. Clark continued. “This has always been his calling. … I was reflecting on that, especially when he was prostrate on the floor. … It’s the fulfillment of what he was destined for.”

Deacon Samuel Hill smiles during his ordination to the transitional diaconate on May 18, 2024, at the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart, Richmond. (Photo/Michael Mickle, The Catholic Virginian)

Deacon Samuel Hill, 29

When asked about the most powerful moment of his ordination, the newly-ordained Deacon Hill had a hard time deciding on just one thing. How about just the whole ordination, he responded, laughing.

“It’s hard to narrow it down because it was just really special,” the new deacon said.

He added that it was very meaningful to lie prostrate on the floor in front of the altar during the Litany of Supplication, to “give my life to God” with the help of Our Lady, St. Joseph, and all the angels and saints.

“That goes right into the Prayer of Ordination, and that was really powerful. The Holy Spirit was coming down,” he recalled.

Deacon Hill’s parents, Hugh and Susan Hill, agreed that watching their son lie prostrate on the floor was very powerful. His mother said they are not Catholic, but their entire family is very supportive.

“We’re just so happy that he’s found his place and he really is settled in to this as his calling,” said Deacon Hill’s father. “We’re so glad that he’s going to do what he really loves, what God has called him to do, and we know he’ll be a blessing for lots of people.”

Mrs. Hill added that her son served at Holy Spirit, Virginia Beach, during his pastoral year, so the parish brought a busload of people to support him that day.

“You can tell right now,” added Mr. Hill, gesturing to the people who came up to congratulate their son after Mass, “just the people he’s met, the parishes he’s been – he really has an impact on people.”

Deacon Matthew Kelly during his ordination to the transitional diaconate on May 18, 2024, at the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart, Richmond. (Photo/Michael Mickle, The Catholic Virginian)

Deacon Matthew Kelly, 31

“The most powerful moment was the Litany of the Saints,” said Deacon Kelly. “I was surrounded by a church full of people who love God, who have loved and supported me, and who had been praying for me for such a long time.”

“It was deeply consoling to hear the room ringing with their prayers and to know that all of heaven was being invoked to join us in prayer,” he continued.

“When Matthew laid down and gave his life to the Lord, it was so moving,” said Deacon Kelly’s mother, Sue Kelly, who was beaming with joy after Mass – and teary-eyed at the same time.

Deacon Kelly’s father shared the same sentiments: “When Matthew laid prostrate … that was something you’ve seen for years, at other ceremonies, and to see your son – it was very moving.”

“He’s always been a good person, [a] good boy, and now he’s a good man,” Mr. Kelly added. “He has always put others first.”

Five nuns, along with their chaplain, traveled from Our Lady of the Angels Monastery, a Trappist-Cistercian monastery in Crozet, to support Deacon Kelly at his ordination. During his pastoral year at Our Lady of Lourdes, Richmond, he visited the monastery each month to lead chant workshops for them and they became good friends.

They joyfully called Deacon Kelly’s ordination “a blessing for the Church” and said it was wonderful “to see so many people of God” at the ordination, “to be immersed in the Church.”

Commencing their ministry

Before they were ordained, the seminarians had already written their first homilies – to be delivered that weekend during Masses celebrating Pentecost.

Deacon Clark was excited to preach the following day during the noon Mass at St. Jerome, Newport News, where he spent his pastoral year.

Deacon Hill said he was excited, but nervous, about preaching his first homily at the 11 a.m. Mass on Sunday at Holy Name of Mary, Bedford, the town where he was born and raised.

Deacon Kelly lined up three homilies his first weekend as a deacon. Just hours after ordination, he preached at the 5 p.m. Vigil at Our Lady of Lourdes. Sunday, he preached at the 8 a.m. Mass at Our Lady of the Angels Monastery. Later that day, he preached in Spanish at Our Lady of Lourdes’ 1 p.m. Spanish Mass.

Deacon Kelly said they were different homilies because they were for different readings and for different communities.

“The temptation for a first homily is to try and say everything. I guess I’ll have three chances to spread out the ideas,” he said. “It seems impossible to speak enough or with enough love and gratitude for the saving work of God, but God willing, I’ll have many chances to try!”

At the end of the ordination Mass, Bishop Knestout announced the new deacons’ summer assignments. Deacon Clark will spend his summer at Church of the Epiphany, Richmond.

Deacon Hill will return overseas, where he has been studying in Rome; he’ll begin a new licensure program that is taught in Italian. The first part of the summer, he will immerse himself in studying the Italian language. Then, the second part of the summer, he will use those language skills while serving in a parish in Italy.

Deacon Kelly is assigned to St. Mary’s, Blacksburg, for the summer.


See photos from the ordination.

Read more about the three new deacons.

Lee la historia en español.

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