By Dominique Johnson
In a joyful celebration Diocese of Juneau seminarian, James Wallace was ordained a deacon at Saint Gregory Nazianzen Church in Sitka, on July 13th. It was the first diaconal ordination to take place in the diocese since 2015, and the first ordination in Sitka since the late Father Thomas Weise was ordained a deacon in 2001.
The church, filled with joy celebrated the vocational call of Wallace who heard his calling to the priesthood while stationed in Sitka serving in the United States Coast Guard. As Wallace processed in with the priests for Mass, the music and the excitement of the congregation helped express the joy of the celebration.
After the proclamation of the Gospel by Deacon Ron Mathews, Father Mike Galbraith, Director of Seminarian Formation for the diocese, presented James to Bishop Andrew Bellisario, C.M. as a worthy candidate for ordination, suitable for ministry.
During his homily, the bishop acknowledged that it had been a while since the people of Sitka had experienced an ordination in their parish. He expressed his happiness to share this experience with them. The bishop continued saying that this celebration is a reason to rejoice, not just for the people of the diocese but, “throughout the entire universal church” because “whenever one of our brothers is called forth, we all rejoice.”
Though Wallace is to be ordained a priest in the next year, Bishop Bellisario encouraged him to embrace his ministry as a deacon fully. “To look past this time of ordained ministry, to preach the word of God, to minister at the altar of sacrifice and to serve the people of God with charity would be a disservice to yourself,” Bishop Bellisario said. The bishop encouraged Wallace to breathe this new ministry and joyfully serve others, “because all we really have is today.”
Following the homily, Wallace left his seat by his parents and grandmother and stood in front of the altar and the bishop, making promises of celibacy and prayer. He then knelt in front of the bishop joining hands, making his promises of obedience. In a moment of communal prayer, the whole congregation knelt, while James laid prostrate in front of the altar during the litany of the saints.
After the litany of the saints, Bishop Bellisario extended his hand over Wallace. The bishop said, “Send forth upon him, Lord, we pray, the Holy Spirit, that he may be strengthened by the gift of your sevenfold grace for the faithful carrying out of the work of the ministry.” Then kneeling again before the bishop, Wallace was ordained a deacon through the laying on of hands. The bishop, like the apostles before him in the Acts of the Apostles, placed his hands on the head of the candidate, ordaining him a deacon.
The newly ordained Deacon James Wallace then put on his stole and dalmatic with the assistance of Deacon Ron Mathews and Father Zani Pacanza, Wallace’s friend from seminary. Once vested Deacon James knelt again before the bishop. Bishop Bellisario then placed the Book of the Gospels in Wallace’s hands and said to him, “Receive the Gospel of Christ whose herald you have become. Believe what you read, teach what you believe, and practice what you teach.”
Deacon James Wallace then joined the bishop and priests around the altar for the remainder of the Mass, serving at the altar. Deacon James will return to Mundelein seminary this fall before he is ordained a priest next year.
View the photo gallery of the ordination of Deacon James Wallace here.