By Joseph M. Filipi, Deacon Candidate of the Eparchy of Stamford Descent of the Holy Spirit Ukrainian Catholic Church; South Deerfield, Massachusetts
As we enter our third year of diaconate studies, I and my 16 fellow deacon candidates in the Byzantine Catholic Seminary’s School of Diaconate Studies remain steadfast in our response to God’s call to serve his Church and our neighbors. Challenges related to the pandemic have included not being able to engage in the typical two-week annual intensive conducted by the Seminary each June. Online learning and distance studies have been the norm. Even in more ordinary times, diaconal formation requires a great deal of effort on the home front as engagement in the Seminary building is limited by our families and careers.
Each of us has continued to nourish our spiritual life. We have been meeting with our spiritual fathers on a monthly basis and we continue to be formed in prayer life, liturgical understanding, pastoral service, and intellectual knowledge. I have functioned as altar server for quite some time and have now begun chanting the epistles for many of the services in our small parish. My understanding of the wide variety of liturgical services of the Byzantine tradition has increased significantly.
Our individual spiritual directors have played an integral role in guiding us through questions of vocation, personal challenges in our state in life, and the many issues facing the Church today. They help us grow in our daily prayer rule and our nourishment from sacred scripture, they challenge us with a rule of fasting, and inspire us to increase in the Theological virtues of Faith, Hope, and Charity.
While our academic studies and other dimensions of diaconal formation guided by our pastors have been integral parts of our program over the past two years, we now begin to increase our service to Church and neighbors. Some of us have begun to visit the sick, others are teaching in catechetical programs, endeavoring in evangelization, and giving guidance and counsel to others. I have been assisting my pastor with various administrative needs such as accounting, overseeing and training the altar servers, caring for the sanctuary, and updating cemetery information. I also enjoy participating in pierogis making in order to raise funds for our parish. I assist with the maintenance of the parish buildings. There are numerous needs facing each of our parishes and we are now beginning to serve and assist, when possible, according to our abilities and the needs of our parishes, always under the guidance of our mentoring pastors.
As I and my fellow deacon students begin our third year of diaconal formation, we ask for your continued prayers and support that we may be guided by the Holy Spirit in our continued discernment and our work within our parishes. Pray that we may emulate the holy Apostles who lowered their nets at the word of Jesus Christ in response to his call to increase discipleship in the Church.