Mark DeCelles, 38, will begin the final step of his formation for the priesthood when he is ordained to the transitional diaconate by Bishop Joseph C. Bambera at a Mass on Saturday, May 23, at 10 a.m. in the Cathedral of Saint Peter in Scranton.
The Mass will be broadcast live on CTV: Catholic Television of the Diocese of Scranton.
Ordination as a transitional deacon generally occurs after a seminarian has completed at least three years of study in theology and takes place usually one year prior to priestly ordination. A deacon may serve as an ordinary minster of Baptism and is able to preside at weddings, assist the priest at Mass, proclaim the Gospel and preach, as well as preside at wakes and funeral services.
A member of Immaculate Conception Parish in Scranton’s Hill section, DeCelles is the son of Charles, Ph.D., and Mildred DeCelles, R.N., of Dunmore. The Scranton Diocesan seminarian is completing his theological studies and priestly formation at Saint Mary’s Seminary and University in Baltimore, Md. He is currently serving in his pastoral year at Saint Matthew Parish in East Stroudsburg. A pastoral year provides a year of practical ministry in a parish setting, allowing a seminarian experiences near the end of his priestly training in addition to his formal preparatory education.
“I am very grateful for all of the pastoral assignments I have received during the course of my formation,” DeCelles said, including his 2018 summer assignment at the parish communities of Blessed Sacrament and Holy Cross in the Mid Valley region of Lackawanna County. As for his pastoral year experience, the transitional deacon candidate referred to Saint Matthew Parish as “an amazingly complex and lively community, teeming with opportunities for evangelization, catechesis and community outreach.”
“It has been a profound privilege to witness the growth of young adult ministries, high school and college men discernment groups, the Hispanic community and this year’s catechumens and candidates for the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA),” he said. Additionally, DeCelles was given the opportunity to teach an eighth grade theology class at nearby Notre Dame Junior/Senior High School in East Stroudsburg. The seminarian also reflected on his upcoming diaconate ordination during such challenging and unprecedented times.
“The world of COVID-19 is a world full of pain and uncertainty and despair, a world that needs Christ more than ever,” DeCelles said. “It is because of this that I am eager and excited for the day of my ordination. My desire to carry the light of Christ to the frontlines of our hungry, suffering world has only grown over the course of my almost three years of formation, and the pandemic has made this desire still more acute.” In light of the current health crisis, the seminarian expressed his gratitude for those putting their lives on the line for the health, safety and well-being of others.
“I am also most grateful today for the gift of the priesthood – for priests whose lives give testimony, in and out of season, to the love of God who loved us first, before we were ever able to muster some shred of love for others,” he said. “I am grateful for the priests who continue to say, ‘This is my body. This is my blood,’ to an empty church.” He concluded by saying this is the kind of priest he hopes to be when – by the Lord’s will and grace – he is ordained to the priesthood next year.
“I want everyone to know the God who continues to take the lead in loving me, so that when I just don’t feel like giving any more, I can turn to Him for the grace and strength to love those who might not be able, or willing, to love me back.”