SCRANTON – When Mark DeCelles was ordained to the diaconate Saturday, May 23, 2020, at the Cathedral of Saint Peter, the event looked different from ordinations in the past but that didn’t make it any less special or significant.
“This was certainly not what anyone expected,” DeCelles said. “We’re forced in this moment to recognize that we’re not in control, God is in control, so I’m just really leaning on the Lord.” With only 12 people in attendance at the Mass, all wore face coverings and remained socially distant from one another due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite uncertainty around the virus, DeCelles said he finds consolation in the Lord Jesus.
“I look up at the Cross and I see Jesus saying to me, ‘I’ve got this,’” DeCelles explained. “I don’t know what the next week or the next two weeks will look like, but Jesus is here and he’s with us.” DeCelles, 38, began the final step of his formation for the priesthood during his diaconate ordination. 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. The deacon’s mother, Mildred DeCelles, R.N., attended the Mass. His father watched the event on CTV: Catholic Television. The ordination was also livestreamed on the Diocese of Scranton’s YouTube channel, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
“I was so grateful that my mom could be here and that my dad could be here in spirit. My thoughts are certainly with him. They’ve always been my inspiration. They’ve given me such a profound foundation in faith. I never grew out of that,” DeCelles said. “We, as a Church, we’re made for each other. We build each other up with our gifts. I really feel built up by my family and I hope that, I too, can build others up in my role as a deacon.” During his ordination to the diaconate, DeCelles promised obedience to the bishop and his successors and took on the vow of celibacy. Once ordained, he was vested with a stole and dalmatic. The vestments are worn by deacons during liturgies. Bishop Joseph C. Bambera then presented DeCelles with the Book of the Gospels so that he may proclaim the Good News and model his life after Christ. As he presented the Book of the Gospels, the bishop 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.” During his homily, Bishop Bambera reminded DeCelles that to be an authentic disciple of Jesus means being a servant to others. “If you want your ministry as a deacon to be fruitful Mark, you must root yourself in Jesus’ life and love. The disciplines of prayer, obedience and celibacy that you are called to embrace this day are meant to enable you to grow in the same spirit of service and mercy that so characterized Jesus’ ministry,” the bishop said.
As a deacon, DeCelles will proclaim the Gospel, preach homilies, serve at the altar of the Lord, distribute Holy Communion to the faithful, baptize, and preside at weddings and funerals and other prayer services. He is also called to be the living and working expression of charity of the Church.
“As Pope Francis has reminded us, you are to go to the margins of our world where you will find the poor and the broken. Be generous in your service Mark, imitating the Lord who washed the feet of the apostles at the Last Supper,” Bishop Bambera added. When asked if he is ready to accept these duties, DeCelles did not waiver, thanking those who have aided in his formation.
“I’ve had a number of opportunities and I know that I will have many more opportunities to serve the poor. We’re all in the position of being poor. We’re all in need of God’s grace. The Lord is going to put in front of me those that he wants me to serve. I will also have to search them out a little bit but the Bishop’s words ring true that I’m not going to have to search very far. The poor are always among us,” DeCelles said. A member of Immaculate Conception Parish in Scranton’s Hill Section, DeCelles has been serving in his pastoral year at Saint Matthew Parish in East Stroudsburg. He also had a 2018 summer assignment at the parish communities of Blessed Sacrament and Holy Cross in the Mid Valley region of Lackawanna County.
“I’m here as a minister but I’m also a son. I’m a son of this Church and I’m a son of these communities so I owe them a lot. I owe them so much,” DeCelles said after his ordination Mass.