During the Institution of Acolytes, Bishop Joseph C. Bambera places a ciborium in the hands of Martin J. Castaldi, Sr., at the Cathedral of Saint Peter on Oct. 2, 2021.

SCRANTON – Nine men took the next step in their formation for the permanent diaconate Oct. 2 when they were instituted as acolytes during a special Mass at the Cathedral of Saint Peter.

The Most Rev. Joseph C. Bambera, Bishop of Scranton, served as principal celebrant and homilist for the 12:10 p.m. Mass.

The men instituted as acolytes include: John F. Bankus, John F. Bubb, Martin J. Castaldi, Sr., Matthew R. Eisley, William D. Flowers, Thomas A. Kostic, Steven J. Miller, Nicholas M. Rocco and Frank H. Zeranski.

As acolytes, the men are now entrusted with the duties of attending to the altar, assisting the deacon and priest at Mass and distributing Holy Communion as extraordinary ministers.

During the institution rite, the nine deacon candidates who were clothed in white albs, approached the altar one by one and knelt before the bishop. He placed a ciborium in the hand of each candidate and said, “Take this vessel with bread for the celebration of the Eucharist. Make your life worthy of your service at the table of the Lord and of His Church.” Each of the candidates then replied, “Amen.”

In his homily, Bishop Bambera used the Gospel of Luke (Luke 9:11b-17) and the exchange between Jesus and His disciples that led to the feeding of thousands of people with five loaves and two fishes to highlight the important work the acolytes have ahead.

“The Eucharistic overtones in the feeding of the multitude are obvious. What may be less obvious, but hardly insignificant, is the fact that Luke’s version heightens the role of the disciples in the process of feeding the crowds. Don’t lose the significance of this fact,” the bishop said.

Nicholas M. Rocco, far left, joins the eight other deacon candidates standing in the front pews of the Cathedral of Saint Peter on Oct. 2, 2021. (Photos/Mike Melisky)

Bishop Bambera explained that the disciples set the stage for Jesus to work His miracle and were the ones who served as distributors of the food.

“The fact that the disciples are actually the ones through whom the crowds experience the lavish generosity of Jesus points to the manner in which Jesus will continue to provide for His people long after he ascends to His Father – namely, in and through the work of His Church,” Bishop Bambera continued.

Bishop Bambera concluded his homily by emphasizing that the living presence of Jesus compels those being instituted as acolytes – and all of us – give others dignity, respect and care.

“Like the disciples of Jesus in today’s gospel who were used by the Lord to feed thousands of hungry people on a hillside in Galilee, all of us are challenged to both give thanks for all that we have been given and to use what we have been given for the sake of others,” the bishop continued. “Without counting the cost, setting conditions or demanding a return.”

Following the Mass, several of the new acolytes reflected on their years of formation thus far.

“I’m proud and humble,” Steven J. Miller explained. “We have been going through all of the classes. Right now, we’re studying about the liturgy but also really praying, asking for God’s guidance.”

“We are in our fourth year. I can see myself growing spiritually,” William D. Flowers said, emphasizing the importance of praying the Liturgy of the Hours twice a day. “No matter how much you think you know, you’re always learning something.”

The nine deacon candidates are scheduled for ordination to the permanent diaconate on Nov. 26, 2022.