By DOMINIQUE JOHNSON
Diocese of Juneau
In a joyful celebration, Diocese of Juneau seminarian James Wallace was ordained a transitional deacon at St. Gregory Nazianzen Church in Sitka on July 13. 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 celebrated the ordination of Wallace who heard his calling to the priesthood while stationed in Sitka serving in the U.S. 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 Wallace 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 said 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 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. He then encouraged Wallace to embrace 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 Wallace lay prostrate in front of the altar during the Litany of the Saints.
After the litany, 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 then put on his stole and dalmatic with the assistance of Deacon Ron Mathews and Father Zani Pacanza, Deacon Wallace’s friend from seminary. Once vested, Deacon Wallace knelt again before the bishop. Bishop Bellisario placed the Book of the Gospels in Deacon 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 Wallace then joined the bishop and priests, serving at the altar. He will return to Mundelein Seminary in Illinois this fall before he is ordained a priest next year.
Editor’s note: Bishop Bellisario wanted to share this joyful news from the Diocese of Juneau with you.