Eleven men in the Catholic Diocese of Belleville will be ordained Saturday morning as deacons, a ceremony that only happens every five years.
"It's considered a vocation, a call by God," explained Deacon Robert Lanter, the deacon coordinator for the diocese.
The men, three of whom are from Belleville parishes, will be ordained at 10:30 a.m. Saturday at the Cathedral of St. Peter in Belleville. They have spent at least five years in formation and studies for their new roles in the church.
The new deacons will be assigned to their home parishes for the first year of service and then may be reassigned to parishes throughout the diocese by Bishop Edward K. Braxton.
As the diocese continues to undergo the Pastoral Plan for Parish Renewal and Restructuring, the deacons will play an integral role in assisting parish priests assigned to parish partnerships of two parishes.
"It's almost a necessary part of the process," Lanter said. "The deacon being married, being a family person, is very much in tune with what is happening in the parish community. They'll be instrumental in helping these parish partnerships for a positive outcome of these parish restructurings."
Deacons perform three ministries: liturgy, or church services; word, or teaching and evangelizing; and service, or caring for homebound, hospitalized, homeless and others on the fringe of the society, Lanter said.
However, deacons do not perform sacraments like priests, and they cannot say Mass or hear confessions.
Also, deacons can be married, unlike priests. If a married man becomes a deacon and his wife dies, he vows not to remarry because he has made a commitment to the church. If a single man becomes a deacon, he takes a vow of celibacy.
"The marriage relationship is just as important as the deacon," said Lanter, who himself is married.
Lanter, who grew up in the Holy Childhood of Jesus parish in Mascoutah, said his family was always involved with the church. One reason he and his wife, Diane, were attracted to each other is because they are both people of service, he said. He became a deacon after a priest approached him with the idea. He was ordained in 1997.
"It's been a work in progress," he said. "And I'm still learning about serving and taking care of people."
Lanter, like most deacons, wears many hats. He is the director for deacons in the whole Belleville Diocese, but he also serves as a spiritual advisor at St. Luke's Catholic Church in Belleville and at the National Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows in Belleville. Plus, he serves the Lewis and Clark Council of the Boy Scouts of America.
Monsignor John Myler, the rector at St. Peter's and the spokesman for the diocese, invited the community to attend Saturday's ordination Mass.
"This large group of permanent deacons will serve throughout the diocese -- throughout Southern Illinois. With their wives, they have spent many years preparing to dedicate the rest of their lives in service to the Church," Myler said. "Bishop Braxton asks all the people of southern Illinois to pray for these new deacons and to show prayerful support for them by participating in the ordination Mass."
The new deacons are:
* Christopher Andrews, of Immaculate Conception in Bridgeport
* Stephen AuBuchon, of St. Francis of Assisi in Aviston
* Archie Bowers Jr., of St. Clement in McLeansboro
* Timothy DeRousse, of Queen of Peace in Belleville
* David Fields, of the Cathedral of St. Peter in Belleville
* John Fridley, of St. George in New Baden
* Thomas Helfrich, of Sts. Peter and Paul in Waterloo
* Stephen Lowe, of St. Mary in Mount Carmel
* Michael Rowland, of St. Andrew in Christopher
* Corby Valentine, of St. Joseph in Freeburg
* Wayne Weiler, of the Cathedral of St. Peter in Belleville