Bishop Reminds New Deacons of their Friendship with Christ


By Tony DeGol

Those in the ministry of the diaconate are considered friends of the Lord.

Bishop Mark shared that comforting message with the three newest deacons of the diocese, along with some advice.

“You must certainly speak about God with boldness in exercising the ministry of the Word,” he directed.  “And you must – you must – speak with boldness to God in your prayer every day.”

The Bishop ordained Daniel Heiser and Brian Yurky permanent deacons during a Mass on June 4 at the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament in Altoona. During that liturgy, he also ordained diocesan seminarian Justin Treon a transitional deacon – another milestone on his path to the priesthood.

“As a friend of God, you must communicate openly, honestly, and sincerely with God in your personal prayer, and that same mode of communication must carry over to your ministry of preaching,” Bishop Mark added.

Deacon Heiser and his wife, Alison, and their four children are members of Saint Joseph Parish in Renovo. He is a sixth grade teacher in the Keystone Central School District.

Deacon Yurky and his wife, Bonnie, belong to Saints Peter and Paul Parish in Philipsburg. They have two children. He is self-employed as the owner of Yurky and Sons Plumbing and Heating.

The new permanent deacons are joining the ranks of approximately three dozen other deacons engaged in parish and diocesan ministry throughout Altoona-Johnstown.

Deacon Treon, a parishioner at Saint Aloysius in Cresson and graduate of Bishop Carroll Catholic High School in Ebensburg, is assigned to diaconal service this summer at Saint John Gualbert Cathedral and Saint Patrick Parishes in Johnstown. He will resume his priestly studies and formation at Saint Vincent Seminary in Latrobe in the fall and continue his assignment at the Johnstown parishes throughout the academic year. God willing, Deacon Treon will be ordained a priest next spring.

“Do your best to follow the example of the Lord Jesus, who teaches us the commandment of true friendship, which is to love one another as Christ loves us,” Bishop instructed the new deacons. “No one and no thing is greater than the love that we lay down for others.”

He also reminded them of the support they received during their formation, support that he said will continue in their pastoral ministry. 

“How blest we are to share our friendship with the Lord Jesus at His table, and how grateful we are to you, Dan, Brian, and Justin,” Bishop Mark stated. “The Lord has called you, and you have said ‘yes’ to being a deacon in His Church.”

[Photos: (Top left to right) Deacon Brian Yurky; Deacon Justin Treon; Bishop Mark; Deacan Daniel Heiser; and Deacon Michael Russo, Diocesan Director of the Permanent Diaconate. (First Inset) Bishop Mark ordains Brian Yurky a deacon; (Second Inset) Bishop presents the Book of the Gospels to Deacon Heiser; (Third Inset) Deacon Justin Treon receives prayerful congratulations from the Bishop.]