By Tony DeGol
The Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown has been blessed with two new deacons, and those new clergy members and their wives have gained a new family.
“You see all the love and the people that were involved with us to get us to this point,” acknowledged the newly-ordained Jerome Nevling of those who walked the formation journey with him – especially his brother deacons and their wives. “The deacons are wonderful. They’re there with us, they’re supporting us and giving us what we need.”
Added his wife, Lori: “We’re beyond blessed to be within this diaconate community. We love this diocese and our diaconate family, and we hope to do great things.”
Deacon Nevling even admitted he cried about five times during the ordination Mass, but no one saw it.
“It’s just an amazing day, very moving,” he added.
The enthusiasm was equally contagious from the other new deacon.
“I feel full of joy,” exclaimed Allan Duman. “I just want to dance and just enjoy the day – enjoy the Holy Spirit.”
It has been a remarkable journey, assured his wife, Joanna.
“I think it’s an amazing opportunity for the wives to participate in the formation with their husband because it not only gives us an idea of what to expect from our husband, but it also gives us the skills we’re going to need to go forth in our parish and help our parish flourish.,” she said.
Bishop Mark L. Bartchak ordained Deacon Duman and Deacon Nevling on June 1 at the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament in Altoona.
A deacon in the Catholic Church is called to serve.
“In that role of being a servant, frustration can occur when the servant does not know why things are a certain way,” noted Bishop Mark in his homily. “Jesus clarifies this for us in the Gospel reading when he says, ‘I no longer call you slaves. I call you friends, because I have told you everything.”
The ordination was the culmination of years of preparation for both men – a process the Bishop called being formed and transformed from being a slave to being a true friend of Christ.
“The truth of that friendship defines what it means to be a deacon; a true servant of the Father of Jesus,” he said.
The Bishop went on to elaborate on a perception among some that the role of most people in the Church is to pray, pay, and obey.
“To pray means to lift up your whole mind, heart and soul to the Lord God,” Bishop Mark explained to the pair. “To really pray is to have the level of conversation that has nothing to do with being a slave. It has everything to do with being a friend with a true friend.”
To pay, he continued, does not mean to reach in our pocket hoping to satisfy the poor by giving them cash.
“The best model of what it means to pay as a servant of the Lord God is the example of the Lord Jesus who said and did everything so that others could encounter the love of his Father,” Bishop Mark reminded.
Obeying involves listening.
“Each of you can immediately recognize the sound of the voice of your wife, children, or closet friend,” he said. “Make sure that you never close your mind and your heart to hearing the voice of the Father.”
Deacon Duman, a member of Saint Mary Parish in Hollidaysburg, said the idea of service is not at all new to him. He served his community as a police officer, his country as a member of the military, and his Church as an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion.
“This is just another step that the Holy Spirit is calling me to do,” he said.
The Bishop has appointed him to diaconal service at Saint Mary.
Deacon Nevling, who has been assigned to his home parish of Saints Peter and Paul in Philipsburg, cannot wait to engage in his new ministry.
“We’re ready to get started now,” he stressed. “We’ve been working in the parishes before ordination, but we’re excited to get out now and do what we’ve been formed to do. It’s like the old song: ‘Put me in coach. I’m ready to play!’”
[Top photo: Deacon Allan Duman, Bishop Mark, Deacon Jerome Nevling, and Deacon Michael Russo, Director of the Permanent Diaconate.]
[Second photo: Deacon Jerome and Lori Nevling.]
[Third photo: Deacon Allan and Joanna Duman.]
[Fourth photo: Bishop Mark lays hands on the head of Deacon Nevling.]
[Fifth photo: Deacon Duman receives the Book of the Gospels from the Bishop.]