By Tony DeGol
Listening involves using more than one’s ears.
Bishop Mark made that point as he ordained diocesan seminarian Brian Norris as a transitional deacon on May 15 at the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament in Altoona.
“Brian, I know that you have been listening to God’s Word in a special way for some time,” the Bishop stated in his homily. “You have also realized that there comes a time when it is necessary to respond with your feet – to jump in and get busy about doing the obvious work that needs to be done. In the language of Pope Francis, it means getting close enough to the people by smelling like the sheep.”
As a transitional deacon, while continuing his studies and priestly formation at Saint Mary’s Seminary and University in Baltimore, Deacon Norris will, indeed, jump into ministry here in the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown.
Bishop Mark has appointed him to serve at Immaculate Conception Parish in New Germany, Most Holy Trinity Parish in South Fork, Saint Bartholomew Parish in Wilmore, and Saint John the Baptist Parish in Summerhill – all of which are led by Father Joseph Nale.
“From this day forward, you will make yourself a servant of all by proclaiming the Gospel, assisting at the altar by preparing the Sacrifice, distributing the Body and Blood of Christ, and by performing works of charity,” noted the Bishop. “That means that your ministry as a deacon is not a question of one work or another. It involves being called – being chosen – for many tasks.”
As Deacon Norris exercises his new ministry, he is to follow the will of God, and do so generously, stressed Bishop Mark.
“And to be generous means to recognize that there is so much to do, and sometimes it’s not even convenient to do it, but it is to be done according to the example of Jesus, our Savior,” he added.
Deacon Norris is a member of Saint Mary Parish in Hollidaysburg and a 2013 graduate of Bishop Guilfoyle Catholic High School in Altoona.
This latest step in his path to the priesthood is just one of the encouraging happenings with regard to vocations in the diocese.
Deacon Norris’ classmate at Guilfoyle, Deacon Michael Pleva, will be ordained to the priesthood on May 29 along with Deacon Mark Groeger of Saint Peter Parish in Somerset.
There are four other diocesan seminarians in various stages of formation, including a new seminarian from Saint John the Evangelist Parish in Bellefonte who will begin studies at Saint Mark’s Seminary in Erie this fall.
“This is wonderful, and we have to keep working,” remarked Diocesan Director of Vocations Father Peter Crowe, also the Pastor of Saint Andrew Parish in Johnstown. “We want to keep praying for our priests, and we want to keep praying for family life because that’s where good, solid vocations come from – good Catholic families.”
Father Crowe is encouraging young men considering a priestly vocation to reach out to him or their pastor for a conversation.
Added Father Crowe: “God is always calling, and God gives the grace for men to say ‘yes.’”
Men such as Deacon Brian Norris.
“We are all honored today by your saying ‘yes’ to God’s call to be a deacon,” mentioned Bishop Mark. “We are most glad to hear that you are answering that call with your ears, your feet, and your whole heart.”
[Photos: (Top) Bishop Mark lays hand on Norris; (First Inset) The Bishop places the Book of the Gospels in Norris’ hands; (Second Inset) Deacon Kevin Nester and other deacons present greet the newly-ordained Norris for the fraternal kiss; (Third Inset); Norris (center) assists at the altar during the Preparation of the Gifts; (Fourth Inset) The Norris family gathers around Deacon Brian Norris following the ordination Mass.]