7 men slated to be ordained deacons this month

Categories: Around the Diocese

Three as permanent deacons, four transitional, on track for the priesthood

June 7, 2013 edition
By Kristi Anderson
For The Visitor

“So, brothers, select from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Spirit and wisdom, whom we will put in charge of this need,” says the book of Acts of selecting the first deacons. This month, the Diocese of St. Cloud will also receive seven men as they answer the call to their vocation as ordained deacons.

Three men will be ordained as permanent deacons and four seminarians will be ordained transitional deacons, one step before anticipated ordination as priests.

The ordination of permanent deacons will take place at St. Mary’s Cathedral,

St. Cloud, at 10:30 a.m. June 8.

The rite ordaining the transitional deacons is scheduled for 10:30 a.m. June 22, also at the Cathedral.

Transitional deacons will be ordained during the same rite as permanent deacons; however, their promise includes a vow of celibacy and is the next step toward priesthood ordination, which usually occurs within one year of the diaconate ordination.

At ordination, a deacon becomes a member of the clergy who makes a promise of obedience to the bishop and commits his life in service to the church. Deacons can proclaim the Gospel, preach and teach, and administer the sacraments of baptism and marriage.

Permanent deacons


Mark Stenger,
Sacred Heart Parish, Dent

Stenger says he didn’t “decide” to study for the diaconate, but instead, felt called to serve the church as a deacon.

“My parents have been great influences because of their example to seek a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ,” he said. “They taught me and my siblings to pray daily and encouraged me to have a relationship with God which enabled me to hear my call to serve the church.”

Stenger, a lifelong member of Sacred Heart Parish, Dent, will serve his home parish and its sister parish, St. Lawrence Parish, Rush Lake.

“I am looking forward to preaching,” he said. “Marriage, raising children and working in a secular job are experiences that many of the people in my congregations share.

“As a permanent deacon, my perspective in preaching will be different from, but complementary to, my pastor’s preaching.”

Stenger lives near Dent with his wife, Joan, of 27 years. The couple has three grown children: Jim, Eddie and Nancy.

blissBert Bliss,
St. Joseph Parish, St. Joseph

Bliss felt called to ministry for many years. After becoming Catholic, he heard about the permanent diaconate and says he “immediately started feeling a gentle and persistent ‘nudge’ from the Holy Spirit. He and his wife, Dorie, looked into the diaconate program.

“Dorie and I spent time inquiring and reading and we both agreed that we should pursue the formation process and see where that would lead,” he said. “It has been a very fulfilling journey for both of us.”

For Bliss, ordination is an affirmation of his calling.

“It will be a great privilege to serve the people of God as a deacon,” he said. “I think of myself more as a teacher or Bible study leader than a preacher, so I have been surprised to discover that I am actually looking forward to giving homilies.”

The Blisses have three adult children; two daughters living in Minnesota and their youngest daughter and her husband currently residing in Mozambique, Africa.

troutJim Trout,
St. Michael Parish, St. Cloud

As a young man, Trout seriously considered the priesthood. After careful discernment, he learned that he was not called to the priesthood, but still felt strongly called to serve the church.

“The question remained as to how I would serve,” he said. “While living out this calling as a youth minister in my hometown parish, I was introduced to the permanent diaconate.

“My parents, pastors, friends, college professors, coworkers and certainly my wife and children together have created a sort of network of people that reflect who God is to me,” he explained. “They continually inspire and strengthen me in my spiritual journey.”

Trout will serve the twinned parish communities of St. Michael Parish, St. Cloud, and their twinned parish, St. Joseph Parish, Waite Park. Trout lives in St. Cloud with his wife, Betsy. The couple has three children: David, 20, Rachel, 17, and Theresa, 14.

Transitional Deacons

bechtoldMitchell Bechtold,
St. Wendelin Parish, Luxemburg

Bechtold, entering his fourth year of theology at St. Paul Seminary, is grateful for his call to serve the church.

“For me, ordination means that God and his church are choosing me, just as I am striving daily to choose God and his church,” he shared. “This mission of love, common to all Christians, begins with small, significant and daily acts of charity.”

As a deacon, he will be an ordinary minister of baptism and matrimony, and will be called upon to ‘assist at table,’ much like the original seven deacons.

“This is a great blessing for me since the vocation of ordained life is indeed my heart’s choice.”

Bechtold will spend his summer serving the parish cluster of St. Gall Parish, Tintah, St. Charles Parish, Herman, and St. Olaf Parish, Elbow Lake, under the direction of Father Michael Kellogg.

gapinskiTim Gapinski,
SS. Peter and Paul Parish, Gilman

Gapinski, originally from the Gilman area, is studying at St. Paul Seminary on the campus of St. Thomas University and looks forward to spending his first summer as a deacon in the parishes of Sacred Heart Parish, Staples and St. Michael Parish, Motley.

“One of the wonderful opportunities afforded to deacons,” he said, “is being able to proclaim the Gospel at Mass and preach homilies. While I look forward to those opportunities, I also wish to continue my own personal growth in preaching and encourage honest feedback from the people of the parish.

“I have a love for the people of the diocese,” Gapinski continued, “and I look forward to working for them and alongside them as we seek to advance the Gospel message.”

theisJeremy Theis,
SS. Peter and Paul Parish, Richmond

For Theis, who studies at the Pontifical North American College in Rome, the diocese is home.

“I am excited to be back with the people of the Diocese of St. Cloud,” he said. “I am looking forward to my summer assignment at St. Michael Parish in St. Cloud and to serving under the guidance of Father Mark Innocenti and Father Joe Backowski.

“Being in the St. Cloud area,” Theis said, “will likely provide many opportunities to reach out to others and share their daily life in the church particularly at baptisms, weddings, hospital visits and funerals. This summer will be very important in my formation as an ordained servant of God and his people.”

nettAaron Nett,
Seven Dolors Parish, Albany

Proclaiming the Word of God and celebrating the sacraments are what Aaron Nett looks forward to as a transitional deacon.

Nett, who spent the last three years studying at the PNAC in Rome, hopes to “bring Christ to the people and bring people to Christ.” He will spend the summer at St. Francis Xavier Parish in Sartell.

“I hope to grow as a man of the altar,” he said, “while assisting at Masses, preaching homilies and visiting the sick which will help to prepare me well for the priesthood and essentially draw me closer to the heart of Jesus, the source of all ministry.

“There is a desire to stir up faith where it may be darkened or hard to find,” Nett said. “I find great joy, peace and purpose in friendship with Christ and in the beauty of the Catholic Church. That is good news we can all spread around.”