The excitement in the air was palpable. The people of Browning’s Little Flower Parish gathered for liturgy, as a revered member of the Blackfeet Nation was called forth from their community for Ordination to the Diaconate.
Ronald Running Crane is a quiet, humble, prayerful man. For years, he and his wife, Shirley, have been major sources for good in Blackfeet Country. On the evening of Nov. 1, 2006, Ron’s years of formal study and formation culminated in the laying on of hands, as I ordained him to the Diaconate for the Diocese of Helena.
For years, Ron immersed himself in the life of parish and community, a man recognized as a servant leader.
As he knelt before the altar, I placed the Book of Gospels in his hands and stated, “Receive the Gospel of Christ, whose herald you have become. Believe what you read, teach what you believe and practice what you teach.”
Ronald Running Crane is the personification of diaconal ministry envisioned by the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council.
Deacons share in Christ’s mission and grace in a special way. The Sacrament of Holy Orders marks them with an imprint “which cannot be removed and which configures them to Christ, Who made Himself the deacon or servant of all.” (NCE 1570)
Since the Second Vatican Council, the Latin Church has restored the diaconate as a “proper and permanent rank of hierarchy.” (LG 29, 2)
The Order of Deacon is envisioned as “a living icon of Christ the servant within the Church.” Ronald Running Crane embodies this image of Christ the Servant in meaningful and concrete ways for the people of Blackfeet Country and beyond.
Deacons are ordained by the laying on of hands, a tradition handed down from the time of the Apostles. Their ministry is threefold – a ministry of Word, Worship, and Charity.
The deacon’s Ministry of the Word makes him an evangelizer and teacher. In the Liturgy of the Word, he proclaims the Gospel and on occasion preaches the homily. His ministry of Word may include catechetical instruction and formation of candidates preparing for reception of the sacraments. He assumes a role of leadership in retreats, evangelization and renewal programs. He is to have particular sensitivity for outreach toward alienated Catholics. The most profound message he preaches is found in his way of life, which should assist the Church in transforming society and culture in the light of the Gospel.
The deacon’s Ministry of Liturgy allows him to be a visible sign of the connection between the Lord’s Eucharistic table and service to the poor. He voices the needs of the people in the General Intercessions, and is ordinary minister of Communion. The deacon may celebrate baptisms, witness marriages, bring Viaticum to the dying, and preside over funerals and burials.
The deacon can preside at Liturgy of the Word and Communion in the absence of a priest. He may officiate at the Liturgy of the Hours and at Exposition and Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament. He can conduct public rites of blessings and administer the Church’s sacraments as designated in the Book of Blessings.
The deacon’s Ministry of Charity and Justice reflects the ancient tradition of the deacon’s presence at the table of the poor.
In the early Church, the deacon was envisioned as the one who brought the needs of the poorest and neediest to the attention of the bishop.
In our day and age he is to be a driving force in addressing the injustices of God’s people. His presence in the community is seen as a catalyst to inspire all of the Christian faithful to serve as advocates and servants of the voiceless and the vulnerable. The deacon sacramentalizes the mission of the Church in his words and deeds, as he responds to the Lord’s command of service, and provides real life examples of how to carry out Christ’s mandate.
His is not only a mission of compassion and charity, but also one of justice and advocacy.
Ronald Running Crane reflects and embodies the threefold ministry of deacon through his lived commitment to Word, Worship and Charity.
In the upcoming year the Diocese of Helena will call forth a new class of deacons. The promotion and recruitment of qualified, committed persons will be a collaborative ministry between the Office of Bishop and the pastors and pastoral leaders in the Diocese of Helena.
The admission and selection procedures will allow us together to discern the call of the Holy Spirit in the life of the individual candidate. The procedure will be designed to help me determine the capability and readiness of an aspirant prior to his acceptance as a candidate for Diaconal Ordination.
The preparation period following one year of aspirancy will follow the national norms for the formation of the diaconate. The formation program will address the human, spiritual, intellectual and pastoral dimensions of the candidate and will be characterized by quality, depth and ongoing discernment.
We will look for candidates who are already deeply immersed in the life of parish and community and are recognized as natural servant leaders.
Ronald Running Crane embodies the best of these characteristics as a living reflection of Christ the Servant within the Church.
Published in The Montana Catholic, Vol. 22, No. 11, November 15, 2006.