‘God was the one who guided me to this point,’ says deacon
BY ELIZABETH WONG BARNSTEAD, THE WESTERN KENTUCKY CATHOLIC
As Deacon Corey D. Bruns preached his first homily following his ordination to the transitional diaconate, he was surprised to find himself overcome with emotion.
“I asked God in my head, ‘Where are these tears coming from?’” Deacon Bruns told The Western Kentucky Catholic in a June 24 email interview.
Deacon Bruns, preaching at June 21 Sunday Mass at Sts. Joseph and Paul Parish in Owensboro, where he has been assigned for the summer, recognized that the homilist preaches “to himself as well as to the people.”
“So as I encouraged the people to not be afraid, for God always remains with us, I realized later in the day that I was preaching the same message to myself,” said Deacon Bruns. “I needed to hear as a new deacon the encouragement that God was the one who had guided me to this point and that he would always remain faithful to me in my promises I made at my ordination.”
His diaconate ordination took place on June 20 at St. Stephen Cathedral – a total of 77 days after the original date of his ordination, which had been postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
State and diocesan safety guidelines restricted attendees to one-third of St. Stephen Cathedral’s capacity, however, so the liturgy was by invitation-only, with livestreaming on the cathedral’s Facebook page.
“Knowing that there were so many who have walked with me on my journey that wouldn’t be able to attend was bittersweet,” Deacon Bruns admitted.
He said it was also difficult as a musician in knowing that some of the originally-anticipated choral pieces and communal singing would not take place at the liturgy. This was due to diocesan guidelines asking congregations not to sing, in order to prevent the possible spread of the virus through airborne droplets.
“But I’m grateful to James Wells (cathedral music director) and Michael Bogdan (diocesan music director) for the beautiful job they did in incorporating the psalm I wrote, as well as several beautiful organ pieces into the ordination,” said Deacon Bruns. “They made the abnormal-ness of it all seem somewhat normal.”
Fr. Jerry Riney, rector of St. Stephen Cathedral, said that despite the limitations caused by the pandemic, he thought “the ordination of Corey Bruns to servant leader was engaging and inspiring, especially the powerful prostration part of the diaconate ritual” (referencing the point in the liturgy during which the candidate for the diaconate lies prostrate while the congregation prays the Litany of Supplication).
Fr. Riney said all attendees were “very cooperative in wearing masks/facial coverings, and physical distancing.”
Fr. Will Thompson, the parochial vicar at Sts. Joseph and Paul Parish and one of the priests present at the ordination Mass, said he finds it fitting that St. Stephen, patron of deacons, is the patron of the Diocese of Owensboro.
“During the ordination itself, I thought how appropriate that Deacon Corey is being ordained for this diocese with St. Stephen as an intercessor guiding him in service to the Church,” said Fr. Thompson. “Because in all ages, the Church benefits and grows through the faithful service of those who are fair minded, truthful, courageous and reliable.”
Bishop William F. Medley’s homily during the Mass, prior to the prayer of ordination, spoke to this as well.
“Corey, you are being raised and called to the order of deacon,” said Bishop Medley. “As a deacon, you will serve Jesus Christ who was known among his followers as the one who served others.”
The bishop went on to say that the deacon-elect must serve God and humanity “with love and joy.”
“Now, you must not only listen to God’s Word, but credibly preach God’s Word,” he said. “Express in action what you proclaim by word of mouth.”
The bishop said that in about a year – “presuming that natural disaster doesn’t intervene,” the bishop said wryly – the seminarian would be ordained a priest of the Diocese of Owensboro.
Bishop Medley recalled that seven years ago when Pope Francis was elected, the pope’s first action was asking the faithful to pray for him.
“Don’t ever hesitate, my brother, to ask to be blessed,” said the bishop.
Deacon Bruns told the WKC he believes the pandemic “will change the way in which we pray and work in the Church from here on out.”
“The work of evangelization and ‘re-evangelization’ of our people is going to be so necessary,” he said. “The digital-age and the response of the Church in using technology to reach and help others encounter the Lord is growing… The constant challenge is how to take a superficial encounter via technology and turn it into action within people’s lives.”
“How can we use the reflection they watched or podcast-homily to help someone come to the Church and encounter the Lord in the Eucharist? In his people? To assist in our social works?” asked Deacon Bruns.
Yes, the Church truly is meant to gather as a community for Mass – “and livestreams will never, nor should they ever, take the place of the liturgy celebrated with the people gathered together,” he said – but the options for evangelization “are open.”
“I think that the younger clergy around my generation have been tasked with helping our Church move more into the digital age,” said Deacon Bruns. “There is a lot of fertile ground out for us to be able to till and reap the harvest.”
Copyright © 2020 Diocese of Owensboro/The Western Kentucky Catholic