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‘A Moment of Sheer Beauty’

Seminarian Takes One Step Closer to the Priesthood

“Dear men, thank you for your yes. You are here by a free choice to respond to the call of the Good Shepherd and a call from His Bride, the Church. It is a great day for the whole Church,” said Bishop Austin Vetter of Helena, Montana, during the Pontifical North American College diaconate ordination on Sept. 29, the feast of the Archangels.

With Gian Lorenzo Bernini’s masterpiece, the Altar of the Chair of St. Peter, as the backdrop, 23 men from the college were ordained to the transitional diaconate at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. Among the ordinandi was Birmingham’s own Daniel Sessions.

Following the homily, the candidates knelt before the bishop, promising obedience. The Litany of the Saints was then sung as the candidates laid prostrate. Bishop Vetter then extended his hands and prayed the prayer of consecration, followed by the laying on of hands. The newly ordained deacons were then vested in their dalmatics. Deacon Sessions was vested by Father Bryan Jerabek, pastor and rector of the Cathedral of St. Paul. After being vested, each deacon again knelt before Bishop Vetter as he placed the Book of the Gospels in their hands and instructed them, “Receive the Gospel of Christ, Whose herald you have become. Believe what you read, teach what you believe, and practice what you teach.” The rite concluded with Bishop Vetter and all deacons present giving the kiss of peace to each new deacon.

Ordination to the transitional diaconate marks the last stage in seminary formation before ordination to the priesthood. It is at ordination that the man passes from the lay to the clerical state. The seminarian is “configured to Christ the Servant” and is charged with proclaiming the Gospel, preaching, and performing works of charity. It is also at ordination that the man makes a public commitment to obedience, celibacy, and prayer.

After the ordination, Deacon Sessions, who served as chairman of the Diaconate Planning Committee, spoke with EWTN News Nightly. “The deacon is supposed to be the archetype of service. We’re all, as Christians, called to be servants to each other and to our Almighty God, and the deacon embodies that. … It is the first step into orders, and so it is a nice preparatory step for what we will later fully experience and fully celebrate as priests. We are introduced to what it means to serve at the altar and to serve our brothers and sisters in a really radical and life-giving way.”

Of his ordination, Deacon Sessions said, “It was really just a moment of sheer beauty. … It was a wonderful time for our families to gather in Rome and to celebrate our gratitude for God and all that He has given us.”

Deacon Sessions entered seminary after graduating from John Carroll Catholic High School in Birmingham. The first two years of his formation were spent at the Pontifical College Josephinum in Columbus, Ohio. He was then accepted to the Basselin Scholars Program at Theological College in Washington, D.C. He earned a bachelor’s degree and licentiate (master’s) in philosophy through The Catholic University of America before beginning his studies in Rome. This spring, Deacon Sessions graduated summa cum laude from Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome with a bachelor’s degree in theology. Shortly after his ordination, Deacon Sessions began his studies in canon law, continuing his formation for priesthood at the North American College Seminary. By the grace of God, Deacon Sessions will return to the Diocese of Birmingham in June 2023 to be ordained a diocesan priest.