Mark Miller is ordained to transitional diaconate Print E-mail
Around the Diocese
Written by Mary C. Uhler, Catholic Herald Staff   
Thursday, Oct. 20, 2011 -- 12:00 AM
Cardinal William Levada lays hands on Mark Miller, seminarian for the Diocese of Madison, during the Pontifical North American College’s diaconate ordination at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. (PNAC photo) To view or purchase photos from this event go to:

ROME -- On October 6, Mark Miller of the Diocese of Madison was one of 35 seminarians of the Pontifical North American College (PNAC) ordained to the transitional diaconate during a Mass at the Altar of the Chair in the Papal Basilica of St. Peter at the Vatican.

Cardinal William Levada, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and a 1962 alumnus of the PNAC, celebrated the Mass and was the ordaining prelate.

The Diocese of Madison was represented at the ordination by Bishop Robert C. Morlino and Fr. Paul Ugo Arinze, director of vocations. Deacon David Johannes, who was ordained a transitional deacon on May 27 in Madison and is completing his seminary studies in Denver, also attended the ordination. He and Deacon Miller will be ordained to the priesthood on June 29, 2012, the Feast of the Solemnity of Peter and Paul, in Madison.

Fr. Tait Schroeder, a diocesan priest studying in Rome, vested Deacon Miller during the ordination rites. The other diocesan seminarians studying in Rome attended the ordination, with Ben Emmel and Gabriel Lopez-Betanzos singing in the PNAC choir. The other seminarians studying there are Scott Emerson and Scott Jablonski.

Deacon Miller’s parents, Deborah and Rev. Jeffrey Miller of Sparta, attended as did the parents of Lopez-Betanzos, Berta Betanzos and José Lopez of Lansing, Mich.

Father Arinze said, “It was a happy day for the Diocese of Madison to have Mark ordained. It’s always a joy and now we can look forward to his priesthood ordination with Deacon David in June.”

The vocation director said it was a special experience to see so many deacons ordained at the Altar of the Chair in St. Peter’s Basilica. “The choir sang beautifully, and there were many priests and bishops there,” said Father Arinze, who concelebrated the Mass.

Expressing gratitude

Deacon Miller expressed gratitude on his ordination: “The very first thing I have to say about the experience is that I am grateful. I’m grateful to God for my vocation, for the grace that’s carried me through all of the challenges and difficulties of discernment and preparation, and for the grace I received with ordination to the diaconate.

“I’m grateful for all of the support I have received over the years that has allowed me to spend time in formation at seminary. It costs a lot to send a guy through, and without the generosity of the people of the Diocese of Madison, none of this would have been possible,” said Deacon Miller.

He also expressed his gratitude for the opportunity to study in Rome with Catholics from all over the world. He added, “I’m grateful that I had the opportunity to be ordained a deacon in St. Peter’s and that my folks were able to be there with me. I’m grateful that in nine months I’ll be ordained a priest in Madison, my home, along with one of my closest friends, Dave Johannes.”

“I’m grateful for the Christian faith, and the hope and joy it brings me. I have seen what laying down your life for the sake of love means, in what Jesus Christ has done for me, in the lives of faithful Christians I’ve met, and now in my own life. The God that Jesus Christ revealed is a Father who has promised me and all who have faith in him a life with him forever.

“I’m happy. I know that in my life, just as there has been, there will continue to be struggles and fatigue, loss and grief. But I also know that holding on to my faith means that even in the midst of pain, in the deepest part of me, I remain happy. This is the reality God has called me to pass on to the people of the Diocese of Madison. I believe God will bring this call he has given me to fulfillment in my life as a priest.”

New deacon’s background

Deacon Miller was raised in the Lutheran faith (his father is a Lutheran pastor). After graduating from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Deacon Miller’s personal studies in theology and Scripture led him to the Catholic faith. He enrolled in the RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults) at St. Bernard Parish in Middleton and was received into the Catholic Church in 2005.

He then pursued his call to a vocation and was accepted as a seminarian for the Diocese of Madison. He studied at St. John Vianney Theological Seminary In Denver, Colo., for three years before beginning his studies in Rome.

He finished his degree in three years in Rome and has started on an advanced degree this fall at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas (the Angelicum) in ecumenism and interreligious dialogue. This is a two-year program, so he expects to return to Rome for one more year of studies after his ordination to the priesthood in 2012.

Day of great rejoicing

In his homily, Cardinal Levada proclaimed to the congregation gathered for the ordination, “Dear friends, today is a day of great rejoicing for the whole Church!”

Explaining the significance of the diaconate, the cardinal said, “In the diaconate the Church grounds all ordained ministry in the threefold structure of the ministry of the Word, of the liturgy, and of charity. These three ministries correspond to revelation and faith, by which the Word of God who is love is preached and handed on in the Church.”

During the ordination, the new deacons promised to live a life of prayer, celibacy, and obedience to their diocesan bishop. The new deacons will have an additional year of theological studies and spiritual formation before being ordained to the priesthood.

As part of the ordination rite, Cardinal Levada placed the Book of the Gospels in the hands of each candidate being ordained and said, “Receive the Gospel of Christ, whose herald you have become. Believe what you read, teach what you believe, and practice what you teach.”

Pray for the new deacons

Cardinal Levada concluded his homily by saying, “Let us pray for these men today, that God’s grace of Holy Orders may make them dedicated servants in ministry to the Church. May Mary, Mother of the Clergy, intercede for them so that — as future priests — they may show forth the face of Christ, the face of God’s own love, to a waiting world.”

Before their ordination, the deacons completed extensive studies in both philosophy and theology. They were also given thorough spiritual and pastoral formation.

As deacons, they have been commissioned by the Church to preach the word of God, minister at the altar, and assist bishops and priests in the pastoral care of the community.

They are called “transitional deacons,” because they expect to be ordained to the priesthood.

The Pontifical North American College serves as the American seminary in Rome. Founded in 1859 by Blessed Pius IX, the college has formed over 5,000 priests near the heart of the Church for service in dioceses around the United States, Canada, and Australia. The PNAC strengthens the bonds between Rome and local Churches worldwide, and it allows its students to study the Church’s rich religious and cultural heritage at close range.

In the Diocese of Madison, those interested in more information about vocations to the priesthood may contact Father Arinze at the Office of Vocations at 608-821-3000, e-mail This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or go to

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