Configured to Christ the servant: Isaac McCracken ordained as transitional deacon on March 19

North Texas Catholic
(Mar 22, 2024) Local

Isaac McCracken responds to Bishop Olson affirmatively during his ordination to the transitional diaconate on March 19, 2023 at St. Maria Goretti Church in Arlington. (NTC/Juan Guajardo)

Photo Gallery

ARLINGTON — “Trust God as St. Joseph did.”

Bishop Michael Olson spoke these reassuring words to Isaac McCracken moments before ordaining him to the transitional diaconate during a March 19 Mass in St. Maria Goretti Church on the Solemnity of St. Joseph, Husband of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

More than 350 family, friends, and clergy witnessed the ceremony that marks a seminarian’s final year of formation before ordination to the priesthood. One of three ranks of clerical ministry in the Church, a deacon can assist at Mass, proclaim the Gospel, deliver homilies, preside at baptisms, bless marriages, and perform rites of Christian burial.

Although they share similar functions and responsibilities as permanent deacons, transitional deacons have the added responsibility of studying for the priesthood.

Bishop Michael Olson lays hands on Isaac McCracken and prays for the gift of the Holy Spirit during the ordination on March 19, 2024 at St. Maria Goretti Parish in Arlington. (NTC/Juan Guajardo)

A righteous man

Before a man can be ordained a priest configured to Christ, he must first be configured to Christ the servant, Bishop Olson told the congregation during the liturgy.

“The dignity of Eucharist requires a priesthood vibrant with the charity of Christ who came to serve and not be served,” he explained. “The diaconate is the means by which Christ enkindles the charity in the heart of a man He is preparing for priestly ordination.”

Bishop Olson called St. Joseph a righteous man who responded to God’s call to accept Mary into his home with silent listening, meditation, and obedience.

“He sought only God’s will and not his own which is the essential meaning of every priest’s life,” he asserted.

Addressing McCracken, the bishop said St. Joseph is proof there is joy to be found in sacrificial love and service. 

“Your ordination tonight, on this solemnity, offers you an example and an intercessor for integrity of life, selfless service, and pure love,” he continued. “Be confident that God our Father will sustain you in your vocation just as He sustained St. Joseph in His unique ministry to the Blessed Virgin Mary and Son of God.”

Growing in faith

The former St. Vincent de Paul parishioner entered St. Joseph Seminary College in St. Benedict, Louisiana, after studying economics for two years at the University of Texas at Arlington (UTA). He credits UTA’s campus ministry and the newly ordained priests who celebrated Mass on campus, for inspiring his vocation.

Deacon Isaac McCracken takes photos with friends from the University Catholic Community at UTA at a reception following his ordination to the transitional diaconate on March 19, 2024 at St. Maria Goretti Church in Arlington. (NTC/Juan Guajardo)

Jeff Hedglen, director of UTA’s campus ministry program, remembers how McCracken served at Mass and in leadership roles with his peers.

“Being part of Isaac’s life while he was at UTA and seeing him grow in faith and then discern the priesthood was a real joy,” said Hedglen, who gave the second reading at the Ordination Mass. “The campus ministry was a place for him to find fellowship with other young people who were also trying to be serious about their faith.”

Given the chance to serve as greeters and extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion at the UTA Mass also “opened up an opportunity for students to consider a deeper, fuller aspect of ministry,” he suggested.

Promises and prayer

During the ordination rite, the 26-year-old seminarian made three promises for the first time in his formation: to live a celibate life as a sign of dedication to God and service to others; to respect and obey the bishop and his successors; and to pray faithfully the Liturgy of the Hours.

Demonstrating submission to the will of God, the ordinand then prostrated himself before the altar as the congregation sang the centuries-old Litany of the Saints for the world and on behalf of the man approaching the sacrament of holy orders. The visible act of prostration symbolizes laying down one’s life for the service of God and His Church.

Isaac McCracken lies prostrate as the bishop and congregation pray for him during his ordination to the transitional diaconate on March 19, 2023 at St. Maria Goretti Church in Arlington. (NTC/Juan Guajardo)

Following the intercessory prayer, McCracken approached the bishop for the most essential element of the ordination liturgy. With a gesture used by the Apostles in the election of the first deacons for the Church (Acts 6:6), Bishop Olson laid hands on McCracken’s head as he invoked the gifts of the Holy Spirit needed for ministry.

The newly ordained received the vestments of the diaconate, the stole and dalmatic, from men instrumental in his vocation journey — Deacon Bruce Corbett and Deacon Normand Etienne.

Wearing the garments of his new office, Deacon McCracken returned to the bishop who handed him the Book of the Gospel with the declaration, “Receive the Gospel of Christ whose herald you have become. Believe what you read. Teach what you believe and practice what you teach.”

Support and celebration

For Gary and Joann McCracken, the Ordination Mass was a time for celebration after witnessing their son’s years of study and discernment. As a transitional deacon, McCracken will continue his pastoral, liturgical, and educational preparation for the priesthood at Theological College in Washington, D.C., where he is earning a Master of Divinity degree and Baccalaureate of Sacred Theology.

Isaac McCracken's grandfather prays during the Litany of Saints at the ordination to the transitional diaconate on March 19, 2023 at St. Maria Goretti Church in Arlington. (NTC/Juan Guajardo)

“It’s surreal that, after all this time in seminary, it’s finally here,” said his mother describing the final milestone before ordination to the priesthood next year. “We knew he didn’t make this decision lightly, so it was important to be supportive.”

The mother of two boys described her younger son as kind, smart, and honest.

“And he has courage, and it’s important for a priest to have courage especially now,” she added.

Glen McCracken believes his grandson’s skill at learning languages will help his ministry. Fluent in Spanish and conversational in German, the new deacon is studying Latin hoping to read the works of Church Fathers in the original text.

“He’s made me very proud,” the grandfather remarked. “I see the way he works with everybody and is so very dedicated.”

An inspiring liturgy

Father Samuel Maul said the ordination of a man preparing for the priesthood “is a great day in the life of Isaac but also in the life of the diocese.”

Taking place on the anniversary of his own ordination to the transitional diaconate, the pastor of St. Maria Goretti Parish hoped the rite would inspire others.

“It’s a liturgy that doesn’t get seen very often, but it’s very impactful. There are a lot of components that spark the imagination,” he said. “Graces are there at every Mass, but there’s something about an ordination that draws people in to questioning where God is leading them.”

Bishop Michael Olson greets Catholics after the ordination Mass of Deacon Isaac McCracken on March 19, 2023 at St. Maria Goretti Church in Arlington. (NTC/Juan Guajardo)

Bishop Michael Olson, Isaac McCracken, ordination, transitional diaconate, St. Maria Goretti Church, Solemnity of St. Joseph, Husband of the Blessed Virgin Mary, transitional deacon, trending-english