From left, Deacon Mark Otting and Deacon Dan Kurt.

On July 10, Mark Otting and Dan Kurt were ordained as deacons along with eight other men from across the Dubuque Archdiocese. The ordination took place in Reinbeck and was presided over by Archbishop Michael Jackels. According to Kurt, the ordination was a unique spiritual experience aided by the intimate feel of the smaller mass.

“It was a very spiritual experience when you feel the Holy Spirit come upon you,” he said. “It’s indescribable and you’re just overwhelmed with emotion. It was a smaller mass and amount of people because of COVID-19, which I think made it more personal.”

“The Archbishop called us up and laid his hands on our hands,” said Otting. “He stated that we’d been called by God to serve him at this time and ultimately serve his successor because he’s in charge of all ordained ministers in the archdiocese, which includes the deacons. He’s able to approve the jobs and even request that we transfer to another parish or pastorate, although it’s kind of rare for that to happen. He also asked us to deliver the word of the Gospel, believe what we read and teach what we believe.”

The Rev. Mark Osterhaus, pastor of the St. Thomas Aquinas Pastorate, said the pastorate is looking forward to benefiting from the gifts and services of its new deacons.

He said, “We’re grateful because they’re both gifted and, even though they both have full-time jobs, they really want to help out.”

According to Osterhaus, the deacons will be in a rotating pattern of preaching four times on a weekend when it’s their turn to preach. This will average out to three masses in Cascade and one in one of the smaller parishes of the pastorate. Additionally, the deacons will provide numerous other ministries for the pastorate, including couples work, education and prison ministry.

“They’ve each already signed up for some things they’re interested in doing,” said Osterhaus. “Mark Otting will be very active at Aquin and he’ll be an executive coordinator succeeding Ray Noonan. Dan is going to be a catchiest for the high school students on Wednesday night, which he and his wife have already been doing. He’s also going to be working with couples who want to have children baptized. Those are a couple of things they both said they’d do right off the bat, and that’s in addition to being here to preach.”

Kurt said, “The ministries I’ve selected were ministries I experienced during formation, and I was happy to have the opportunity to experience different ministries and be able to see where my niche is. This past weekend I did get back into some of that ministry work and as we move forward we’ll be getting more involved in the other ministries. It’s very exciting and fulfilling because the people we’re ministering to are also ministering to us.”

According to the new deacons, the ordination and the nine semesters of formation that preceded it have not only brought them into a new position to serve God but have strengthened their relationships with their wives and everyone else around them.

“My wife describes it as a marriage,” said Kurt, describing the ordination. “It’s almost like we’re getting married again with this new chapter of life. The whole process of formation and ordination has strengthened so many relationships, not only with my spouse but with my family, members of the community and my classmates.”

Osterhaus said this special bonding is also a big aid to the deacon’s ministry when working with couples.

He said, “When it comes to working with engaged or married couples, they have that couple experience. Really, it’s almost like getting two people in ministry, even though we only ordain one. We’re really blessed to have all these men and their wives as part of our ministry team.”

With the addition of the two newly-ordained deacons, St. Thomas Aquinas Pastorate now has two retired and four active deacons across its four parishes of Sacred Heart in Fillmore, St. Peter’s in Temple Hill, St. Matthias in Cascade and St. Patrick’s in Garryowen.

Kurt said, “Having the opportunity to be more involved in the community now in this capacity is something we’re looking forward to.”