On Saturday, September 25, Bishop Richard F. Stika ordained deacon candidate and my classmate, Ken Conklin, to the permanent diaconate.
Ken began his journey toward becoming a deacon in August, 2016 for the discernment year, then as formal classes began in September, 2017. Since then, Ken and the other 24 of us who remain in the class have studied Scripture, Christology, Sacramental Theology, the Trinity, Ecclesiology and Church History, as well as practicum classes on liturgy and the sacraments. Our deacon formation weekends are filled with opportunities for prayer with the Liturgy of the Hours, Holy Hours, Mass and alone time to reflect on the journey. We also get to practice our preaching on each other, as well as (hopefully!) practicing what we preach.
Ken was diagnosed with cancer in 2018. He continued to attend classes, as usual, and his cancer went into remission. We felt our prayers answered. Unfortunately, the cancer returned, but Ken continued to attend classes until the combination of his illness and the concerns regarding COVID exposure relegated Ken to attending by zoom, as all of us did for a couple of classes and some still do. Even just last May, Ken was in attendance with us, looking good and strong, participating in his group’s presentation on Moral Theology and helping to lead us in the rosary during Holy Hour.
Surgery last month to remove part of his bowel to relieve pain revealed the extent of his cancer, and he returned home on hospice care. Deacon Tim Elliott, a good friend who has known Ken for some time and is the director of our formation, discussed Ken’s health with Bishop Stika, and Bishop Stika made the decision to ordain Ken to the permanent diaconate. I was out of town on the day, so I couldn’t attend, but most of our brother candidates were present when Ken was ordained at his home overlooking Douglas Lake in east Tennessee.
Ken has been an inspiration for all of us. Admired for his leadership among the candidates and for his steadfastness in the face of illness, we’ve looked to him as a model of the suffering servant who perseveres in the midst of difficulty and carries in his person the example of one who relies on the Lord for strength and hope. We have been praying for him during his illness, and continue to do so. We rely on his prayers as the rest of us continue the journey toward ordination that he has completed. We look forward, too, to his ongoing presence among us, if only by zoom, during the remaining months of formation.
God bless you, Ken! We love you and you will always be one of us and one with us.
Be Christ for all. Bring Christ to all. See Christ in all.