Christopher Manning ordained to diaconate

Knoxville Catholic High School grad is one step closer to priesthood

Christopher Manning moved one step closer to the priesthood as Bishop Richard F. Stika ordained him to the transitional diaconate Aug. 4 at Sacred Heart Cathedral.

Bishop Richard F. Stika lays his hands on the head of Christopher Manning during the latter’s diaconate ordination Mass. Assisting are seminarians (from left) Adam Royal and Scott Russell.
Photo by Dan McWilliams

Deacon Manning recently completed a summer Clinical Pastoral Education assignment as a chaplain at the James H. Quillen VA Medical Center in Mountain Home before returning to Mundelein Seminary in Illinois, where he will finish his fourth and final year of theology.

“It’s been an amazing experience,” said Deacon Manning. “I started up at Mundelein five years ago, and to know that through the prayer and support of the people in the Diocese of Knoxville I’ve reached this point to be able to become a deacon for the diocese, it’s been an amazing feeling—something I’m really looking forward to continuing.”

About 20 priests concelebrated Deacon Manning’s ordination Mass, including vicar general Monsignor Xavier Mankel, director of vocations Father Michael Cummins, and Father Marty Zielinski of Mundelein. Cardinal Justin Rigali attended the Mass in choir. Seminarians of the diocese served at the altar.

Family attending the ordination included Deacon Manning’s parents, James Manning and Dr. Marlyn Leisy, and his sister, Whitney Manning.

“My dad’s side of the family and my mom’s side of the family were here as well,” said Deacon Manning. “Father Zielinski was able to come down as the Mundelein representative. That meant a lot. I also had two deacons—fellow classmates—come up, Chuck Schwartz and Dennis Dorner. So it was nice to have classmates show that support—being so far south, it can be very difficult for people to travel. Mundelein has shown a lot of support for my vocation and for the Diocese of Knoxville.”

The Church of East Tennessee “rejoices to almighty God” as its members gathered for the ordination, Bishop Stika said in his greeting.

“As we celebrate this ordination today, we pray that our brother might always be the face of Jesus, speak his words, and embrace others with his love,” he said.

In his homily the bishop said he wished to “thank Christopher’s parents and family for the gift of life that they’ve conveyed to him.”

“But I also wish to thank them for naming our brother Christopher: a name that translates ‘Christ bearer.’ For as we move forward on this special day in this special way, my brother Christopher, we indeed will entrust to your care the message of Christ, the anointed one. Christopher, in a particular way, the Church, through the imposition of my hands this morning, invites you to become just what your name implies: a Christ bearer.”

As a deacon, the bishop told the ordinand, “you will proclaim the Gospel and live it out. You will prepare the eucharistic sacrifice, the Mass. You will set the table for the community of faith that gathers together with you. You will be privileged to distribute the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, but also you will be challenged to exhort believers and nonbelievers, to teach the doctrine of the Church, to preside over public prayer, to baptize and to bless marriages, to bring viaticum to the dying, and to conduct funeral services, to bear Christ with you wherever his invitation might lead you at any given moment of any day.”

The new deacon might be called upon to work a fish fry or sit in a dunking booth, or to preach and teach from the pulpit, a Mundelein classroom, a shopping mall, or a restaurant, Bishop Stika said.

“In your preaching and in your works of charity, I pray that you will follow the example of St. Francis of Assisi, who challenged his friars to preach the Gospel always and to at times even use words,” the bishop said. “You, by virtue of your name and the gift of the Holy Spirit, will indeed be a Christ-bearer to all whom you seek.”

The one who bears the name of “Christ bearer” as a deacon should “believe what you read, teach what you believe, and practice what you teach,” said Bishop Stika. “And as Blessed John Paul reminds us, ‘Don’t be afraid of what you teach, of what you believe, and what you read, for it will free you to be Christ to others.’”

After the homily, the rite of ordination proceeded and included the candidate’s promise of respect and obedience to Bishop Stika and his successors, the Litany of the Saints, and the laying on of hands and prayer of ordination.

Father Randy Stice, diocesan director of Worship and Liturgy, vested Deacon Manning. The bishop handed the ordinand the Book of the Gospels. After a greeting of peace for Deacon Manning by the bishop and the other deacons present, the newly ordained deacon assisted Bishop Stika during the Liturgy of the Eucharist.

Deacon Manning is a Knoxville native who attended Sacred Heart Cathedral School, graduated from Knoxville Catholic High School in 2000, Maryville College in 2004 and received a graduate degree from the University of Tennessee.

Deacon Manning described his ordination ceremony as “beautiful.”

“It was very moving and very meaningful for me to see everyone involved, and to know that people who have played such an important part in my vocation and my formation and discernment were able to be there was very meaningful,”the newly ordained deacon said.

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