A deacon at last

Larry Rossini’s path to ordination was briefly sidetracked, but now he serves Union County’s parish           

By Dan McWilliams

When the other 23 members of his deacon class were being ordained June 11, deacon candidate Larry Rossini was lying in a hospital bed, only three days removed from heart bypass surgery.

His special day had to be postponed, but it finally came Oct. 1 as Bishop Richard F. Stika ordained Mr. Rossini to the permanent diaconate at St. Albert the Great Church in Knoxville.

Bishop Stika presided at the ordination Mass. Concelebrants were host pastor Father Chris Michelson, Father Steve Pawelk, GHM, Father Tony Budnick, and Father Bill Gahagan. Deacon Jim Lawson was deacon of the Word, and Deacon Joe Stackhouse was deacon of the Eucharist.

Father Pawelk is pastor of St. Teresa of Kolkata in Maynardville, where Deacon Rossini is assigned.

Deacon Rossini talked about what the ordination day meant after all he had been through health-wise.

“Wow. It was a special emotional rollercoaster during the service,” he said. “I went from feeling not worthy to a high of just being blessed that I was called, and the Holy Spirit just filled my heart.”

He had to watch via live streaming as his brother deacons were ordained in June. A phone call from Bishop Stika during that ceremony lifted his spirits, however.

“Until the bishop called, I was feeling pretty low, but while they were being processed up the aisle at Sacred Heart [Cathedral], I get a phone call, and it’s the bishop, and he’s just assuring me that I will be ordained and not question why but just pray that God will answer my call, and he did, and today I got ordained!” Deacon Rossini said.

More than two dozen deacons, including many from the class of 2016, joined Deacon Rossini at his ordination.

“That made it complete, because I felt I was a link that was missing during that whole process, and now today it’s complete,” he said.

His wife of 42 years, Karen, all five of their sons, and seven of the couple’s nine grandchildren attended the ordination, along with a brother and sister-in-law from Arkansas.

In his opening remarks, Bishop Stika told of one thing he has in common with Deacon Rossini: they’ve both had bypass surgery.

“He and I both share that. I had one 13 years ago,” the bishop said.

Before the homily, diocesan chancellor Deacon Sean Smith called Mr. Rossini forward, the candidate answering “present.”

Deacon Tim Elliott, diocesan director of the diaconate, then asked the bishop to ordain Mr. Rossini. “I testify that Larry has been found worthy,” Deacon Elliott said.

“We choose this man, Lawrence, our brother, for the order of the diaconate,” the bishop said, leading to a round of applause for the ordinand.

The bishop told Deacon Rossini to be the hands, feet, and heart of Jesus.

“Larry, as you make this public pronouncement, this public proclamation that you wish to be a deacon of the Church, allow people to see Jesus in you . . . in your hands as you reach out to another, to maybe help them along with their life, to give them spiritual guidance.

Deacon Larry Rossini receives an ovation from the faithful at St. Albert the Great Church during his ordination Mass on Oct. 1.

“By your feet, never to walk away . . . but especially to be the heart of Jesus, to know that your primary vocation is to your wife and your family, but also a part of your vocation now is to be a deacon, to be a person of charity and kindness and love and understanding, to be a person who knows that even though he might be retired from one place in life, you’re never retired from life or retired from faith. That after these five years and some time [of study for the diaconate], now you’ll stand before the Church, make pronouncements of prayer, the Liturgy of the Hours, service, and one I’m particularly fond of: obedience and respect to the bishop.”

The bishop told the ordinand that “when you proclaim the Word of God, do so meaningfully . . . allow them to be words that you speak from the heart. When you preach, preach what the Church teaches, as the instruction reminds us.”

Bishop Stika added that “Lawrence is a good name for a deacon. He himself was a deacon, St. Lawrence.”

Deacon Rossini’s ordination fell on the feast day of St. Thérèse of Lisieux. The bishop quoted the Little Flower: “every day appreciate that day as a gift from God, and every day give that gift to another as a gift from God.” He also quoted St. Teresa of Kolkata: “every day do something beautiful for God.”

The bishop offered a closing thought for the new deacon.

“Larry, and my brother deacons and priests, but especially Larry, this day I pray you might always be that face of Jesus, that when another person approaches you because they wish to see Jesus, they see a kind, well-educated, well-formed individual who is willing to be Christ-like to that person.”

Bishop Stika told Deacon Rossini that “your surgery went well, and your recovery has been remarkable. You, like myself—now everyone knows that we both have hearts, and may those hearts be the hearts of Jesus in so many different ways.”

After the homily, Deacon Rossini made promises to the bishop, resolving “to be consecrated for the Church’s ministry by the laying on of my hands and the gift of the Holy Spirit,” “to discharge the office of deacon with humble charity,” and “to maintain and deepen the spirit of prayer that is proper to your way of life.”

The deacon-elect promised respect and obedience to Bishop Stika and his successors, then prostrated himself during the Litany of the Saints.

Afterward, the ordinand knelt before the bishop as the latter prayed the prayer of ordination.

Father Michelson then vested the newly ordained deacon with his stole and dalmatic. Deacon Rossini received the Book of the Gospels from Bishop Stika and a greeting of peace from him. All the deacons present then greeted Deacon Rossini.

In closing remarks Deacon Rossini thanked the bishop for his phone call during his brother deacons’ ordination Mass.

The ordination was the second for the still-young St. Albert the Great Parish. Deacon Dan Alexander from the class of 2007, like Deacon Rossini, also was sick and had to be ordained later, the ceremony taking place at St. Albert the Great. ■

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