Asking God to “look with favor on this servant of yours,” Bishop Robert Deeley ordained Patrick Finn, originally from Bath, to the transitional diaconate in a Mass celebrated at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Portland, on Sunday, October 8.
“We are grateful for the growing vocation in Patrick. In this new ministry in his life, we join with Patrick in another step in his journey to the priesthood. The source of our joy is the belief that God is with us as we ordain Patrick,” the bishop said. “Our joy this morning, in the ordination of Patrick, is grounded in our appreciation of the love God has shown him and all of us. It is the source of our hope. It is the foundation of our wish to serve.”
“It’s just amazing,” Deacon Finn said. “It’s been a long time in preparation, and just to see the whole people from all around the diocese, and from beyond also, it was just amazing.”
The Order of the Diaconate in the Catholic Church includes both permanent and transitional deacons. Those, like Finn, who are ordained to the transitional diaconate are seminarians who are preparing for the priesthood.
The diaconate is a ministry of service that dates back to the time of the apostles, who needed help to minister to the early, growing Church community. Deacons are called to assist at the altar, preach the word of God, and do works of charity.
“The Acts of the Apostles, in describing the work that the deacons would do, did not just see it as the purely mechanical work of distribution of things such as meals. It called for those who were to be ordained to this ministry to be men ‘full of the Spirit and wisdom.’ The service they were to perform certainly involved a concrete act of kindness, but it was also to be a spiritual service. It was to flow from a heart which knows itself, as Pope Francis said to a gathering of deacons, as ‘very dear to God, who loves us, chooses us, and calls us to serve,’” Bishop Deeley said.
The cathedral was full for the ordination Mass, with parishioners joined by Deacon Finn’s family members, friends, and many people with whom he has served throughout the years. He said it was something that struck him as he processed into the church.
“I think one of the significant moments was the procession,” he said. “It’s not unlike the groom coming out of the sacristy and seeing the bride walking down the aisle. It’s a different vocation, but that’s what I’m doing. I’m giving my life for the service of the Church here in Maine, and here they are. It was just beautiful to see.”
During the Rite of Ordination, those filling the pews showed their appreciation for Finn by vigorously applauding when the bishop proclaimed, “We choose this man, our brother, for the Order of the Diaconate.”
The congregation would later join in the singing of the Litany of The Saints, while Finn lay prostrate on the cathedral floor. The litany is a prayer for the intercession of the saints and for the Holy Spirit to send down his gifts upon the man being ordained.
“I definitely felt the prayers of the people during the Litany of Saints, especially towards the end, when it switches from invoking the intercession of the saints to prayers for the individual, for the ordinand, me, laying there face down on the marble out there. I just could feel it, could feel the Holy Spirit coming through the prayers of the people,” Deacon Finn said.
After the Litany of the Saints, the bishop lay hands on Finn in silence and then prayed the Prayer of Ordination, asking the Lord to send forth the Holy Spirit so that Finn “may be strengthened by the gift of your sevenfold grace for the faithful carrying out of the work of the ministry.”
“That was pretty amazing, too, just the sense that this has been happening for the last 2,000 years. It’s the Lord ministry that I have been entrusted with, in the manner of the deacon,” Deacon Finn said. “It is mine now, by the Lord’s grace, but ultimately, the ministry belongs to the Lord.”
Now a deacon of the Church, Finn was vested with the stole and dalmatic, symbols of the diaconate by Father Athanasius Fornwalt, FHS, a longtime friend. The bishop then presented Deacon Finn with the Book of the Gospels, symbolic of a deacon’s call to preach the Word of God, something Deacon Finn said he is most looking forward to doing.
“Preaching will be pretty amazing,” he said. “It’s all about the hope that the Lord has to offer. What else is there to preach? We can know the Lord! It is possible. The Lord invites us to relationship with him and that I see as my big mission, just to preach that the Lord is present and wants us to love him back.”
Deacon Finn said he has always known the presence of the Lord is in his life. He said he first thought he might be called to the priesthood when he was a boy going to Mass at St. Mary Church in Bath. He said attending the YOUTH 2000 retreat and the Steubenville East summer youth conference as a high school sophomore further enlivened his faith.
“The Lord just deepened his call on my heart from there,” he said.
After graduating from Morse High School in Bath, Finn attended Franciscan University of Steubenville in Ohio, and he said that it was there that it became clear to him that he had a vocation to the priesthood. While he considered returning to Maine, he said he felt the Lord was calling him to be a religious order priest with the Franciscans who minister at the university. After he received his degree in theology, he entered formation with the Franciscan Friars of the Third Order Regular at their motherhouse in Loretto, Pennsylvania. In 2008, he professed first vows, then moved to Washington, D.C., to continue his formation and education. He attended the Catholic University of America and earned a master of divinity degree in 2012, but around that same time, he left the Franciscans.
“I had so many awesome opportunities as a friar, and I learned and experienced so much that I never could have gotten elsewhere,” said Deacon Finn. “But God made it clear that this particular community wasn’t where I needed to be.”
He got a job as the communications director for the Black and Indian Mission Office in Washington, D.C., founded by the U.S. Catholic Bishops, and after 14 months there, was excited to have a job opportunity that would allow him to return home. He became director of faith formation for Prince of Peace Parish in Lewiston.
He said being in Maine and being surrounded by several longtime priest friends made him reflect again on his call to the priesthood, and he decided the apply to the Diocese of Portland.
He said, “The Lord’s taken it from there.”
Finn completed two additional years of theological study at Saint John’s Seminary in Brighton, Massachusetts, which has led to his ordination to the transitional diaconate.
“When I got the call to orders letter from the bishop (an official letter to the candidate indicating his acceptance for holy orders) I just could hardly believe what I was seeing, because it’s just been a totally providential but long road,” Deacon Finn said. “To have the Church affirm that, this call that I started to feel a whole long time ago, more than half my life ago, and to have the Church, in the person of Bishop Deeley, accepting it and affirming that yes, you are called -- it’s not just a maybe, or a could be, or a prospective, but you are called -- and the Lord is going to meet you now that he’s called you, it’s a lot to process.”
Deacon Finn is currently serving at the Hancock County parishes of St. Joseph in Ellsworth, Stella Maris in Bucksport, and Transfiguration of the Lord in Bar Harbor.