As his wife and three sons looked on, Craig J. Dutka became a changed man, transforming from a member of the laity to a Permanent Deacon of the Diocese of Venice.
Dutka processed into Holy Cross Parish in Palmetto on June 18, 2022, dressed in the white alb of a candidate. It wasn’t until Bishop Frank J. Dewane laid his hands upon the head of the candidate that Dutka was officially ordained a Permanent Deacon. During this moment, in silence, Bishop Dewane placed his hands on Dutka’s head and prayed for an outpouring of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. The imposition of the Bishop’s hands confers grace and spiritual power.
Deacon Dutka came to the Diocese of Venice on a spiritual journey from New Jersey, where he entered the permanent diaconate program in the Diocese of Metuchen, and one year shy of ordination there was forced to leave the program when he lost his business and moved to Florida. Undeterred, he was accepted as a Permanent Deacon candidate in the Diocese of Venice as long as he completed additional formation.
This led to the moment of his ordination, which Deacon Dutka said was made possible by his complete faith in the Lord, with the assistance of Bishop Dewane and others in the Diocesan Diaconate Formation Program, family and friends. He also credited the prayers and blessings of his wife and three sons with the achieving of his dream of becoming an ordained servant of the Lord.
During his homily, Bishop remarked that the new Deacon’s “soul has been indelibly marked; be conscious of the change that has taken place within you. As a Deacon you are loved by Jesus Christ in a particular way that comes with a grace from your response to His call. Be the instrument of Jesus Christ in response to that love.”
Bishop Dewane called on Dutka to be the leaven in the community and to be a pillar in their Parish while calling others to the Faith. “The Lord will give you the words,” he said. “Your life experiences will add meaning to those words and serve you well. Do the will of God from your heart and serve the people with love and joy.”
During his homily, the Bishop also took time to thank Dukta’s wife, Eileen, for her effort in joining her husband sacramentally, through marriage, on this spiritual journey. He noted that the partnership they have, and the support from the whole family has helped to shape the new Deacon into who he is today: a man of God.
At the start of the formal Rite, the candidate was called before Bishop Dewane by Father Kristian Villafana, temporary Administrator of Holy Cross Parish, and then presented to the Bishop for his examination. The election by Bishop Dewane includes the following prayer: “Relying on the help of the Lord God and our Savior Jesus Christ, we choose this, our brother, for the Order of the Diaconate.” The gathered deacons, priests and faithful responded: “Thanks be to God.”
After the homily, the part of the Rite called the Promise of the Elect took place, when Dutka came forward, and the Bishop asked him whether he was willing to accept the responsibilities of the ministry: to live in humble charity, to hold fast to the Mystery of the Faith, to celebrate the liturgy of hours with and for the People of God, and to maintain and deepen his prayer life. To each question, the Candidate Dutka responded, “I do.” Then he approached and kneeled before Bishop to give his promise of obedience to the Bishop and his successors.
Next in the Rite was the Litany of the Supplicants when Dutka prostrated himself before the altar as the assembled kneeled. The Litany of Saints was then sung. At the conclusion, the Bishop outstretched his hands and recited a prayer. Next was the Laying on of Hands and Prayer of Ordination.
Father Villafana then placed a Deacon’s stole and a dalmatic on Deacon Dutka. Once vested, Dutka knelt again before the Bishop and then the last part of the Rite, the Handing On of the Book of Gospels took place. The Mass continued as usual at this point with the newly ordained Deacon Dutka serving as Deacon of the Altar.
The mission of the Permanent Deacons of the Diocese of Venice is to: serve as ministers of charity, leading in identifying the needs of others and striving to meet those needs; serve as ministers of the Word, proclaiming the Gospel, preaching and teaching in the name of the Church; serve as ministers of the Sacrament of Baptism; witness marriages; conduct wake and funeral services; and lead the faithful in prayer.
The Diocese was blessed to have seven men ordained to the Permanent Diaconate in 2020, and an additional 13 men are in diaconate formation class for possible ordination in 2025.