Parish ministry has taught me so much about myself and about who Jesus is for others.
One of the most important experiences I've had since becoming a Deacon has been assisting at the altar during the Mass. Perhaps the best description of this experience is that I am able to kneel at the feet of Jesus as the priest, Fr. Bill or Fr. Paul, stands at the altar in persona Christi, in the person of Christ. As I kneel before the altar during the consecration, I can't but think that I am unworthy to be there in this moment to be kneeling at the feet of Jesus as the bread and wine become his Body and his Blood. It is a truly humbling experience.
This experience has helped to support my belief that I have felt called to stand in the same person of Christ at the altar as a priest serving the people of his Church. Being called to be the instrument by which Jesus is made present to the people that he loves so very much is truly amazing. It is hard to describe the emotions that I will feel in that moment as a priest, but I look forward to the day when I will be able to celebrate the Eucharist with our parish community.
I am humbled by the people of God. Every Sunday that I have the opportunity of assisting at the Mass, I find myself mesmerized as so many people come to the Lord. They come to the Lord in their suffering and in their pain. They come with everything they have and they lay it at the feet of the one who is able to heal them. They come out of humility to encounter the one who has called them to this community of faith and to receive his Body and his Blood. Over the last nine months, I have come to know many of the parishioners at St. Ignatius Martyr Catholic Church in Austin, TX. To be called by God to walk with the people as they encounter the challenges and blessings of life is truly humbling.
One of the most blessed experiences I've had since being ordained a Deacon at St. Ignatius is that I have had the opportunity to baptize twenty-seven children. We are blessed to be able to welcome so many people in the Church. Celebrating the Sacrament of Baptism has been a fantastic experience in being able to witness to the love that Christ shows each one of us. It has truly been an honor to be able to celebrate this sacrament and to see the joy that the families share in having their children welcomed into the Church.
Having a parish school is awesome! We are blessed to have a school filled with children in pre-K3 through 8th grade. Fr. Moreau had a special devotion to Catholic education and his vision can be seen at our school. While many people point to our Holy Cross universities as the most visible way to receive a Holy Cross education, I'd argue that our parish schools serve as the foundation of one's education in the faith. It is a foundation that helps to form the child in their Catholic faith and enables them to begin to discern their own vocations. I have been privileged to collaborate with the teachers and staff in many ways with the goal of forming the children in their faith. The opportunities that I have participating in include the National Junior Honor Society as their Advisor as well as in being able to implement the Holy Cross Vocations curriculum in grades K-4 with the help of our Holy Cross Novices, Tom Bodart, C.S.C. and Pablo Quan, C.S.C. Implementing this new vocations curriculum at an early age will undoubtedly reap rewards as the children continue to grow in our school. I have also made a point to serve as the deacon at the school Mass every Friday. Serving as the deacon at this weekly liturgy has enabled me to get to know many of the kids as well as their parents who attend the Mass each week.
Finally, one of the ways that I have found that I have grown the most while at St. Ignatius Martyr has been through my preaching. I enjoy preaching. I enjoyed it before coming to Texas, but I enjoy it even more since arriving here last July. Preaching has enabled me to share of myself with the parishioners while attempting to bring them the love that Christ has for them. Preaching has challenged me through reflecting upon the Scriptures and identifying something that people can relate to or learn from. It has also challenged me to step out of my comfort zone of having a text in front of me. This challenge has turned into a blessing in that I have had the opportunity to encounter the people in a more personal way during the homily. I look forward to preaching as a priest in the future and being able to tie the homily more closely to the Liturgy of the Eucharist.
In conclusion, I look forward to my Ordination to the Priesthood. It will be a humbling experience and one that I will treasure forever. I have been "called by the Father and led by the Spirit to offer my life and my life's work in the service of the Lord for the needs of the church and the world." I have been called to be His priest.
Deacon Dan Ponisciak, CSC professed his Final Vows in the fall of 2014. He is scheduled to be ordained on April 11, 2015. Deacon Dan is currently serving at St. Ignatius Martyr Catholic Parish in Austin, TX. He is originally from Williamsburg, Virginia.