“Relying on the help of the Lord God and our Savior Jesus Christ, we choose this man, our brother, for the Order of the Diaconate.” - Bishop Robert Deeley
Kevin Upham, a native of Portland, was ordained to the transitional diaconate by Bishop Robert Deeley in a Mass celebrated at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Portland on Sunday, June 18.
“I’m so happy really. It’s exhilarating. My heart is pounding in a good way,” Deacon Kevin said, following the Mass. “It was a transformative experience.”
The designation of “transitional deacon” indicates that, although he will always be a deacon by virtue of his ordination, the expectation is that Deacon Kevin will one day be ordained to the priesthood. He is currently a seminarian at St. John’s Seminary in Brighton, Massachusetts.
In his homily, the bishop reflected on the importance and meaning of the diaconate, noting that its origins lie in the early days of the Church, when some men were chosen to assist the apostles in caring for members of the community.
“Out of that comes today’s call to advance the ministry of charity. But that is only one part of the ministry of the diaconate. Strengthened by the gift of the Holy Spirit, every deacon also is called to help the bishop and his body of priests at the Eucharist, as a minister of the word, and of the altar, as well as being a minister of charity. The deacon will make himself a servant to all,” said the bishop. “We entrust this ministry of word and charity today to Kevin.”
The bishop said it is fitting that the ordination took place on the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, during which the Church celebrates the gift of the Eucharist, because the Eucharist will be an important part of Deacon Kevin’s ministry.
"On this Feast of the Body and Blood of the Lord, we reflect on the mystery of God’s love shown for us in the Eucharist, God’s presence with us in Jesus, our Savior. In your ministry, may you help those you serve to know that love," the bishop said. "May the Lord bless your ministry, Kevin. May your service of word and charity bring the healing presence of Jesus, God with us, to those in our world so hungering for his love."
During the Rite of Ordination, Upham resolved to be consecrated for the Church’s ministry, to discharge the office of deacon with humble charity, to proclaim the faith in word and deed according to the Gospel and the Church’s tradition, to remain celibate as a sign of his dedication to Christ, and to faithfully pray the Liturgy of the Hours. Placing his hands within Bishop Deeley’s, he also promised respect and obedience to him and his successors.
Upham then lay prostrate while the Litany of Saints was sung, a sign of humility and of his dependence on God and the support of the Christian community.
The cathedral was then quiet as the bishop laid hands on Upham.
“When the bishop laid hands on me, that was very special, and when I had my hands in his, those were special moments of the ordination,” said Deacon Kevin.
After the laying on of hands, the bishop prayed the Prayer of Ordination, asking the Lord to “look with favor on this servant of yours who will minister at your holy altar and whom we now humbly dedicate to the office of deacon. Send forth upon him, Lord, we pray, the Holy Spirit, that he may be strengthened by the gift of your sevenfold grace for the faithful carrying out of the work of the ministry.”
Now a deacon of the Church, Deacon Kevin was vested with a dalmatic and stole, symbols of the diaconate, by Father Robert Vaillancourt, former vocations director.
The bishop then presented Deacon Kevin with a Book of the Gospels, telling him, "Believe what you read, teach what you believe, and practice what you teach.” The Book of the Gospels is indicative of a deacon’s mandate to proclaim the Gospel at Mass.
The ordination rite concluded with the sharing of the fraternal kiss of peace. The bishop hugged Deacon Kevin, and all the deacons present then welcomed him by doing the same.
After his ordination, Deacon Kevin said it was hard to believe this day had arrived.
“It’s crazy because, when I think about, when I first started, this moment felt so far away, and now, it’s happened. It kind of went by slowly at first, and then, it kind of flew by. It’s been quite the journey. It’s been a good one, and I look forward to my remaining time in seminary, formation, my ministry. It’s really just begun. It’s not the end. This is really just the beginning,” he said.
For Deacon Kevin, the journey to the priesthood began back when he was teenager. He said he first thought about the priesthood when he was around the age of 13, and although the feeling would come and go, it never completely left him.
His family moved to Holliston, Mass., not far from Boston, when he was still an infant, and that is where he was raised. He was active in St. Mary Church there, serving as a reader at Mass.
He returned to Maine to attend Saint Joseph’s College in Standish, where he was active in campus ministry and participated in the Spring Break Workfest program, serving at the Passamaquoddy Indian Township Reservation.
“This was a wonderful experience,” he said.
He continued his work in ministry after entering the workforce, including again serving as a reader at Mass.
“I did jail ministry for about a year, providing Communion services. After that, I led Communion services at the Veterans’ Home in Scarborough,” he said. “These experiences provided a window into what a future in the priesthood could mean.”
He entered St. Mary’s Seminary & University in Baltimore in 2012 and, then, in August 2016, he continued his studies at St. John’s Seminary.
Summer assignments have taken him to parishes in Augusta, Old Town, Bangor, and Rumford. This summer, he is serving at the Portland Peninsula & Island Parishes.
Parishioners from many of those churches attended his ordination Mass, as did many friends and relatives, among them his parents and godmother, who brought up the gifts during the Mass, and his grandmother, who sat in the front row.
Following the Mass, a reception was held in the cathedral’s Guild Hall, where Deacon Kevin was given a standing ovation when he walked in, followed by many hugs.
“I’m looking forward to serving the people as a deacon, with weddings and baptisms,” he said. “Doing baptisms is going to be really exciting.”