Tuesday, March 13, 2018 - Updated: 1:10 pm
In light of Bishop David Zubik’s recent call of a new class into the diocesan Deacon Formation Program, here is a look at one of the men currently serving in this ministry.
For Deacon Ralph Bachner, one memorable moment in his diaconal ministry occurred several years ago while distributing ashes to a terminally ill parishioner on Ash Wednesday. As he intoned the blessing, “Remember you are dust …,” the parishioner had a look of peace on his face. He passed away a few weeks later.
“Now, every Ash Wednesday I think about him and pray for him,” said Deacon Bachner, 61, who was ordained a deacon in June 1999. “That’s one of the most moving experiences in my diaconate, among many.”
It is those types of experiences that motivate Deacon Bachner in his ministry. His current diaconal assignment is at St. Kilian Parish in Adams/Cranberry townships, where he also works as pastoral associate and director of evangelization. His wife, Susan, recently retired from the parish and remains active with the CCD program there.
Deacon Bachner has worked for various parishes since 2000. Prior to that, he was sales engineer for a local family-owned spring manufacturer rooted in strong Catholic values.
“Being a deacon is not that I prefer doing this over doing that, but rather (it is) all that the ministry encompasses,” he said. “How blessed I am to share in the faith life of others and to walk with them on the journey of life.
“You must be motivated by a love for God and love of God’s people. It’s that simple. In ministry, you simply need to die to yourself so that it’s Christ who lives in you. If you can get out of the way, Jesus will work in you and through you.”
Originally, Deacon Bachner was unsure of his calling to the diaconate, but through much prayer and the support of his wife, family, friends, priests and other deacons, he made the decision to pursue it and never regretted it.
“When you look at the first deacons mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles, you see that they were selected by the community,” he said. “That was my motivation — that I was receiving confirmation for the calling by those around me. For me, being a deacon is a natural extension of who you are as a person.”
For those considering a call to diaconal ministry, Deacon Bachner offered this advice: “Have a good discussion with your wife (if married), your family, friends, pastor and other priests and deacons. Ask for their honest thoughts about your interest. These are all valuable ways to begin the discernment process. But above all, pray!”
Questions about diaconal ministry and the diocesan Deacon Formation Program may be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-456-3124. For more information, including the complete interview with Deacon Bachner, go to www.diopitt.org/permanent-diaconate.