Salina — While a white dusting of snow lightly covered the exterior of Sacred Heart Cathedral April 7, inside, Mike Leiker knelt in front of the altar, amidst the white Easter lilies, and was ordained a transitional deacon. “Do you promise respect and obedience to your ordinary?” asked Bishop Carl Kemme, from the Diocese of Wichita. “I do,” Deacon Leiker affirmed.
Typically during an ordination, the deacon pledges “obedience and respect to me and my successors” to the bishop of the diocese. Because Salina has no bishop, the pledge Deacon Leiker made to Bishop Kemme from Wichita was one to the “ordinary” (a fancy term for a diocese’s bishop). “(The vow to the ordinary) was something I was prepared for because at my retreat, that was one of the things I talked about with my retreat director,” Deacon Leiker said. “(The director) said ‘You’re not attached to a bishop your vow is to the whole Church.’ “So in a way, it made it a much larger scale. It doesn’t matter who my bishop is, I’ll still have that promise of obedience.”
During the homily, Diocesan Administrator Father Frank Coady told Deacon Leiker the diaconate is a ministry of word, altar and charity. He said the early apostles acted on behalf of Christ “… to put themselves at the service of the Gospel. At the service of humanity. Then they get out of the way of Christ. They reveal Christ, not themselves.”
Father Coady said the ministry of the word is an important one. “You’re going to preach (the Gospel), you’re going to evangelize,” he said. “You’re going to introduce people to Christ through the word. Then you’re going to get out of the way. You’re going to disappear, because it isn’t about you. It’s about Christ. It’s about the way they’re going to experience that themselves.”
Father Coady referenced the friendship that prompted Deacon Leiker to return to his Catholic roots. “In evangelizing a friend of yours, you got re-evangelized yourself,” Father Coady said. “This is what happens when we minister, when we give of ourselves. We always get back more than we gave. “You’re here today because of that event. It transformed you.”
In addition to proclaiming the Gospel during Mass, the newly ordained deacon from Hays will also have some ministries relating to the altar: preparation of the gifts, the penitential rite and the dismissal. “You will be in charge of sending them out to evangelize themselves — to be evangelizers, to be Christ in the world,” Father Coady said.
He also added that Christ ministered at the altar of the cross. “As he gave his life on that altar, that became the liturgy. From that moment on, the liturgy has existed,” Father Coady said. “The liturgy for all of us is about participation. Participation is one essential thing, and that is self offering. (It) is becoming Christ and joining ourselves to his self offering on the cross. You, Mike will be a facilitator in that.” The office of deacon also involves both charity and service. “The ministry of charity will be especially yours, but like all ordained ministry, this is not a ministry where you will do all of the charity for everybody else,” Father Coady said. “Rather, you will sacramentalize these things.”
Perhaps the most memorable moment during the ordination for Deacon Leiker was during the Litany of the Saints. “Being face down on the marble … the emotions run through you,” he said. “It’s a little bit of everything. I thought about dad a lot. He’s in the communion of saints.”
His father, Delbert Leiker, died in January of 2017. “You hear the entire Church praying for you,” Deacon Leiker said. “The Church being the communion of saints, those on earth, the suffering, the militant. That’s very powerful.” During the litany, he said he prayed for strength to live his vocation. “I need the Church’s support and their prayers,” he said. “It was very humbling.”
On April 8, Deacon Leiker participated in Mass at his home parish of St. Joseph in Hays as a deacon. “I proclaimed the Gospel, preached and served at the altar as well,” he said. The first homily he gave related to the feast of Divine Mercy, which is the Sunday following Easter. “The hard part was I experienced everything I was preaching about‚ so it was very close to home,” he said. “Divine mercy (is special to me because) I was not in the Church for a time, and now I’m preaching on it. I experienced God’s mercy, and I got a little emotional (during the homily). “I probably could have picked a safer way to go on the homily, but I didn’t. Kind of like how Father Frank said ‘Get it rolling and get out of the way.’ ”
Deacon Leiker, 44, grew up in Hays and is the son of Dolores and the late Delbert Leiker. Deacon Leiker was a parishioner at St. Joseph Church, and attended Thomas More Prep/Marian High School. Following college and a professional career, he deepened his faith while teaching at Pittsburg State in southeast Kansas. It was there he felt call to explore a vocation to the priesthood. Because he was over the age of 35 and because the Diocese of Wichita had no acting bishop to waive the age requirement, the vocation director from the Wichita Diocese directed Deacon Leiker to his home Diocese of Salina.
Bishop Kemme referenced the connection with his own diocese as the Ordination Mass concluded. “I was thinking as I was driving today of your association with the Diocese of Wichita,” Bishop Kemme said. “I might just say ‘You’re welcome,’ ” he quipped about sending a seminarian from the Wichita Diocese to the Salina Diocese.