FRIDAY CEREMONY WAS APOLITICAL EVENT
Rep. Mike Hawker, who retired from the Alaska House since 2017, has been ordained as Permanent Deacon in the Catholic Church. A “high church” ceremony took place at Our Lady of Guadalupe on Friday, as Hawker and four other men said their vows.
Hawker may be the first Alaska legislator to ever be ordained to this religious position. It’s something Hawker has been working toward for five years, since first becoming an aspirant, then a candidate, acolyte, lector, and now a Permanent Deacon.
Anchorage Archbishop Paul Etienne presided over the hour and a half celebratory Mass and Eucharist, which included prayer, hymns, and Holy Communion. Hundreds of Catholics gathered for the important occasion, and a few non-Catholics as well.
However, very few political types were in attendance, but those who did attend included former Reps. Kurt Olson and Lindsey Holmes, former Commissioner of Revenue Randy Hoffbeck, and lobbyists Bob Evans and Michael Hurley, as well as retired lobbyist Paul Quesnel.
Congressman Don Young’s wife Ann Young was witness in the front, and Paulette Simpson of Juneau flew in for the ceremony. Eric Croft, Anchorage Assemblyman, also attended.
Permanent Deacons are ordained offices of the Catholic Church who are men with no intention of becoming priests.
They may be single or married, but must be married before being ordained a deacon, as Hawker is. His wife, Carol Carlson, had to agree to his ordination; in fact every year of his course of study she had to provide handwritten approval to the Archbishop.
Typically, deacons also have secular jobs, and provide support to the local church through service to the sick, teaching the faith, or working in other parish functions. They’re like the priests’ “right-hand man.”
Deacons may baptize and perform funeral and burial services outside of Mass, can distribute Holy Communion, perform marriages, and preach sermons. The duties of prayer are fundamental to the office, as there are 150 Psalms and Scripture readings that deacons, priests, and bishops must pray every day. Hence, the life of a deacon is fairly structured around prayer.
Hawker represented District 28 (now represented by Jennifer Johnston), winning his first election in 2002 and retiring in 2017 after battling back to health from cancer.
“I had my first bought of cancer in 2010 and it almost killed me. And in 2016 I had a major reoccurrence, and miraculously we beat it back a second time, and it was then I chose to leave the Legislature and serve full time as a Deacon,” he said.
“When I was in the Legislature, I came within a hair of dying of cancer, and I truly only lived by a health miracle that medical science cannot explain. It reawakened my sleeping faith. That near-death experience brought me back to the Church and ultimately led me to pursuing the deaconate.” – Mike Hawker
The formation program to become a deacon is conducted by the Archdiocese of Anchorage as a five year program, where the candidates meet for three-day weekends once a month and progress through their levels until they are ordained. Hawker began his journey when he was still in the Legislature. He will serve his first Mass as the assistant to the priest tonight, and will give the Homily next Sunday, Trinity Sunday.
“That’s when I have eight minutes to explain the mystery of the Holy Trinity, and the nature of God,” he said.
His ministry will be centered at his home parish, St. Elizabeth’s, for two years, and he’ll be focused on hospital service, as a chaplain at St. Elias Hospital, a eucharist minister at Providence Hospital, and in charge of the Catholic chapel at the Prestige Center in Muldoon, a long-term care facility.
“I really view serving in the capacity of deacon, serving God, as a capstone activity in a life well lived,” Hawker said.