Deacon Jack Betzal will not only attend his first papal Mass on Saturday at Philadelphia’s Cathedral-Basilica of Sts. Peter and Paul — he also will serve at the Mass.

When the Holy Father celebrates Mass for cardinals, bishops, priests, seminarians and invited lay dignitaries,  Deacon Betzal of Aston, Pa., and 15 other permanent deacons from the Philadelphia Archdiocese will serve as ministers of holy Communion.

Deacon Betzal, who has been a deacon in the archdiocese for 11 years, was surprised to find out last Thursday that he’d been assigned to serve. He is one of more than 300 permanent deacons in the archdiocese.  

Deacon Betzal said of this special charge, “I think it’s just an awesome responsibility. It’s very inspiring.”

This might be a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and Deacon Betzal hopes the deacons present a good example for Catholics in their congregations and in the broader Church. “If we can be a role model for others in the congregation with personal reverence, I think that’s important,” he said. Four transitional deacons will also serve at the Mass in other capacities.

Deacon Betzal is married, with three children, and is retired after a 40-year career in sales and marketing. In his diaconal ministry, he serves in a variety of capacities at St. Joseph parish in Aston, Pa., and also serves part time on the archdiocesan tribunal as a judicial auditor.

While he doesn’t know if he will have an opportunity to meet the Holy Father when he serves, Deacon Betzal said he will be glad if there is a possibility. “I promised myself I’m going to be in the moment ... and whatever else happens, I will be grateful for it.”

The Holy Father’s visit is a “wonderful honor” for the archdiocese, the city and the entire region, said Deacon Betzal.

At the same time, he said he hopes Pope Francis is made to feel welcome in the city: “We are the ‘City of Brotherly Love’; I hope we are welcoming, loving and following his teachings. I hope he understands and knows that there are many good people here who appreciate everything he is doing for us.”