Deacons are a Gift to the Church
On Saturday, May 15, with Bishop Boyea presiding, five new permanent deacons and two transitional deacons were ordained for service in our diocese. The ordination liturgy was beautiful and the new deacons and their families and friends were filled with great joy as the seven were ordained, joining the group of talented and dedicated deacons who minister in so many different ways around our diocese. In their ordination as deacons, they can trace their history back to the very beginnings of the Church.
The ministry of deacons grew out of the needs of a young and growing community of faith. The early Church found itself rapidly adding new members through baptism, and with those new members came new and varied needs. These needs presented new opportunities for ministry both within and beyond the community of the Church. The order of deacons developed in order to meet the needs of the poor widows and orphans who were part of the early Church and the surrounding community. The network for social support of the poor —especially widows and orphans — was virtually nonexistent at that time, which left them on the very margins of society, relying primarily on the generosity of others as they literally begged for their daily bread.
Recognizing this need, the apostles relied on the guidance of the Holy Spirit to identify and ordain those who would be the first deacons of the Church. In turn, those deacons, as is true of deacons in our own time, undertook many different forms of ministry in order to assure that the needs of the poor and the marginalized were being adequately met. So, from its very beginnings, the ministry of deacons was focused very keenly on meeting the needs of the community, especially those of the poor and the marginalized. The people to whom they ministered were young and old and they turned to the Church for safety, comfort and help.
Through the course of my ministry as a priest and pastor, I have had the opportunity to work with very talented deacons. No two of them have ministered in exactly the same way and all of them were dedicated to ministry that happened largely “behind the scenes” in quiet ways. There have been some who are deeply dedicated to the needs of the poor, and so they have developed and engaged in a variety of ministries that range from working in the parish food pantry to heading up parish Christian outreach. Others have found a niche in faith formation, and so some of them minister to the young in sacramental preparation, while others take key roles in their parish Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults — the RCIA — helping to evangelize those who are seeking a deeper relationship with God. Still others have dedicated countless hours to meeting with and helping to form young couples who are preparing for the sacrament of marriage or guiding enrichment programs for those who are already married. These are but a few of the ways that deacons minister in our parish communities today.
I have found all of them to be valued and valuable collaborators in ministry. Each of them brings their own unique personality and God-given gifts. The wives of those permanent deacons who are married are a true gift in ministry as well. So often they minister side-by-side with their husbands, using their own unique talents and insights to enrich the life of our parish communities in ways that are often unacknowledged.
Please take the time to get to know our newest deacons on the pages ahead. Pray for them and their spouses and families as they embark on this new adventure in ministry. Pray that in the years ahead, our diocese and our parishes may provide them with places and opportunities for ministry that call forth their gifts in the best ways possible, perhaps in new and unimagined ways. Our new deacons and their ministry are a gift to the Church. May they, and those whom they love and serve, be richly blessed in the years ahead. And so, our journey in FAITH continues.