Supreme Courts Zubik decision is more compromise than punt, some arguePrevious Article
Archbishop, immigrant advocates decry plans for stepped-up raidsNext Article
Breaking News

Deacons gather in Rome, share reflections on ministry, challenges

Line Spacing+- AFont Size+- Print This Article
Deacons gather in Rome, share reflections on ministry, challenges

ROME (CNS) — Thousands of permanent deacons and their wives
began their Year of Mercy celebration by cutting straight to the heart of what
it means to be a deacon, how the ministry impacts their families and the
challenge of explaining their vocation to others, including bishops and

The pilgrims divided into language groups and hundreds of
English-, German- and Portuguese-speaking deacons and their families gathered
May 27 at Rome’s Basilica of Santa Maria Sopra Minerva.

Whether alone or with their wives, dressed in clerical
collars or T-shirts because of the afternoon heat, they began sharing
experiences of formation, homiletics training and ministry assignments even
before the formal program began.

The Jubilee of Deacons was to conclude May 29 with a Mass
celebrated by Pope Francis in St. Peter’s Square.

In the informal conversations and the sharing afterward, the
women were active participants. Many of them had accompanied their husbands to
formation classes, and all of them are directly impacted by their husbands’

Deacon James Keating, director of theological formation at
the Institute for Priestly Formation in Omaha, Nebraska, said deacons are born
in families, most of them fall in love and start families before discerning a
vocation to the diaconate, and they often are called upon to minister to other

Deacon Keating insisted that a deacon who has had proper formation
in prayer, theology and the sacraments “will become a better husband,”
his wife “will actually fall more in love” because he will be
converted to a closer relationship with Jesus and a greater availability to

However, he said, that availability is not so much about
time and activity, as it is about “being” a deacon. It’s about
“relationships, not ministries,” Deacon Keating insisted.

Kimberly Norman, whose husband, James, is a deacon at Our Lady
of Sorrows Basilica in Chicago, said Deacon Keating was right. Speaking of her
husband, she said: “Yes, he is a better man. Yes, he is a better
husband.” The preparation and ministry “has strengthened our

Deacon Norman said his wife has changed, too, and is a
particularly good example and reminder to him to make more time for prayer.

The jubilee for deacons began just two weeks after Pope
Francis told members of the International Union of Superiors General that he
thought it was a good idea to establish a commission to study the role of New
Testament deaconesses and the possibility of women serving as deacons today.

The Normans said that was a great idea. “I’m very hopeful,”
Kimberly Norman said. Deacon Norman agreed, saying, “Clearly, women have had leadership
in the church, but it’s not recognized by ordination.”

Deacon Anthony Gooley of the Archdiocese of Brisbane,
Australia, and a lecturer in theology at the Broken Bay Institute, told the
crowd that deacons were instituted in the early Christian community to minister to
people whose particular needs were not being met by the disciples.

They have the same mission today to reach unserved or
underserved populations, he said. In fact, their potential contribution to the
new evangelization “is limited only by imagination and by the will of
those who engage in placements and pastoral planning in the dioceses.”

“Too often a deacon is left to work out the details of
his own pastoral ministry,” Deacon Gooley said, and arrangements are made with
“a handshake deal with the parish priest.”

His remarks led to a ripple of agreement around the

Deacon Greg Kandra of the Diocese of Brooklyn, New York, a popular
blogger and multimedia editor for the Catholic Near East Welfare Association,
focused on the ministry of deacons in the workplace. Many of the almost 45,000
permanent deacons in the world continue to work in secular jobs in to support
their families even after ordination.

But a deacon is a deacon no matter where he is, Deacon Kandra said.
He is called by the church to be on the “front line,” wherever he is.

“The deacon is called to be a witness to
compassion,” helping those who are hungry or poor, whether materially or
spiritually. “They might work in the cubicle next to yours,” he said.

As a witness to the dignity of work, Deacon Kandra said, the deacon
is called to stand up for just wages and decent working conditions, but also to
improve the workplace environment by “quieting gossip,” listening to
grievances, speaking up for those without a voice.

“Some of the most important missionary activity in the
world today may begin in unlikely places, not in a jungle or desert of some
far-off country, but around the water cooler, or on a bus, or over coffee in
the company cafeteria,” he said.

“What began on the altar on Sunday,” Deacon Kandra said,
“continues in the world and in the workplace on Monday.”


Vatican Live Video Feed

Pope Francis on Twitter