Our diocese has been blessed with many good deacons
by Rev. Paul Rutten/Director, Diocesan Office of Vocations - 4/5/2012
Father Paul Rutten.
This past February I had the privilege of directing a five day preordination retreat for the five men preparing for the permanent diaconate. God-willing, in May these men will be ordained to serve the diocese on behalf of Bishop Swain.
Our diocese has been blessed by the service of many good, holy deacons throughout the years, and these men will add to that list.
The vocation of the permanent diaconate is often misunderstood. Because a majority of the deacons are married, some think it is a way for a man to live the best of both worlds; to have a family and serve the church in a formal capacity. Others are not quite sure what a deacon is supposed to do but know they are sort of like a priest but not quite.
The word deacon comes from the Greek word diakonia, which mean service. At the heart of the diaconate is the call to service with charity, using Jesus Christ as their model of one who has “come not to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mt 20:28) A deacon aids the bishop in his role of making sure the needs of the people are being met.
From the earliest days of the Church the Apostles realized that the task handed on to them by Christ could not be done without aid. The Acts of the Apostles relates to us how the needs of the Hellenist widows were not being met due to the overwhelming responsibilities placed on the Apostles. It was at this time that they called forth “seven reputable men, filled with the Spirit and wisdom,” (Acts 6:3) whom they ordained to the service of the Church.
Another way to look at the diaconate is to see this vocation as a bridge between the laity and the Church, making sure that the needs of the people are known to the Church and in turn that those needs are being met. A deacon is typically married with children and thus is fully aware of the daily challenges facing the lay faithful in the role of living out their vocation in the world.
As a cleric he is also aware of the many gifts and graces the Church has to bestow upon the people and thus strives to serve the people faithfully by his word and example; in the work place, at home and in the church. While we are all called to be witnesses to the world; a deacon does so in a unique way by virtue of his service of God’s people in communion with the bishop and his priests.
One of the challenges that many face when pondering the possibility of a vocation to the diaconate is the fact that there is no one role for a deacon.
Unlike the priesthood, which a man can often see lived out in a similar way across the church, the diaconate is really lived out in service to the bishop through various ministries in the diocese.
We have deacons who teach in our schools, are administrators in parishes, actively involved in parish life, serve the sick in the hospitals, visit those in prison, and the list goes on. Some have another job where they work outside of the church as well. For those serving a parish you may have noticed that they preach at Mass, baptize babies; preside over weddings and funerals where there is no Mass, and help out with Eucharistic adoration.
ith most of the deacons being married their wives are also part of the discernment and formation process. Both the Church and the wife must agree that this man is called to serve the church as a deacon. She is to be involved in the formation process as well and will sit in on many of the classes he is taking, and be encouraged to have a spiritual director.
Let us pray for these men, our brothers, who, God-willing, will be ordained in May to serve the Church in charity. Let us also pray that other “reputable men, filled with the Spirit and wisdom” (Acts 6:3) will hear and heed the call to serve the Church through this beautiful vocation.