The Permanent Diaconate: A Sign of Christ as Servant
The July 23 celebration marks the first ordination of permanent deacons for this diocese. For five years these men and their wives have been a part of the Diocesan Institute for Lay and Diaconate Formation.
This formation process included 1,000 hours of classes, prayer, spiritual direction, and practical hands-on experience in ministry.
A permanent deacon receives the Sacrament of Holy Orders to become a sacramental sign of Christ as Servant of his people. As symbolized by the laying on of hands by the bishop and him alone, the deacons assist the bishop with the needs of the Church and are appointed by him to their specific ministry.
Their role is quite distinct from that of priests. These men were ordained as permanent deacons because they will not be going on for ordination to the priesthood as do transitional deacons.
Although permanent deacons are clergy and are addressed with the title "Deacon" to express their public ministry, they normally do not wear clerical garb. These men continue their professional work and provide for their own upkeep. Their apostolic work is taken on in their "free" time.
Most of these candidates are married and family life is an important venue for their ministry. Those that are unmarried make a promise of celibacy at the time of ordination.
The deacon has a threefold ministry: that of proclaiming the Word of the Gospel, of assisting at Liturgy, and of works of charity.
The witness to the Word of Christ might be in catechetical and evangelical work or in sacramental preparation, but the most visible form of this ministry is the deacon's proclamation of the Gospel at Mass and the preaching of homilies.
The deacon assists the priest at the liturgy of the Eucharist; he prepares the altar and gifts during Mass, invites the people to share the sign of peace and to go forth to love and serve the Lord, and is an ordinary minister of the Eucharist.
A deacon may solemnly baptize; witness marriages; preside at wakes; funerals, and burials; and bless sacramentals.
The most typical role of the deacon is to be the presence of Christ the Servant in family life, in his profession, and in works of charity. Deacons often visit the homebound, hospitals, and homes or work with hospice. They might minister in jails, in soup kitchens, or in homeless shelters.
-Written by Sr. M. Marcia Vinje, ISSM
Rev. Patrick Wendler, pictured above, currently serves as the
Director of the Permanent Diaconate Program.