May 18, 2016
By Father William Muench
I spent last weekend at Wadhams Hall joining with the men who are candidates for ordination to the permanent diaconate for the Diocese of Ogdensburg.
Several men from various parishes in the diocese are in the process of preparation to be ordained to the ministry of a deacon. They are attending classes and spending time in prayer so that they will be ready for this important ministry. Several of their wives attended this weekend, also. The wives were involved in some of the candidates’ programs and, in addition, some other activities were planned for them.
Deacon John White and Sister Donna Franklin are directors for the program and I can guarantee you that they have developed a great, yet, joyful program.
The candidates gather for such weekends monthly to study subjects like sacred scripture, homiletics, canon law and liturgy. Integrated into the program is time for prayer and Mass. These weekends have given the candidates an opportunity to develop a strong community among themselves which will build great support for now and for the future.
As you probably know, deacons have been a vital part of the Church community from the time of the early Church. The Acts of the Apostles tells us that the first apostles chose six to be deacons to help them in their ministry.
Sunday’s first reading from the Acts of the Apostles tells the story of one them, St. Stephen, who suffered martyrdom for his faith and teachings. St. Stephen stands as the patron of the dedication called forth from today’s deacons.
You may know the place of the office of the deacon in our Catholic Church – but let me go over this again. Throughout the Middle Ages, the office of deacon became a step towards ordination, preparing a man for the priesthood. It was a transition.
The Second Vatican Council restored the permanent diaconate as a ministry. The Council also opened this permanent diaconate to married men – as well as those who have remained celibate.
The office has been limited only to men. However, let me add from my own experience that the wives of the permanent deacons are an important part of their ministry. They give a strong support and help to their deacon husbands.
I have worked in parishes side by side with several deacons and always found a solid partner in the life of the Church and of the parish. These candidates demonstrated to me the kind of dedication that we all hope for in the deacons of the futures. They are truly ready to accept the challenges of the diaconate in their parishes.
I have confidence in these future deacons as well as the numerous already ordained deacons throughout the diocese. They bring a new hope for me in their efforts to bring God to the people of the North Country.
I plan to encourage our Bishop to give permission to our deacons to administer the Sacrament of the Sick. I have long realized and witnessed the wonderfully compassionate spirit of the deacons with the seriously ill, as well as with their families. What a perfect addition to this ministry for them that they would also be able to administer the Anointing of the Sick.
Finally, I noticed that the candidates have a class in homiletics. They will bring to their preaching so many gifts gained from the various careers that were part of their lives. These gifts will make them excellent spiritual guides.
I encourage you to pray for our deacons and pray for these candidates. I pray that they will develop all that it takes to become sensational deacons.