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Father Muench Says...

Called to holiness... as a deacon

May 17, 2017

By Father William Muench
NCC columnist

Today, I would like to take a moment to honor personally the wonderful deacons of our diocese.  I see them as a gift to so many parishes.  They have added so much to the Church’s ministry to the life of the people of the Diocese of Ogdensburg.

This came to my mind through the first reading from the Acts of the Apostles from the Fifth Sunday of Easter which tells us of the choosing of the first deacons.  The first Scripture reading at the Sunday Masses during the Easter Season is taken from the Acts of the Apostles.  Acts is the book of the New Testament that describes the life and development of the early Christian community after the Resurrection of Jesus.  The book was written by St. Luke – the same St. Luke who wrote one of the Gospels.  The Book of the Acts gives us an excellent insight into the life of the people who were involved in the formation of the Church in those early years.

The story of the choosing of the first deacons goes like this: there were various needs and concerns of the earth Christian community that called for a restructuring of ministries.  Up to that time the Twelve had taken on the entire leadership.  At the time of this event, the Twelve asked the community to choose a new group of leaders – calling them deacons.  These deacons were asked to accept the task of the distribution of good to the members of the community in need. Then the Twelve were able to continue to dedicate themselves to the preaching of the Gospel.

Over time, the ordination for a deacon was a transitional ministry that led to priesthood.  Then the Second Vatican Council prepared the way for the reinstitution of the diaconate as a permanent ministry as well as continuing the transitional diaconate.  This diaconate ministry is open to single and married men who are trained to be involved in the Church’s ministry.  These deacons can confer the Sacrament of Baptism and Marriage.  They assist at Mass as well as serve in many other forms of parish ministry.

Again, I want to use this opportunity to tell you how impressed I am with the many deacons I have worked with and known around the diocese.  I have associated with deacons here in the North Country and in many other dioceses.  I have found them to be very talented and most capable. I suspect you would agree with me.

Most of our deacons minister in the parish where they grew up.  They know everybody – church goers and non-church goers.  As a pastor I learned so much about my parish from the deacon who was well acquainted with the area.

I remember innumerable times I have observed the wonderful ministry of a deacon.  I was truly impressed.  I think of my own situation as being the pastor working with a deacon.  I remember, for example, many parishioners would stop to visit our deacon – especially at times of difficulty or problems – because they felt more comfortable with the deacon who had also been their friend.  Such a deacon is a gift to the parish and a trusted helper to the pastor. 

There were times when a family would ask our deacon to conduct a funeral service or speak at a funeral Mass.  He knew the person well – even intimately.  They had worked together, worked on community projects together and sometimes the deacon had been the coach of their grandchildren’s Little League team. 

In addition, the deacon conducted the funeral service of many who did not belong to any Church.  Again, what a gift to a parish to have such a good deacon.

So, I offer my deep gratitude to the deacons of our diocese.  You add so much to the ministry of our parishes.  Your dedication is exceptional – I have seen you in action.  Your life’s work or career has brought unique capabilities to your ministry.  Many of you continue to be employed and yet willingly give of yourselves to the ministry of your parish.

May I add one other gift these deacons bring to their ministry – that is those who are married.  I am talking, of course, of your wives.  I have been blessed to know and minister with many deacon’s wives.  They certainly bring so much to the ministry of their parishes and the ministry of their deacon husbands.

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