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Father Muench Says...

Gratitude for our deacons

May 10, 2023

By Father William Muench
NCC columnist

Today, I would like to tell you about a friend of mine, one of my favorite people. His name is Elliott Shaw. Elliott was a permanent deacon of the Diocese of Ogdensburg. He served as a deacon at St. Mary’s Parish, Ticonderoga. Elliott was the deacon at St. Mary’s when I was pastor there.

Ticonderoga was home for Deacon Elliott. He and his wife, Peg, made their home there and raised their children there. Elliott worked at the paper plant. He also gave time coaching youth baseball in the village. He was involved in many community activities. Elliott was dedicated to his Catholic faith, and he was deeply involved in the life of his parish. So, when the opportunity arose, he entered the program preparing men to become permanent deacons in the Catholic Church. He was ordained a deacon and served many years as the deacon for St. Mary’s Parish.

I know well that Elliott was an excellent deacon. He was a constant help for me as the parish’s pastor. Elliott knew everyone in the parish; Ticonderoga and St. Mary’s were his home base. He knew all about the village and all that had happened there. He knew all our parish families and often helped me determine the needs of the parish.

Many times, as Elliott and I would prepare to celebrate a funeral Mass for a parishioner, he would tell me something about this person. I remember that I often used one of his stories about this person as a part of my funeral message. I depended on Elliott often, especially when I was away from the parish for some reason. He was always ready to stand with a family when they needed support in a crisis.

Elliott is now deceased. I’m thinking about him today because on the Fifth Sunday of Easter, the first reading at the Mass, taken from the Acts of the Apostles, describes the choosing of the first deacons in the early Church. Seven deacons were chosen to assist the apostles in their ministry to the early Christian Community. We are even told the names of those first deacons: Stephen, Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timor, Parmenes and Nicholas.
Acts of the Apostles continues to tell us Stephen’s story. Stephen taught very publicly about Jesus and his message. This disturbed the Jewish leaders. Stephen was arrested and then stoned to death. Stephen is remembered as the first martyr of our Catholic Church. Today, St. Stephen stands as a powerful example for today’s permanent deacons.

I remember well when the Second Vatican Council called for the reinstitution of the permanent diaconate. For many centuries, the Catholic Church eliminated the permanent diaconate from the clergy of our Church. In those days, the diaconate was for transitional deacons – those deacons preparing to become priests. We still have transitional deacons, however, the Council has now called for permanent deacons to serve in the parishes of our Church.

Now I want to take the opportunity to tell you how impressed I am with the many permanent deacons we have serving in the parishes throughout our diocese. These deacons assist at the parish liturgies, but they also are important leaders of parish activities. Our deacons have been trained well as preachers of the Word of God. They are called upon often to present homilies at Mass.

The ordination of permanent deacons has been a most important development in our Catholic Church. These deacons come from many different careers in business, in teaching, in all sorts of areas of work. They come to the diaconate with so many wonderful gifts. And finally, they are prepared by a great program by the Church.

Let me tell you one other important value that many permanent deacons have: they are married. I believe this brings to their ministry as deacons another gift that adds understanding to their ministry. I want to offer my gratitude to our many dedicated deacons who have accepted so much to become part of the life of our parishes.

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