Thousands of permanent deacons and their wives began their Year of Mercy celebration by cutting straight to the heart of what it means to be a deacon, how the ministry impacts their families and the challenge of explaining their vocation to others, including bishops and priests.
The pilgrims divided into language groups and hundreds of English-, German- and Portuguese-speaking deacons and their families gathered May 27 at Rome’s Basilica of Santa Maria Sopra Minerva.
Whether alone or with their wives, dressed in clerical collars or T-shirts because of the afternoon heat, they began sharing experiences of formation, homiletics training and ministry assignments even before the formal program began.
The Jubilee of Deacons was to conclude May 29 with a Mass celebrated by Pope Francis in St. Peter’s Square.
In the informal conversations and the sharing afterward, the women were active participants. Many of them had accompanied their husbands to formation classes, and all of them are directly impacted by their husbands’ ministries.
Deacon James Keating, director of theological formation at the Institute for Priestly Formation in Omaha, Nebraska, said deacons are born in families, most of them fall in love and start families before discerning a vocation to the diaconate, and they often are called upon to minister to other families.
Deacon Keating insisted that a deacon who has had proper formation in prayer, theology and the sacraments “will become a better husband,” his wife “will actually fall more in love” because he will be converted to a closer relationship with Jesus and a greater availability to others.
However, he said, that availability is not so much about time and activity, as it is about “being” a deacon. It’s about “relationships, not ministries,” Deacon Keating insisted.
…Deacon Greg Kandra of the Diocese of Brooklyn, New York, a popular blogger and multimedia editor for the Catholic Near East Welfare Association, focused on the ministry of deacons in the workplace. Many of the almost 45,000 permanent deacons in the world continue to work in secular jobs in to support their families even after ordination.
But a deacon is a deacon no matter where he is, Deacon Kandra said. He is called by the church to be on the “front line,” wherever he is.
“The deacon is called to be a witness to compassion,” helping those who are hungry or poor, whether materially or spiritually. “They might work in the cubicle next to yours,” he said.
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