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The restored diaconate at 50: ‘Each step was a new experience for us’

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This is exceptionally well done: a look at the deacons of one archdiocese—St. Paul-Minneapolis—as the Church marks the 50th anniversary of the restoration of the diaconate as a permanent order.

Snip:

When Deacon Thomas Langlois was ordained one of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis’ first permanent deacons in 1976, he couldn’t ask advice from a veteran deacon — there had been almost no permanent deacons in the Church for a thousand years.

“Each step was a new experience for us,” said Deacon Langlois, 87, who lives with his wife, Elizabeth, at the Little Sisters of the Poor Jeanne Jugan Apartments in St. Paul, and who has ministered as a deacon at a public housing project and in parishes and lay organizations.

Nine years before Deacon Langlois and 11 other men of diverse backgrounds and ages began forging their way as permanent deacons, the Second Vatican Council called for restoration of the permanent diaconate, which had been dormant since the Middle Ages.

Now, 50 years after Pope Paul VI re-established the permanent diaconate in 1967, the vocation has flourished, especially in the United States. Church leaders, however, continue to consider the permanent deacon’s role in relation to the laity and to seek ways to attract younger men to the vocation. They also aim to better meet the needs of deacons’ families and fine-tune formation.

…The U.S. Church has embraced the diaconate more than other countries, said Deacon James Keating, director of Theological Formation at the Institute for Priestly Formation in Omaha, Nebraska. But, he said, “We are still in a learning curve about who the deacon is and how he is best formed to serve the new facets of our Church, such as dwindling church attendance, fewer and fewer sacramental marriages for young people, even a lessening interest on young people’s part for spirituality and prayer.”

Deacon Robert Cross, 92, remembers that the archdiocese was still working out its diaconate curriculum when it decided to ordain the first class — of which he was a member — while they still had a year of formation to complete.

“We sensed in a way that it was experimental,” he said.

Read much more, including how formation has evolved and how wives are part of the process.

Kudos to reporter Susan Klemond and the Catholic Spirit for giving readers a balanced and compelling overview of this vocation—an overview that, significantly, also manages to get it right.

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