Staff Report

More 20 deacons along with their wives from the Diocese of Baton Rouge attended the 2018 National Diaconate Congress in New Orleans July 22-28. 

There were over 2800 deacons and wives from the United States attending the Congress, which had its theme “Jesus Christ the Servant: Yesterday, Today, and Forever.” The Congress marked the 50th anniversary of the reinstitution of the permanent diaconate in the United States. 

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More than 20 deacons and their wives from the Diocese of Baton Rouge recently attended the 2018 National Diaconate Congress in New Orleans.  Photo provided by Deacon John Veron | Diocese of Baton Rouge 

 

More than 50 years ago with his motu proprio “Sacrum Diaconatus Ordinem” Blessed Pope Paul VI issued general norms for restoring the permanent diaconate, which was a vital part of the early church. 

The opening Mass was celebrated by Archbishop Christophe Pierre, Apostolic Nuncio to the United States. 

The key note addresses were given by Archbishop Gregory M. Aymond of New Orleans; Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin of Newark, New Jersey; Bishop Frederick Campbell of Columbus, Ohio; Bishop W. Shawn McKnight of Jefferson City, Missouri; Bishop Emeritux Gerald Kicanas of Tucson, Arizona; Archbishop Samuel Aquila of Denver; and Archbishop Daniel Cardinal DiNardo of Galveston-Houston delivered addresses. 

The recurring theme of the presentations was the deacon as servant, as a bridge to the pastor and the bishop for those on the margins; the poor, the imprisoned, the sick, the unchurched and those who you would not normally see at Mass on Sunday. Although deacons today serve many roles, this diaconal charism of humble service to those on the outside is at the heart of the deacon’s call to ministry, according to the presenters. 

The deacon brings with him to the Sunday liturgy the trials, sorrows, joys and pains of those souls who are not present and goes forth from the liturgy to proclaim the Gospel and nurture those same souls. Therefore, the deacon is the bridge for the pastor and those gathered in communal worship.

The speakers said the deacon is the church’s emissary to those the pastor does not regularly come into contact with. The deacon then should pray constantly and not just the required prayers of his promise to the bishop at ordination, the Divine Office, but a concerted effort to meditate and contemplate within the Gospels the very person of Jesus Christ the servant. Additionally, they emphasized the deacon must stay alert to his personal quest for holiness. 

The role of the deacon continues to evolve and is now in the early stages of development within the Catholic Church. The permanent diaconate’s essential threefold ministry to word, liturgy and charity is shifting from primarily a liturgical one to one of word and charity, according to the speakers. 

The deacon of today is greater prepared due to his formation program to preach and teach than in earlier years. The future of the deacon is envisioned to take on more roles within the church especially in leadership and service and especially in those parishes without a priestly presence.

The deacon’s education, training and allegiance and service to his bishop puts him in a unique position to serve as a clergy presence wherever there is a need.