“You have been called to a vocation beyond your own understanding, both as husbands and wives, and as deacons and deacons’ wives,” said Bishop Michael G. Duca as he shared his vision for the permanent diaconate with those participating in the recent diocesan diaconate convocation. 

“The vision begins with offering yourselves and then accompanying people with the heart of Christ, the heart of a deacon. Be the first to love,” Bishop Duca urged, reminding the deacons they are public persons and must act as such. “Always be a deacon everywhere you go.” 

The entire diaconate community, active and retired deacons, men currently in formation and their wives gathered at the St. Joseph Cathedral parish hall on June 1 for the inaugural assembly. The convocation opened with Mass in the cathedral concelebrated by Bishop Duca and Father Jamin David, pastor of St. Margaret, Queen of Scotland Church in Albany and diocesan director of formation for the diaconate. Following the bishop’s remarks, Father David provided an update on the diaconate formation program developed in cooperation with Franciscan Missionaries of Our Lady University and implemented in 2015. He revealed that 21 men currently participate in the program, with the first class of six scheduled for ordination in June 2020. 

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Bishop Michael G. Duca addresses deacons and their wives during the inaugural diaconate convocation held June 1 at St. Joseph Cathedral parish hall in Baton Rouge. Bishop Duca and Father Jamin David, diocesan director of formation for the Diocese of Baton Rouge, con-celebrated Mass in the cathedral. Photos provided by Deacon John Veron

 

Current deacons had completed their ordination in a program previously provided in partnership with Saint Joseph Abbey and Seminary College.

Deacon John Veron, diocesan director of ministry and life for the diaconate, together with associate directors Deacon Tommy Benoit and Deacon Tim Messenger, addressed practical implications and expectations related to the vision presented by the bishop. Standards for ministry were established to help deacons in their relationships with their pastors as well as their spiritual growth and continuing education. 

Dr. David Whidden, associate professor of theology at Fran U, concluded the convocation with a discussion of the ongoing development of the diaconate post Vatican II. He recalled that deacons, appointed by the apostles to a ministry of service, were understood to occupy a special place in the Christian community from the very earliest days of the church. After the fifth century, however, there was a steady decline in the permanent diaconate and, from the early Middle Ages, the diaconate remained only as a transitional order that men received in preparation for ordination to priesthood. 

While the Council of Trent in the 16th century directed that the permanent diaconate should be restored, that directive was not carried into effect. When the Second Vatican Council again called for the reestablishment of the ministry of the permanent deacon in 1963, St. Paul VI issued the Apostolic Letter “Sacrum diaconatuus ordinem” in 1967 restoring and renewing the permanent diaconate. 

Quoting St. John Paul II in his 1987 address to permanent deacons in Detroit, Whidden said, “The service of the deacon is the church’s service sacramentalized. By your ordination you are configured to Christ in his servant role. You are also meant to be living signs of the servanthood of his church.” 

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Father David said 21 men are currently in the diaconate program, with the first class of six scheduled to be ordained in June 2020. The current program has been developed in coordination with Franciscan Missionaries of Our Lady University and was implemented in 2015.