Diocese of Rochester’s deacons embrace vocation of service - Catholic Courier

Diocese of Rochester’s deacons embrace vocation of service

Men inquiring about diaconal ministry often say they’d like to assist the priest, proclaim the Gospel and deliver the homily at weekend Masses, observed Deacon Edward Giblin.

“Their main exposure (to deacons) is Sunday liturgy,” noted Deacon Giblin, the diocesan director of the permanent diaconate.

Yet a deacon’s duties involve Sunday Mass and a whole lot more, he said.

A total of 231 permanent deacons have been ordained in the Diocese of Rochester over the past 41 years, going on to perform many less visible — yet important — ministries. They minister in several aspects of parish life and through charitable and social-justice causes in the wider community.

A deacon’s vocation is highly fulfilling, Deacon Giblin said, and one he hopes will be considered by more faith-filled men eager to serve others.

“You’re living out your baptismal call to service. I think the diaconate tends to draw people that want to help and be active,” he said.

Rochester’s diocesan deacons perform wide range of ministries

Deacon Giblin said the Diocese of Rochester currently has 78 active permanent deacons, with 40 more on senior status and 21 residing out of the diocese.

Parish ministry for deacons can take a number of forms. Along with their roles at Sunday Mass, deacons serve in sacramental preparation, faith formation, spiritual direction and on committees. Church law also allows them to preside at baptisms, witness marriages and officiate at funerals outside of Masses. They cannot celebrate Mass, hear confessions or administer the sacrament of the anointing of the sick.

Outside church walls, deacons serve as chaplains at prisons, health-care facilities and colleges. They also share their gifts and talents with Catholic Charities agencies, shelters, soup kitchens and other initiatives that assist and advocate for people in the greatest need — the poor, the unborn, the disenfranchised.

“It’s just such a broad swath of ministries,” Deacon Giblin said.

Rochester Diocese ordained first class of permanent deacons in 1982

The opportunity for diaconal ministry began locally in the late 1970s at the urging of Bishop Joseph L. Hogan, and the inaugural class of 24 deacons was ordained by his successor, Bishop Matthew H. Clark, in 1982. Both developments were spurred by Pope Paul VI’s approval in 1967, based on recommendations the Second Vatican Council, to restore the permanent diaconate in the Roman Catholic Church for the first time since the Middle Ages.

Today, consideration for the diocesan permanent diaconate is open to single or married men who will be between ages 35 and 62 at the time of ordination. Each candidate must be in good health and emotionally mature; have stable professional and personal relationships; have the full support of his wife, if married, and family; and be endorsed by his pastor.

Formation occurs over a five-year period and involves extensive graduate-level study at St. Bernard’s School of Theology and Ministry, as well as field education at parishes, social-ministry agencies and health-care facilities. Once ordained, a deacon has an expected weekly commitment of approximately 10 volunteer hours. He may remain on active duty until age 75, at which point he must file for senior status, although he is free to continue in ministry.

Service duty performed by deacons has gained widespread acceptance

Deacon Giblin said deacons of today are “widely accepted and valued for the service they bring.” This attitude marks an evolution from earlier decades when deacons, pastors and parish communities grappled with defining a deacon’s role.

“There were obviously growing pains. People were not used to a married clergy,” said Deacon Giblin, who was ordained in 2000.

He noted that Bishop Salvatore R. Matano “has been very supportive of the diaconate” while reminding the deacons that their primary vocation is married life. Many deacons balance formation and ministry with marriage, family and full-time employment.

Deacon Giblin said these commitments serve as reminders that deacons are not meant to replace priests, even though they perform some of the same duties.

“What the deacon is ordained for hasn’t changed — to be witnesses of Christ through service. That focus is not on Christ the high priest but Christ the servant,” he said.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Men interested in learning more about the Diocese of Rochester’s permanent diaconate may contact Deacon Edward Giblin at edward.giblin@dor.org.

Tags: Deacons, Holy Orders
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