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February 1, 2016 | Volume 91 Number 7

COMMENTARY

More men needed as deacons

Fortunately for both the laity and the clergy of the Diocese of Richmond, Bishop Francis X. DiLorenzo has called for the continuation of the Permanent Diaconate formation program in the fall of 2017.

Both the laity and clergy benefit from the deacons’ ministry. There are currently 115 men serving as deacons in their respective parishes. As ordained clergy, they can baptize, witness sacramental marriages, bring Holy Communion to Catholics in hospitals, nursing homes or to the homebound.

They also are helpful to their parish priests because they can prepare couples for marriage, parents of infants who seek baptism for their child and conduct funeral services in lieu of Mass of Christian Burial. They can also preach the homily at Sunday Mass. This is a major help to priests who are already super busy in full-time ministry.

All but a very few permanent deacons are volunteers who receive no monetary payment for their ministry.

Many of them have full-time jobs in the general marketplace. Most of them are married and have families to support. College education costs for their children are among the financial burdens they incur just by virtue of being a father.

A deacon’s wife is supportive of her husband’s vital role in parish ministry. The wives have already showed their support which enabled their husbands to begin the four-year formation process. Without that, a man would not be able to participate.

Let’s face it — a deacon, his wife and children make a sacrifice when their husband and father must leave the home for ministry in the parish. Until his ordination, the deacon candidate’s schedule includes one Friday night and all-day Saturday each month for formation classes. Those who live a distance from Richmond have to add travel time to the weekends.

They also have a financial cost of being in formation. Deacon candidates are expected to pay one-third of the tuition costs. The other two-thirds is paid by the Diocese.

Prison ministry has developed in smaller parishes in outlying areas where correctional facilities are located. While permanent deacons do not seek status in their ministry, their role as clergy gives them easier access to inmates by corrections officials. Their presence often fosters a new concern by parishioners who get involved in prison ministry led by the deacon and allow the Catholic Church to be present in prisons.

The Diocese of Richmond will continue to flourish with more deacons. Let’s be supportive by affirming the deacons already in ministry.

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