Deacons, transitional and permanent

On Friday, June 1, Michael Smith from Kingston-Channel Parish was ordained as a permanent deacon for the Archdiocese of Hobart. We have three permanent deacons in the Archdiocese, serving in the Cathedral, Moonah-Lutana and now Kingston-Channel Parishes.

On June 13 Ben Brooks, a seminarian for the Archdiocese, will be ordained a (transitional) deacon by the right Rev. Alan Hopes, Bishop of East Anglia, in St Paul’s Basilica in Rome. On his return to Tasmania during the European summer he will be appointed to the Launceston Parish. Last year, Rev Fidelus Udousoro was ordained a (transitional) deacon at Burnie – Wynyard Parish. Fidelis is to be ordained to the priesthood later this year.

The Order of Deacon was established by Apostolic authority as an ordained ministry in the early Church. Deacons were to work in close collaboration with the Apostles in serving the needs of the Christian community. The deacon has his first relationship with the bishop.

Many Catholics still wonder about what a deacon is. Deacons are not meant to be either mini-priests, nor are they somehow super-laypeople. Theirs is a calling and a ministry all their own. In a particular way, they are to embody the image of Christ the servant.

Deacons constitute one of the three expressions of the Sacrament of Orders. One could say that ministry in the Church in a diocese is complete when the order of bishop, priest and deacon are present.

Ordained deacons served in the early Church. However, over time they became simply a step towards the priesthood. The Second Vatican Council decided to restore the ancient order. The genesis behind this is most interesting.  

During the Nazi era, more than 2,500 priests were incarcerated at the Dachau concentration camp alone, many of whom over the years would be assigned to cell block 26, nicknamed the Priesterblock. The priests incarcerated there reflected on all that had happened in Europe in their lifetime. They were moved to consider that the Church promoted the idea of Christ the Priest and Christ the King, but it needed to promote the idea of Christ the Servant. It was from this idea that a movement began following the war to encourage the re-introduction of the diaconate in the Church.

At the heart of the spirituality of a deacon is the notion of service. The phrase of Christ, “I did not come to be served but to serve,” captures the spirit of the diaconal ministry.

The Second Vatican Council described the deacon as having a ministry “of the Liturgy, of the Gospel and of Charity”. (LG 29)

The Church entrusts deacons with the ministry of the Word as they are the one to proclaim the Gospel in the celebration of the Mass. They can be called upon to preach at Mass.

The Deacon can administer the sacrament of Baptism. They are ordinary ministers of Holy Communion in the liturgy. They may be called upon to celebrate marriages and to conduct funerals when there is no Mass.

The Church asks Deacons to have a special interest in works of charity, following the example of the first deacons and the ancient tradition of the Church.

A deacon is usually appointed to a parish and the form of his ministry in the parish can take many forms. He has a liturgical role, but he is to have a pastoral role as well. The nature of the pastoral service will differ according to both the needs of the parish and the particular gifts of the Deacon. The ministry of the deacon in the local parish is something negotiated between the parish priest and the deacon.

The restoration of the role of the permanent deacon recognises that the deacon has a part to play in the ordinary life of the parish and the diocese. The ordination of Michael Smith is an opportunity to promote this vocation within the Archdiocese. It is hoped that more permanent deacons will become a feature of the life and ministry of the Church here in Tasmania.

Archbishop Julian Porteous

June 17, 2018

Tags: Archbishop's Blog