When I was growing up in Panama I was very involved in my Parish. (Remember my last blog entry
when I mentioned my first meaningful spiritual experience, which led me to be part of a youth group and a youth choir?) I was in Church from around 3pm on Saturday, practicing for Mass, we played the Saturday 6pm Mass and then returned the next morning for the Sunday 10am Mass. I did this every weekend for four years, until I left to come to Canada.
One day, one of the most active parishioners, a doctor, announced that he was going to Mexico for a year to further his studies. I didn’t really think much of it. It’s not like he was my best friend or anything. His sister was in the choir and sometimes he played with us. Mostly I remember him singing the psalm. He would get up there with his guitar and intone the psalm from the ambo with his guitar. He also taught me to play the congas (but that’s another story). The year went by and he returned and the next thing I know, he is putting on vestments for Mass. But he was married! He then proceeded to assist the priest during the Mass. I didn’t really know he was assisting, it sure looked like he was concelebrating, especially when he read the Gospel and he preached the homily. I was confused. Then I found out that he had been ordained a deacon and that deacons could be married men. Ever since that day, the permanent diaconate has been in my heart.
Fast-forward to the present day. I’m in my parish, St. Elizabeth Seton in Newmarket, minding my own business, and there are two new deacons. They are married men. I remembered that guy in Panama. So I thought I'd find out more about the permanent diaconate. That’s how I met Deacon Bert Cambre, Director of Deacons for the Archdiocese of Toronto, who was one of the guests on the show.
I truly believe that the permanent diaconate is the Church’s best kept secret. Most people have never heard of this program. And there are many men out there (you could be one of them) who would make great deacons. Not only does the deacon get to assist with the liturgy and sometimes proclaim the Gospel and preach, but they get to minister to the most needy in the community. But they are not just chaplains, or counselors or pastoral care workers – they are ordained ministers of the Church. That means they’ve received the Sacrament of the Holy Orders. How cool is that!
So... I hope that perhaps a seed has been planted in your heart. Many parishes now are in the midst of a “Called by Name” program, in which we are invited to submit the name of someone whom we think would be a good priest, brother, sister or deacon. These names are given to your pastor and then he approaches these people to talk about a possible religious vocation. While it may seem unwelcome (I don’t want anyone submitting my name to no pastor!), you can always say you’re not interested. But from what I hear, most people have considered the call, but for many reasons have been hesitating. So this is a good and gentle kick in the pants. Plus, don’t underestimate the Holy Spirit. If you are being called and not paying attention, this is a good way to get your attention.
I am not going to submit any names to my Pastor, but I am committed to letting every married man know about the Permanent Diaconate Program. While it doesn’t exist in every diocese, it does exist in many. Just contact your diocesan office and find out. It may be the thing for you.