When I was twelve years old a doctor in my parish, who was a fairly active parishioner, announced that he was going to Mexico for a year to further his studies. I didn't think much about it.
The year went by and one day I noticed that he had returned. But what I really noticed was that 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 permanent deacon and that deacons could be married men. Ever since that day, the permanent diaconate has been in my heart.
Fast-forward to about six years ago. I’m in my parish, St. Elizabeth Seton in Newmarket and there are two new permanent deacons. They are married men. And all the feelings that I had when I was twelve came back. The next week I was speaking with Fr. Liborio Amaral, who was the Archdiocesan Vocations Director and he introduced me to Deacon Bert Cambre, who at the time, was the Director of Deacons for the Archdiocese of Toronto.
Next thing I know, Salt + Light is producing the promotional video for the Permanent Diaconate for the Archdiocese of Toronto - but also, two years later, I found myself in the Permanent Diaconate formation program for the Archdiocese.
I truly believe that the permanent diaconate is the Church’s best kept secret. Most people have never heard of it. 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. Deacons are occasionally found ministering in hospitals, senior homes and prisons. But they are not just chaplains, counselors or pastoral care workers – they are ordained ministers of the Church. That means they’ve received the Sacrament of the Holy Orders.
Perhaps you know someone who is a good deacon candidate?
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 whose names are submitted have already considered the call, but for many reasons 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.
Perhaps you are one of these men who have been thinking about the Diaconate but have been hesitating. Just contact your diocesan office and find out. The worst thing that could happen is that it turns out that it's not for you. Then again, it may be exactly where God is calling you. It was where God was calling me.
Fast-forward again to today. I am now in fourth year formation and getting ready for my ordination on May 26th. I can't say that I feel ready to be ordained, but I am most certain that this is where God has called me and where I need to be. Isn't that what everyone always says after discovering a religious vocation?
If you would like to know more about the Permanent Diaconate, I hope that you are able to watch Catholic Focus: A Ministry of Service
, tonight at 7 and 11pm ET (8pm PT). You will meet great men who have said yes to the call to serve.
Maybe one day you'll be writing me to tell me about your vocation story and inviting me to your ordination.
Credit: CNS photo