Deacon on young adult ministry: "You are giving birth to new hope…"

From Los Angeles comes this inspiring story of a deacon and his wife who are leading a ministry that is helping young people reconnect with their faith:

“The church usually skips a generation; it goes from serving youth to serving adults, and young adults are usually left out,” Rouzan said, echoing her peers.

The 37-year-old administrative assistant at Loyola Marymount University felt the need of stretching her relationship with God, but it was hard for her to apply the Scriptures to her own life.

Until she joined the young adult ministry at Holy Name of Jesus Church in Los Angeles, where 80 percent of the 1,000 registered families are African Americans. She is now the director of the group’s “Shining FAITH” choir and one of the ministry leaders.

Retreats and prayer groups conducted by Deacon Douglass Johnson and his wife Sheree, who made the young adult ministry the focus of their diaconate, led to Bible studies and round table faith sharing discernment sessions. That in turn resulted in the organization of a “solid core group of leaders,” who are the “foundation of the ministry,” according to Johnson.

In an effort to draw more members, Holy Name of Jesus recently hosted its first Young Adult Monthly Mass, with Father Paul Spellman, pastor, presiding.

“This is a new beginning, you are giving birth to new hope,” Deacon Johnson said in his homily. “You are not forgotten,” he told the young adults, reiterating the ministry’s motto “Young but not forgotten.”

He also praised Pope John Paul II for “championing young adult ministries” and supported those who “have doubts in their spiritual journey.”

“When we become Thomas, Jesus says, ‘That’s ok, I’m not going to persuade you; touch me, I’m still broken,’” he said, citing the Scriptural account when St. Thomas doubted the appearance of the risen Christ.

“His [Jesus’] gift to us is his brokenness, so we can also be wounded healers,” Deacon Johnson noted. He urged the assembly to “stand at the cross in prayer” asking God to “fill the church” with young people.

His dream, he added, is to see the parish become a “parish without boundaries.”

Check out the rest.

As a footnote: it was interesting to see the diocesan newspaper referring to the deacon and his wife making this ministry the focus of “their diaconate.”

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12 responses to “Deacon on young adult ministry: "You are giving birth to new hope…"”

  1. Wonderful ministry. But no surprise about “their diaconate” terminology. When it somes to our brethren in the southlands LA is where you will often see “deacon couples” as a designation and these same “deacon couples” processing into church as a couple on certain occassions. Perhaps the new Archbishop will set things straight there concerning terminology and procession.

  2. Diakonos09…

    Yeah, I’ve seen the “deacon couples” designation before, in reference to the LA deacons, and blogged about it a time or two — check out this link for more.

    Dcn. G.

  3. My wife, Pam, cringes at the term “deacon couple.” She has been wonderful supporting me in ministry. However, she explains to people who ask her , “My husband is a deacon and I support him. I was not ordained. If you have a question, here is his cell phone number. Please call him and he will be glad to help!”



  4. We don’t have any deacons near where I live. Can someone enlighten me on their role? I assume they assist the parish priests but can’t say Mass or administer the sacraments?

  5. Brother Jeff …

    Among other things, in the liturgy deacons preside at weddings and funeral rites, perform baptisms, proclaim the gospel at mass, and preach homilies. They also assist the priest at the altar. Beyond that, deacons exercise a wide range of ministries within the parish or the diocese, usually devoted to acts of charity.

    You can read more in this very good overview from the Archdiocese of Detroit.

    Dcn. G.

  6. Deacon Paul, I agree with your wife. The term “deacon couple” makes assumptions about the wife’s role as being a sort of “mini-deacon”. Most of us have enough to do without that expectation!
    I think where some of this comes from is that in many locations the wives are required to attend the formation classes. I have long thought that this should be voluntary, not required. And the trend now seems to be away from this mandatory aspect for the wives.

  7. Hi, folks,

    The term “deacon couple” is not necessarily regional. It is a rather dated term that goes back to the early days of the renewed diaconate here in the US (there’s not the same issue overseas). It came from a well-intentioned desire to nurture the couple’s marriage, and to recognize that, through matrimony, the two “have become one flesh”. Still, as the diaconate has matured, this language has become — justifiably — recognized as problematic. Believe me, it makes everyone nervous, and it’s slowly dying out. Similarly, many wives of deacons have raised a concern over the term “deacon’s wife.” Many wives don’t like that term since it can convey that the wife’s own identity is an outcome of the husband’s ordination. So, many prefer the term “wife of a deacon.”

    Back to “deacon couple.” It does NOT arise from situations where the wife is expected to participate in formation. In fact, these days, a strong case could be made that it is exactly a more substantive participation in formation by wives is leading to more clarity in such terminology. Very few dioceses (out of our 196 in the US) EVER tried to MANDATE wives’ attendance, and most of those have modified their position. But I DO think it’s important to remember WHY bishops and deacon directors are concerned that the wives participate: 1) they will need to be able to make an informed consent about whether or not their husbands should be ordained; 2) the couples need to grow together, and not let formation itself become problematic in the marriage. All of us who have been involved in diaconate formation have been burned when problems like this have arisen. Now don’t get me wrong: I’m NOT suggesting any kind of mandated attendance for the spouses; but I AM saying that this is a matter of concern and some mechanism needs to be in place to keep an eye on such things.

    God bless,

    Deacon Bill

  8. Fascinating discussion and my wife agrees with the comments on postings 3,4 and 7. In fact, back in “the days of yore,” when the religious sister who was an assistant administrator of my formation program tried to mandate attendance at “deacons’ wives” meetings, there was a major revolt among my class with very heated letters and very angry phone calls. The sister backed-down and the director apologized to us all.

    On the other hand, I cannot disagree with Deacon Bill either. There needs to be “informed consent” and that may involve some type of briefings about what the life of a deacon is all about and how that might/will affect the lady he is married to. There is a candidate in our current formation class who I know fairly well and whose wife was putting up some type of resistance to it all. I later found out it was one of these misconceptions of what is and is not required of a wife of a deacon.

    Some dioceses have avoided most of this grief by taking the position that they will “support” any indigenous efforts on the part of the wives themselves to minister to each other. That seems to work best.

  9. Deacon Norb, I’m glad to hear that the trend is to make wives included without making attendance at classes “mandatory”. In our location, up until last year, it was very definitely mandatory. I understand the intention was to keep us in the loop and strengthen marriages; and I appreciate that. However it did create its own set of problems.

  10. It’s awesome to see that the ministry of Deacons is now turning towards a focus on the young adults. These are the people who will raise the next generation of the church, so we need to minister to them and educate them as soon as possible. The young adult generation is very much dead and lost.

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