"Once a deacon, always a deacon…"

Those are the words of an 86-year-old retired deacon, profiled in the Catholic Review from the Archdiocese of Baltimore:

When Oak Crest commemorated National Volunteer Appreciation Week recently with an award ceremony for the Parkville retirement community’s volunteers, Deacon Harry O’Neill didn’t want to attend.

“The only way they got me there was by asking me to offer the opening prayer,” he said with a chuckle.

Of the 100 recipients of the Presidential Service Award, Deacon O’Neill, along with two other volunteers, was particularly singled out for his tireless service to others.

“The award was a nice thing, but anything I’ve done is simply a part of my ministry,” said the 86-year-old retired deacon who was ordained in 1983.

That’s not quite how Oak Crest’s Catholic staff and volunteers see it. When he was honored for his 15 years of service during a Saturday evening Mass in May, his gift of a Luna holder (a glass and gilded metal container which holds the Host securely in place in a monstrance) was accompanied by a collective tribute: “We praise and thank God for this good man, Deacon Harry O’Neill.”

Nearly half of the 900 Oak Crest residents are Catholic, and it has been Deacon O’Neill’s job, as one Catholic staff member put it, “to keep us all on the right track.”

He is particularly recognized for his ministry to the assisted living residents of Oak Crest’s Renaissance Gardens, bringing them Communion and working with representatives of other faiths to make sure special services are available to those who cannot go to the community’s chapel.

And he always assisted the Oak Crest Catholic Chaplain, Sulpician Father Joseph J. Bonadio, at the community’s four weekly Masses.

A bad back and other health issues have severely restricted Deacon O’Neill’s mobility these days but, climbing aboard his electric scooter, he still manages to help wherever he can.

“Once a deacon, always a deacon,” he said, flashing his infectious grin.

Read more about his life and his vocation right here. Keep on keepin’ on, Deacon!

Comments

  1. Regina Faighes says:

    Ad multos annos, Deacon Harry! :-)

  2. How very uplifting and inspirational!

  3. Hello,
    I have a respectful question to ask. And I have looked for an answer in my little library of Catholic reference and can not find one. Is the ordination of deacons a sacrament? I ask this because actually and factually a deacon can not do anything that I, as a practicing Catholic, can not do in proper circumstances. Baptism, weddings, blessings, burial of the dead and so on. As long as these things are properly witnessed and recorded, they are proper sacraments/sacramentals if performed by a baptized Catholic. Was the permanent deacon program begun to get the faithful “use” to a married priesthood? I ask this with humility because I don’t know, and can’t find sources to say one way or another. I thank you.

  4. Deacon Greg Kandra says:

    Tom…

    Yes. The deacon is an ordained member of the Catholic clergy. He receives one of the seven sacraments of the Church, the sacrament of Holy Orders.

    No. The “permanent deacon program” was not begun to get the faithful used to a married priesthood. It was brought back and restored as a permanent order because in the late ’60s, in the wake of the Second Vatican Council, there was a perceived need for this ministry in the Latin Rite Church (deacons had never disappeared in the Eastern Rite Church.)

    I’m sure others who are more familiar with the nuances of diaconal history can fill in other details.

    Dcn. G.

  5. Regina J. Faighes says:

    And married permanent deacons receive all of the Church’s seven sacraments during the course of their earthly life.

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