Trailblazers: Baltimore's first class of deacons, 40 years later

What was it like to be one of the first permanent deacons in the United States?  The Catholic Review chats with surviving members of the class of ’71:

After Cardinal Lawrence Shehan ordained Deacon George Evans as one of the first permanent deacons in the United States 40 years ago, a lot of people didn’t know what to make of the new clergyman.

“It was a struggle in the first few years,” remembered Deacon Evans, now retired but still assisting at St. Rita in Dundalk. “People were asking, ‘Why are you doing what priests do?’”

Deacon Hubert Derouaux, another new deacon in the same pioneering first diaconate class as Deacon Evans, encountered similar reactions as he began his ministry.

“I was accepted,” said Deacon Derouaux, now retired in Florida, “but people had a difficult time with some of the things we were doing in the liturgy. To them, it was important that the priest do everything.”

Even some priests, unsure how the permanent diaconate related to their own ministry, could be suspicious.

“We were the first (permanent) deacons in the United States,” Deacon Derouaux said, “and I know there was apprehension amongst the laity and some priests and we had to prove not only to them, but ourselves, that we could function properly as deacons in answering the needs of our community.”

Four decades after Deacons Evans and Derouaux joined four others in becoming the first men in the country ordained to the permanent diaconate in a diocesan program, there’s a far greater acceptance of the diaconate.

Today, there are nearly 200 permanent deacons serving in the Archdiocese of Baltimore and more than 17,000 permanent deacons throughout the country.

As Deacons Evans and Derouaux celebrate the 40th anniversary of ordained life, the only two surviving deacons from their historic class believe the permanent diaconate has become a vital ministry in the church. They see it as a blessing.

Read the rest.

And thank you, brothers, for blazing that trail four decades ago.  Ad multos annos!

  • http://stfrancesxcabrinichurch.org Deak Pete

    Just returned from my 40th High School reunion, class of ’71…AMAZING to think this was going on the year I graduated…

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/00442985285647041700 Melody

    There are still a few pioneers in our archdiocese left from that first class. They are officially retired, but still serving God. They paved the way for their brothers.

  • joan

    The beginning of the end?
    Just look at the evidence.
    Decline and declining with little or bad fruit resulting in
    Loss of souls, loss of faith, and abuse of all kinds…
    Modernism is a heresy. John Paul II spoke of a “silent apostasy”.

  • dcs

    Look at those beautiful dalmatics! And all wearing the amice!

  • deaconnecessary

    Joan…
    I do not quite understand your point. Are you saying that the ills of the church today are the result of the restoration of the diaconate?
    “Modernism is a heresy.” There is no Modernism in the diaconate. This was the RESTORATION of a permanent order.
    Give the Holy Spirit some credit.

  • Deacon Greg Kandra

    Joan…

    Yes. Look at the evidence. Many dioceses are now ordaining at least a dozen deacons (often more) nearly every year, with a growing number of these men taking on leadership roles in the Church. There were 52 in my class four years ago.

    The beginning of the end? Hardly.

    Dare I add: you wouldn’t be visiting this page if it weren’t for a deacon.

    Dcn. G.


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