Diocese in India to get its first permanent deacon

This is exciting news — though I’m less excited about the way this article misrepresents the diaconate and seems to confuse deacons with lay people.

Details:

The Poona diocese will soon have a married deacon to conduct baptisms, marriages, funerals and even give sermons. Roy D’ Monte, 54 — an administrator at Loyola High School — will be ordained as a married deacon on April 23, after which he will acquire the right to celebrate religious functions and administer sacraments, except for Mass and confession.

The move is hailed as unique in the Catholic Church, which shows how the lay people have a rightful place in the life of the church. At present, there are 10 married deacons in the country — all in the Mumbai archdiocese.

Poona Bishop Rt Rev Thomas Dabre says there is a need for priests in the diocese that spans across Pune, Satara, Solapur, Sangli, Kolhapur, Ratnagiri and Sindhudurg. “There is enthusiasm and willingness among married people in the church to take on responsibilities and the Vatican too has allowed the ordination of permanent married deacons. However, we have not accepted all applications and do not allow anybody to become a married deacon. There are several criteria that have to be met with.”

And, D’Monte seems to have fulfilled them. “I fell in love with God several years ago and have been involved in a variety of activities at Our Lady Consoler of the Afflicted Church at Pimpri,” he told The Indian Express.

He has a supportive family in wife Juliet, who has been a Sunday school moderator in the church, and daughters Renita and Ramona who are also actively involved in various youth activities of the church. He had, in fact, sent his application first in 1993 to the then Poona Bishop, Valerian D’Souza . “There were several criteria that I had to fulfill like completing studies in theology and philosophy from Dnyandeep Vidyapeeth at Ramwadi.”

Mumbai Archdiocese spokesperson Fr Anthony Charanghat says the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India had sanctioned the ordination of married deacons in 1983. The Mumbai Archdiocese was the first to exercise it by ordaining as many as 10 married deacons since 2006.

Bishop Dabre says, “There is sacrifice involved here specially as he is a married man. For a year, D’Monte was sent to different parishes and we wanted to gauge whether people would accept him.”

“The ordination of permanent married deacons brings back an old sacrament that had fallen into disuse,” says Fr Malcolm Sequeira, parish priest at St Patrick’s Cathedral. “Married deacons have always been part of the Church’s tradition, though at some points in its history their visibility declined. There has also been a shortage of priests and we need lay people to assist us. There is a lot of work to be done.”

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