Ordination update: 17 new deacons in Helena

Details, from the Montana Catholic: 

An ordination, much like a wedding, is a momentous occasion, both for the man receiving Holy Orders and for those gathered in joyful witness. But the ordination of 17 men to the permanent diaconate takes on historical significance. June 29 was a day for making history as Bishop George Leo Thomas ordained 17 men who spent the past 4½ years in formation for their vocation as permanent deacons. This ordination was the largest in the Diocese of Helena’s history; nine priests were ordained in 1962.

The Cathedral of St. Helena was packed with the deacon candidates, their wives, families, pastors and friends. Following the readings, the candidates were presented to Bishop Thomas. Each answered “present” as Deacon Tony Duvernay called his name. Father John Robertson, chancellor and diocesan director of the permanent diaconate, testified that the candidates had been found worthy.

During Bishop Thomas’s homily, he said this deacon class “is distinguished by their high caliber and commitment, their long track record of parish involvement and a level of talent that rivals deacon classes across the land.”

Bishop Thomas enumerated the threefold ministry of Word, Worship and Witness that deacons carry out. He then offered “seven hallmarks or special qualities that will help give diaconal ministry depth, flavor, color and texture.” These include humility, holiness, happiness, hope, healing, hospitality, and humor.

There’s much more at the link, including an excellent multi-media presentation.

In his column in the diocesan newspaper, Bishop Thomas had this to say about the diaconate:

I offer seven hallmarks or special qualities that will help give diaconal ministry depth, flavor, color and texture.

1. The first of these hallmarks is the virtue of humility, described by both by St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Augustine as foundational for all other virtues in Christian life.

The word “humility” comes from the Latin word “humus,”, meaning soil or ground. Humility is the spiritual soil that helps the other virtues germinate and flourish. Humility replaces arrogance, pride and hubris with a servant spirituality. Humility is the great equalizer that allows ministers of the Gospel to recognize the equality and dignity of every person. Humility allows us to become lifelong learners, able to seek and accept wise counsel and correction from others. In the words of Deacon Owen Cummings, who teaches at Mount Angel Seminary in Oregon, humility is the basis for collaboration, communion and collegiality. All are necessary for fruitful ministry.

2. The second hallmark is the universal call to holiness, a call that originates in baptism and is the goal of every Christian.

The beginning point for holiness of life is that deep, personal encounter with Jesus Christ. The very purpose of diaconal ministry is to introduce others to him, and to give Jesus a hallowed place in every heart and home.

Deacons are asked to help others encounter Jesus in their daily lives, especially through the Eucharist, sacraments, daily prayer and works of charity.

3. Diaconal ministry must redound in happiness.

St. Teresa of Avila prayed, “Spare me, O Lord, from sour-faced saints.”

Happiness is the byproduct of beatitude living and is an irresistible force for leading others to Christ. The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the reason for our radical optimism and the source of our happiness, which the world never can rival.

4. Deacons are to be visible signs of hope.

In their pastoral ministry, deacons quickly become familiar with the many burdens our people carry. They soon discover a world of hidden and silent suffering and are commissioned to offer our people “the hope that does not disappoint.” (Romans 5:5) We know this hope has a name. His name is Jesus Christ.

Deacons in this diocese are to be visible symbols of hope, preaching and living the deeply-held conviction articulated by the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council: “Jesus Christ is the definitive answer to the question of the meaning of life.”

5. Deacon ministry is to be characterized by the charism of healing. Deacons are to be agents of healing, a prayerful presence among our people, a listening ear and a conduit for the healing of the Holy Spirit.

Deacons are to prefer persuasion over power, dialogue over diatribe and civility over censure. I ask them to make frequent use of the sacrament of reconciliation, pointing others to the divine physician. Through their example, they are to teach our people the power found in those three little words that can mend broken hearts: “I forgive you.”

6. Hospitality must be the next hallmark of diaconal ministry. Deacons are to ask constantly, “Who is not at the table?” They must help both parish and diocese open their arms in welcome and pastoral care.

A third-century document describes the deacon as the ears, mouth, heart and soul of the bishop, helping to extend apostolic ministry into every portion of the Church. Deacons are to be lived reminders that in our community, there must be no castoff people, no disposable souls, no throwaway communities. Their ministry must go beyond parish boundaries, to the prison and hospital, to nursing homes and shut-ins, to soup kitchens and shelters. They must minister among the people, helping all of us see in the eyes of every person the image of the Lord himself.

7. Deacons must reflect a lively sense of humor, described by author Richard Heffern as “the byproduct of living deeply.” Recall the wise counsel of the late pianist and humorist Victor Borge when he said, “The shortest distance between two people is a good laugh.” Diaconal ministry must be marked by buoyancy and lightheartedness that lift the hearts of the people, and bring joy into their lives.

Read it all.  I think there’s a lot of wisdom there.

Meantime, congratulations, brothers, and welcome.  Ad multos annos!  


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