On the diaconate: “This is what God is calling me to do”

An interesting look at some men in formation, from Florida Catholic: 

The men gathered in worship with their wives sang the closing hymn of Mass, “Let Us Build the City of God,” with much spiritual enthusiasm.

For the men who have heard the call to the vocation of the diaconate, the song culminated a retreat that kicked off a new term of study, dedication, sacrifice and formation as they continue to respond to God and follow the path to holy orders. The weekend retreat for permanent deacon candidates and their wives concluded with a Mass celebrated by Bishop Gerald M. Barbarito July 29 at Our Lady of Florida Spiritual Center.

Bishop Barbarito praised the diaconate program, saying it was one of the “best,” and he gave recognition to Deacon Dennis Demes, director of the diocesan Office of Formation for Permanent Deacons, and his outstanding leadership. He also thanked the men now going to great lengths and taking steps toward becoming members of the clergy and serving the Church.

“I express my gratitude to you for listening to the call of God, and I continue to support you on this journey,” he said.

The words “deacon” and “diaconate” come from the Greek word “diakonia,” which means service or ministry. Deacons can baptize, witness marriages, perform funerals and burial services outside of Mass, distribute holy Communion and preach the homily. A deacon receives holy orders during ordination and is then considered a member of the clergy.

“Men in the formation program devote five years of their life to human development, including speaking and relational skills, the study of sacred theology, spiritual development and pastoral development,” Deacon Demes said. “These men, by God’s grace, will one day assist the bishop and priests of our diocese in the care of the people of God.”

The process of becoming a permanent deacon in the Diocese of Palm Beach begins with discernment of God’s call through prayer and reflection. The next step is talking with a spiritual director and a pastor.

At the present time, 105 deacons serve in the diocese. Of this figure, a total of 53 deacons have come through the diocesan formation program since its inception in 2002. According to Deacon Demes, figures show that the number of deacons serving the Church is on the rise, and deacons currently minister in all but one diocese in the United States. Estimates indicate that there are 17,047 permanent deacons in the United States and perhaps as many as 16,349 still in active ministry.

Jean Serge Dube, a parishioner of St. Peter in Jupiter, heard the call and answered. He has been in the program for four years and has his sights set on being a deacon next year. “I felt God calling me and I tried to figure out which way to serve him best,” he said. “I felt this is the best way to serve him and the Church. This is what God is calling me to do. Through baptism we are all called to serve.”

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