Every now and again I am asked about being a Deacon. What do you do? How do you spend your time? How do you find the time? Is all that really necessary? For those of you who know me or follow me on this blog or over at Facebook, by now you know what my ministry as a Permanent Deacon means to me. I'm all in! I view the call to diakonia as one that comes directly from God and affirmed by His Church! Therefore, I do not believe that I, or any of my brother Deacons for that matter, can minister as a Deacon casually or infrequently.
Now there are many ways for the Permanent Deacon to minister. Most commonly, the majority of Catholics encounter us at Mass, where we "assist" not celebrate or serve. Then the faithful encounter us at the Sacraments specific to the Diaconate, Baptisms and Weddings. Where the faithful do not normally encounter us is in our call to be and bring Christ to the hurt and lost, the unlovable, as society deems unlovable, and those living often on the fringes of society.
As a Permanent Deacon the best thing that happened to me was an assignment from the Archbishop to minister at a prison. The time I spend in prison is time spent with those who would not receive Catholic teaching, support and the Sacraments without involvement from others. I am so privileged to be one of those "others".
This weekend began in prison. After going to Rayburn Correctional on Wednesday night, my usual night for ministry, I was pleased to return Friday night for a special retreat arranged by our Archdiocesan Prison Ministry Office. The retreat ran from 5 to 9 PM. For me, it did not matter that I worked all day, from before 8 that morning, this is where I was called to be. Now the retreat was led by a Catholic Priest from our seminary and a Catholic Nun, who was making her 3rd visit with us at Rayburn. So Deacon, what did you do? My answer might surprise some but it should not. I was present with the men so they knew I wanted to be with them on this important and special night, and I served pizza. Yep I served pizza! So what were those first 7 Deacons from Acts of the Apostles called to do? Serve at table I believe! Perhaps the most important thing I did was try my best to shake the hands of almost all of the 165 inmates who attended this Friday night retreat. I may have missed a few, but not for lack of trying!
Now Rayburn Prison is way up in the woods, quite a few miles from anywhere. By the time we wrapped up and drove our way home, I was pulling in the driveway at 10 PM. I can honesty say I've pulled in the driveway on many a Friday night in my life at or after 10 PM, but never from a prison! And try to understand, for me, on this particular Friday night, there is no other place I would rather be!
I had to work on Saturday morning and that's ok too! It is so very important for folks in the pews to understand that many of the Permanent Deacons indeed are full-time employed at a secular job. Mine is that of a banker and we have Saturday morning hours. This is a cause for careful planning because many events in the life of the Church and my ministry take place on Saturdays! For the Deacon, if he embraces his ministry fully, he goes about his business at work with joy and an understanding that this is where you need to be, at this time, and in this place! That careful planning is exactly what was needed as when I left work, I drove straight to my parish, St. Jane de Chantal in Abita Springs, so to be present at the anniversary celebration of one of our Priests, Father Angel Diaz. While I missed the Mass there was no way I would miss the reception. Why? Again the answer is based on presence. To be able to honor our Priests is a big deal for the Permanent Deacon who spends a great deal of his ministry assisting the Priests of our parishes and the diocese from time to time. The great lunch that was served at the reception was a nice benefit that I most certainly enjoyed.
This weekend was the Jubilee for Deacons in Rome and I wanted to do something special related to this day even though I, and a vast majority of my brother Deacons, would not be able to go to Rome. With the support of my Pastor, Father Ken Allen, we agreed to have a small celebration at our 10 AM Mass on Sunday. All 4 of our Deacons would be present assisting at Mass and I was asked to speak about the diaconate. This speaking opportunity developed into a full blown homily so it was important to develop a homily that remembered the Feast we were celebrating, the Body & Blood of the Lord, as well as the Jubilee for Deacons. Suffice to say the homily was a little long but I pray well received. As plans would change and develop, I wound up assisting and preaching at three masses over the course of Saturday evening, Sunday morning and Sunday evening. I was both happy and privileged to be able to do this and I hope many in attendance learned a little something about the Permanent Diaconate!
So that was the weekend that past. For some it might be hard to believe that someone would want to spend so much of their weekend involved in church things and ministry. It's not hard for me at all; it's truly what I am called to do because of who I am called to be.
I would ask all of you reading this, in the charity of your prayers, to pray for Permanent Deacons who truly come to serve and not be served and for the wives of Deacons, who, in an extreme act of love, give and share their husbands with the Church and the people we serve. For our wives, they almost always sit in the pews alone while we do our thing at Mass.
Today, I now look forward to not just the next weekend, but the daily ministry of the Deacon, whether at church, the prison, at work, in the community and even at home.