It's Sunday in Rome as I write this so today is the 3rd and final day of the Jubilee for Deacons! Permanent Deacons worldwide who traveled to Rome for the Jubilee are about 6 hours away from vesting and thereby assisting Pope Francis at Mass. Among them are approximately 20 of my brother Deacons from the Archdiocese of New Orleans. Thanks to them and Deacon Greg Kendra, a nationally known blogging Deacon, I have been able to experience this Jubilee for Deacons through their pictures and their words. What a special grace that the Holy Father included Permanent Deacons in his year-long celebration of the Jubilee of Mercy!
I've been thinking and reflecting all things Deacon over these past few days in anticipation of the Jubilee for Deacons. Locally, at my parish of St. Jane's we will have a brief recognition of the four Permanent Deacons who assist and serve the parish at 10 AM Mass tomorrow. In addition to yours truly, our parish is served by Deacon Frans Labranche, ordained 1981, Deacon Don Bourgeois, ordained 1989, Deacon Mark Coudrain, ordained 2006. I was ordained in 2008. Together the four of us have some 80+ years of service as Deacons!
When the Permanent Diaconate was restored in 1968 by Pope Paul VI it was just a few years later that Archbishop Philip Hannan in New Orleans agreed to begin a program of formation for Permanent Deacons. The first class was ordained in 1974, followed by 1976 and 1981. Since then, a new group of Deacons are ordained every 3-4 years. Currently the Archdiocese is served by 165 active Permanent Deacons and we have an additional 50 retired Deacons. Remember, once a Deacon always a Deacon!
Permanent Deacons, who are most noticed by the faithful at Mass, actually serve throughout the community all week long. Sometimes that service includes just "being" Deacon at work and in the community. Other times we are ministering at hospitals, nursing homes, hospice, homeless shelters, prisons, food banks and so much more. Deacons are ministers of charity and imitate Christ the Servant who came to serve and not be served. At the parish, besides duties at Mass, Deacons prepare couples for marriages, handle annulments, prepare families for baptism, conduct prayer services, Bible study programs, work with RCIA and provide other services as needed by the Pastor.
I am so thankful for the ministry of Deacon entrusted to me by the Church and to be serving in this capacity now at St. Jane Church as well as Rayburn Prison. I am also thankful for serving alongside Deacons Frans, Don and Mark.
And who knows, maybe that next Permanent Deacon is out there somewhere. Feel free to ask us about the Diaconate; God may be calling you too!