A diocese without deacons: ‘There hasn’t been a great need for deacons or an interest in the diaconate’
Bishop James Conley of the Diocese of Lincoln—legendary for its thriving vocations—spoke recently with Catholic World Report. He had a few things to say about the priesthood, and even fewer to say about the diaconate:
CWR: The Diocese of Lincoln does well for vocations to the priesthood and religious life. What is the secret to your success?Read more
Bishop James Conley: We have 43 seminarians this year, including 10 new ones. We go back and forth with the Diocese of Wichita as having the highest number of priests-per-lay-Catholics in the country. Seven out of 10 of our priests are graduates of our high schools.
The secret of a successful vocations program, I believe, begins with prayer. Vocations come from God. We have two cloistered communities of religious women in our diocese, our Carmelite Sisters and our Holy Spirit Adoration Sisters, whom we call “pink sisters” because of the color of their habits. [Both communities] pray for vocations constantly.
Also key to vocations is fidelity to Church teaching. That is one hallmark of the Diocese of Lincoln. For the past 40-plus years, Lincoln has had stellar episcopal leadership, and is unapologetic in its embrace of the Faith. Having the security of knowing that the Diocese of Lincoln is 100 percent faithful to Church teaching on faith and morals is very appealing to many young men considering the priesthood…
…Also, in 1999, we had a great blessing in our diocese when Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz opened St. Gregory the Great Seminary, a four-year Catholic college seminary, at a time when many such colleges were closing. It’s been a great blessing for us, and allows us to do our own formation of men discerning the priesthood. That is important because we live in a time when more and more men are coming from broken families. We are able to address a lot of “woundedness” early in their formation.
CWR: Is it true that Lincoln does not have a permanent diaconate program?
Bishop Conley: Yes. We recruit men to serve as acolytes or lectors, but we do not have a permanent diaconate program. I’m open to having such a program in the future, but our diocese has not yet seen a need for it.
CWR: Why is that?
Bishop Conley: For the size of our Catholic population we have many priests who are active in every aspect of parish life. There hasn’t been a great need for deacons or an interest in the diaconate.