Today, Memorial Day, is a holiday for EWTN staff and I was going to take the day off but have postponed it in order to share with you the story of four permanent deacons, their wives and families. Today, for upcoming editions of “Vatican Insider,” I interviewed two of the four who graced my home last night, Deacon Dan Borné of Baton Rouge and Deacon Harold Burke-Sivers of Portland. Below is a brief account of that mini Jubilee and a few photos.
A MINI JUBILEE OF DEACONS
When one of Lexington, Ohio’s own indicated that, as a permanent deacon, he would be in Rome for the Jubilee of Deacons, richlandsource.com did a story about the Jubilee, beginning with these words: In more than 2,000 years of its existence, the Catholic Church has never hosted an event specifically addressing deacons — the dispensers of charity for the Christian community.
That rather startled me and, as I looked back over the years I worked for the Vatican and these last years that I have covered the Vatican and papacy, I did not remember a single event focusing solely on deacons. That fact alone doubled my interest in the just-concluded Jubilee of Deacons, given that I know so many permanent deacons.
I decided to invite four deacons to my home to celebrate the final day of their Jubilee, a day that started with Mass in St. Peter’s Square presided over by Pope Francis.
Two of my four guests were deacons whom I’ve know some time: Dan Borné who was with his wife, Lissette (who did a beautiful second reading at the papal Mass) and Dom Pastore, Teresa Tomeo’s husband. The other two deacons were men I’d only “met” through the media – by reading their blogs and Facebook pages an learning of their travels and speeches and retreats and so much more: Greg Kandra and his wife Siobhain (pronounced Shevawn) and Harold Burke-Sivers (his wife Colleen was in Portland preparing for next weekend’s graduation of their oldest daughter Clare.
Dan, Lissette and Deacon Harold –
I had prepared some snacks to enjoy with the magnum of champagne I’d received on my birthday last year but should have prepared a pasta dinner, tossed salad and some dessert! My guests arrived promptly at 6:30 and no one made a move to say good night until 9:30!
Greg and Siobhain
The conversation was stimulating, enlightening and full of surprises – mainly for me, I am sure, but I could tell that, as each deacon shared part of their story or made comments about the diaconate that the others were learning as well. Four stories, but eight lives. Four dioceses, four bishops, four different ways of understanding and living the permanent diaconate.
Teresa and Dom
I learned so very much last night about the permanent diaconate and about the wonderful men who dedicate their lives – every moment – to God – to the ministry of diaconate and also to their marriage, their wives, their families. A “vocation within a vocation” as Deacon Harold called it.
If you look at Church statistics, this is a ministry that is growing by leaps and bounds around the world.
I was in the company of four enthusiastic men who love their ministry and love their wives, wives who share deeply in both vocations, the vocation of marriage and that of the diaconate.
What we all shared last night were the stories of four men and how they felt called to the diaconate, how they lived the years leading up to ordination with their wives and families, the role of wives in this ministry, how the perception of the permanent diaconate has changed over the years (Deacon Harold has been a deacon the longest at 14 years), and the Jubilee experience in Rome (the talks they gave and attended, the Papal Mass, Francis’ homily, etc).
These topics and others were also the focus of the interviews I did today with Dan and Harold for Vatican Insider. It is not my intent here to re-live last evening – we’ll do that in a way in the interviews.
I have such admiration for these four men and there are tens of thousands like them around the world. Three thousand were in Rome for the Jubilee and Greg, Dom, Dan and Harold all said they are going home with a greater insight into the ministry of the diaconate, especially as it is experienced around the world.
I felt privileged at the end of the evening to have shared several hours with such amazing people, 4 deacons, 3 wives (I did not meet Deacon Harold’s wife but what he told me today was the story of a loving, caring, spiritually gifted, amazing woman – rather like what I saw last night!)
May God bless you all – the deacons I know but who were not in Rome and especially the four who graced my home.
Thanks for being in my life and for making a difference in so many lives!
A SHORT HISTORY OF THE PERMANENT DIACONATE
The following paragraphs are excerpts from the website of the Diocese of Fall River, Office of the Permanent Diaconate. They offer a brief, comprehensive and easy to read history of the diaconate. There are the orders of ordianed ministry: deacon, priest and bishop. (http://www.frpermanentdiaconate.com/the-permanent-diaconate/a-brief-history-of-the-perm.html)
“From the earliest days of the Christian Church the deacon has been intimately associated with the ministry of the Bishop and Priests. In the primitive Church of the Apostolic and Post Apostolic age, as witnessed to in the Christian Scriptures, the deacon was described as a minister in the liturgicalassembly and preacher of the word. The deacon prepared catechumens for entrance into the Church and was a dispenser of aid and food to the poor and distressed. The very term “Diakonia”announces the central characteristic of this Order, the deacon is called to service. …”
“After the fifth century there was a steady decline in the permanent diaconate in the Latin Church. From the early Middle Ages the diaconate remained only as a traditional order that men received as part of their preparation for ordination to the sacred priesthood. There were occasional exceptions to this rule hover, Saint Francis of Assisi, for example, was ordained a deacon but not a priest. In the sixteenth century the Council of Trent directed that the permanent diaconate should be restored to the Latin Church but this directive was not carried into effect. The reality was that the permanent character of this Order was abandoned by the Latin Church for many centuries.
“The permanent character of the Order, however, was restored and renewed when the Second Vatican Council (October 30, 1963) called for the reestablishment of the ministry of the Permanent Deacon for the Universal Church. On 18 June 1967, Pope Paul VI carried out the desire of the Council when he published the Apostolic Letter Sacrum diaconatuus ordinem in which he reestablished the permanent diaconate in the Latin Church. The Council, in its Dogmatic Constitution of the Church (Lumen Gentium 29), echoes the ancient image and concerns of the New Testament when it speaks of the ministry and nature of the diaconate:…”