At yearly convocation, deacons encouraged to bear witness to Gospel

September 4, 2012

HOUSTON — The permanent diaconate is aging and in demand, according to Deacon Gerald DuPont, Director of the Archdiocesan Office of the Permanent Diaconate at St. Mary Seminary, but certainly not undaunted.

Deacon DuPont highlighted the state of the diaconate at the Aug. 11 annual Convocation of Permanent Deacons, a celebration and coming together of more than 240 deacons across the Archdiocese, many of them accompanied by their wives.

"We need more," Deacon DuPont put it simply.

Currently, there are 401 deacons, 247 of them active. Of the active deacons, 160 are over 60. Deacon DuPont said they would like to add 118 deacons, whose ministries provide outreach to prisoners, the abused, the sick, the elderly and more. 

More than 240 deacons attended the Aug. 11 annual Convocation of Permanent Deacons at St. Mary Seminary, 9845 Memorial Dr. 

The event, meant to bring deacons and their wives together for fellowship and learning, is always scheduled around the Feast of St. Lawrence, patron saint of deacons in the U.S. Featured speakers included Daniel Cardinal DiNardo, on "The Deacon and the New Evangelization;" Deacon Gerald DuPont, Director of the Office of the Permanent Diaconate, who outlined the state of the diaconate; and Father David Garcia, senior advisor for clergy outreach for Catholic Relief Services in San Antonio, on "The Deacon, Catholic Social Teaching, and the Ministry of Preaching." The ninth annual event also was an occasion to honor the diaconate classes of 1972 and 1987.

Men interested in becoming a deacon may call the Archdiocesan Office of the Permanent Diaconate at 281-703-0227.

Deacon DuPont said an active deacon puts in 20 hours a week or more, while in many cases continuing to work full time. A retired deacon puts in a dozen or so hours a week. Ordained ministers charged with exercising a ministry of liturgy, word and charity, deacons conduct services, including baptisms and funerals. Expected to be leaders, they are also part of ministries at the parish level and work with agencies of the Archdiocese.

"They are involved in every facet of the Church," Deacon Dupont said. "They are icons of the servant Christ."

Not something to be undertaken lightly, training to be a permanent deacon takes at least four years, and longer for a novice of theology. A lengthy interview process weeds out the less than serious applicants. Then candidates embark on a study program involving weekly evening classes and Saturday classes once a month.

Two long-time deacons at St. Edward Catholic Community in Spring said the role of a deacon is rewarding, but advised those considering the diaconate to listen to God.

"It's a blessing to be a service to the people in the parish," Deacon Nick Thompson said, as Deacon Ken Martin nodded in agreement.

Appreciative of the work they do, Daniel Cardinal DiNardo in his talk "The Deacon and New Evangelization" during the day-long convocation urged the deacons to "please keep up your care for the little ones."

Cardinal DiNardo spoke of the vital role of deacons as the Church enters the Year of Faith, a papal declaration starting in October. 

Cardinal DiNardo urged the deacons to immerse themselves in their favorite Gospel for the sake of their communities, to bear witness and to set aside time for reflection and growth.

"You need to be credible witnesses — that's my prayer for this year of the new evangelization," he said. "People out there are starving for the word of God."