Lives less ordinary: 29 ordained as permanent deacons on Jan. 26

January 29, 2013

HOUSTON — Twenty-nine men received the sacrament of Holy Orders in a Mass celebrated Jan. 26 at the Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart. For each, it marked the end of six years of rigorous study and pastoral formation — and the beginning of consecrated life in the Permanent Diaconate of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston.

There are now about 380 permanent deacons serving in the Archdiocese — some working in parishes and schools, serving as liturgists, homilists, catechists, ministers and administrators, while others commit to social ministries such as corrections services, special youth, hospital ministry, port chaplaincy and much more. They assist bishops and priests at the celebration of the Eucharist, assist and bless marriages, preside over baptisms, funerals and other special blessings. They balance their ordination with their “ordinary” lives, some as husbands, dads and breadwinners. 

“Deacons share in Christ’s mission and grace in a special way,” according to the Catechism of the Catholic Church. “The sacrament of Holy Orders marks them with an imprint which cannot be removed and which configures them to Christ, who made himself the ‘deacon’ or servant of all.”

A deacon’s commitment to the Church is no small thing. For family men especially, it’s a family commitment. “Everything is done in the context of marriage and family,” said Deacon Gerald W. DuPont, director of the Diaconate for the Archdiocese. He is also the chief diaconate advisor to the United States Conference on Catholic Bishops.

From the very first informational meeting, wives must attend with their husbands. The couples are sent home with soul-searching questions. “They talk as a husband and wife and family — and they come back when they’re ready.”

One Saturday a month for the past six years, the wives were required to attend all-day pastoral and spiritual classes with their husbands. Every Wednesday evening, diaconate candidates attended classes toward a bachelor’s or master’s degree in theology. While it wasn’t required, wives often decide to take academic courses alongside their husbands. In this class, about two-thirds of the spouses did.

Typically, a candidate and his wife are already active in the Church before he receives the call to the diaconate. After prerequisite courses — which usually include basic theology and Formation Toward Christian Ministry — and more soul-searching, the candidate joins the program as an aspirant. 

The sponsoring parish and the Archdiocese split the aspirant’s education costs. Should his wife decide to follow the academic tracks, the parish and Archdiocese pay her costs as well. “The way we look at it is, we’re training two people for ministry,” Deacon DuPont said. “One’s going to be ordained. The other, a more effective lay minister.”