Pope Francis shows gratitude for Permanent Diaconate at Jubilee

September 8, 2015

HOUSTON — When Pope Francis was photographed washing the feet of prisoners on Holy Thursday, a beautiful, dynamic moment of the pontiff bent over washing and kissing the inmates’ feet, one thing that stands out to most deacons around the world: Pope Francis’ vestments are worn as a deacon’s stole.

To further recognize and show his appreciation for the Order of the Permanent Diaconate, Pope Francis will welcome more than 460 deacons and their wives for a private audience in Rome on Oct. 21 to 24 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the reinstatement of the Permanent Diaconate. 

Deacon Gerald DuPont, director of the Office of Permanent Diaconate for the Archdiocese, said this is a historical event and cannot wait to hear what Pope Francis has to say. 

“This is very meaningful for deacons here in Galveston-Houston and around the world,” he said. “Pope Francis speaks through his actions. We’re all called to be servants. We’re servants in a servant Church. Humbled service should underlie how we live as laity, deacons, priests, bishops and pope. Pope Francis’ ministry is one that is pastoral but has a lot of clarity; he expects the same thing of the deacons.”

Deacon DuPont said there are about 18,260 deacons in the United States, which is more than 60 percent of the deacons worldwide. The Archdiocese has the second largest diaconate in the U.S. and in the world. Galveston-Houston has the largest formation program in the world as they form and mentor men to become a part of the Permanent Diaconate. The Archdiocese will be sending 74 people — deacons and their wives — to the jubilee. 

Deacon Phillip Jackson, associate director of Spiritual Formation for the Permanent Diaconate, will not only meet the pope, but will also be visiting Rome for the first time.

“This is very humbling on a lot of levels,” Deacon Jackson said. “Rome is where our roots are and I feel like I’m being drawn there. My wife and I have been talking about going for years and now here is this once in my lifetime event. Because of events that transpired previously in the Church, the deacons sat in a corner not able to serve and we were a suppressed ministry. Fifty years ago, through the movement of the Holy Spirit, the Second Vatican Council gave us life. For Pope Francis to recognize the 50th anniversary of this restoration displays his support for the diaconate.”

As a part of the celebration, Deacon DuPont’s wife, Peggy, and Deacon Jackson’s wife, Karla, will be planning the English part of the Liturgy — a special honor for both families and for the Archdiocese. 

“When it comes to Liturgy, I rely on Peggy, and Karla helps us out too in formation,” Deacon DuPont said. “It’s a part of the ministry these ladies do on a regular basis locally. They offer their special gifts, training and charisms to the Church.”

Wives are an integral part of the permanent diaconate and deacon formation. Deacon Jackson said that for the wife to attend the jubilee also acknowledges the sacramental life of matrimony. 

“It only makes sense that a deacon who is married would journey together with his wife,” Deacon Jackson said. “Their journey in the diaconate began when we said ‘I do.’ First thing is to be husband and father for deacons and, yes, the man himself has been called to Holy Orders, but it is through the participation of a wife. I wouldn’t be where I am right now if it weren’t for my wife.” 

Deacon Dominic Romaguera, director of Admissions and Scrutinies for the Permanent Diaconate, and who will be attending the jubilee with his wife Ruth, said deacons are accessible to all people in the parish. 

“If you’re doing things in your parish, it’s easy to reach out to the deacons,” Deacon Romaguera said. “Some people have preconceived notions of who deacons are — they think of the altar and the Mass only. They don’t realize how involved we are in charity, especially in this Archdiocese. We’re visiting prisons, going to hospitals and doing mission work. We are a part of the people of God in our own unique cultures too and able to serve when called on. It’s important to see consistency in service to the Church around the world, so I’m looking forward to this very special event.”

The jubilee will be a culmination of 50 years of rebuilding, rededication and reenergizing of the Permanent Diaconate into the life of the Church. 

“Only time will tell, but when the people of God hear about this, we’re hoping they see that the deacons are here to serve them,” Deacon Romaguera said. “Anytime anyone acknowledges you, especially the pope, it gives you esteem and recognition. We want to get the people of our parishes excited about the next 50 years.”