Deacons encouraged at 2nd annual convocation

BRIGHTON — Nearly 140 permanent deacons and their wives reflected on the vocation of a deacon to the service of truth, love and the Eucharist during their second annual convocation at St. John’s Seminary in Brighton on March 11.

“We come together as a diaconate family because you share this vocation, a vocation of service to the truth, to love and to the Eucharist, which is where truth and love meet,” said Msgr. Frank Caggiano, who addressed those gathered in the morning and afternoon. Msgr. Caggiano now serves the Diocese of Brooklyn as the director of the Office of Evangelization and Pastoral Life, but was the director of the permanent diaconate in that diocese for several years.

Msgr. Caggiano’s first talk was followed by Mass celebrated by Cardinal-designate Seán P. O’Malley and an address by the cardinal-designate on the state of affairs in the Archdiocese of Boston.

Cardinal-designate O’Malley said that several different initiatives are coming together throughout the archdiocese and he is optimistic about the future. Among those are three new pastoral committees and the completion of financial transparency sometime in April.

The cardinal-designate cited reduced donations, the downturn in the stock market and increased expenses as reasons that the archdiocese has been operating at a deficit of $10 million a year.

“We need to stop the bleeding to turn things around,” he said. “It’s not all doom and gloom, but challenges fiscally are very, very great.”

The financial situation has improved over the last few years as the Catholic Annual Appeal campaign has slowly raised more money for the archdiocese, he said.

Cardinal-designate O’Malley also spoke about the three new pastoral committees for pastoral planning, marriage, and faith formation. Young Catholics need to be well-formed in their faith and have a sense of vocation, he said.

“Certainly one of the overriding concerns in the archdiocese is the question of vocation recruitment,” he said, adding that young people must also understand marriage as a vocation.

“The crisis of marriage is one of the greatest crises we face as a Church and as a society,” he said.

Fewer people are getting married in the country, the state of Massachusetts and the Catholic Church. Additionally, the state’s redefinition of marriage to include same-sex couples has made the institution adult-centered rather than child-centered, he said.

“I know many of you as deacons and your wives are involved in marriage preparation,” he said. “We have to do it better than we are, even though I think that many of you are doing yeoman’s work.”

After Cardinal-designate O’Malley addressed the deacons and their wives, Msgr. Caggiano gave his second talk about the words of St. Paul, “Let us profess the truth in love and grow to the full maturity of Christ.”

Before people can profess the truth, they have to know what — or better yet — who the truth is. The truth is not a thing but a person to be encountered, he said.

“We come to realize that the truth is not something I possess, I decide, I manipulate but rather the truth is someone I discover whom I do not posses but He possesses me and takes over my life,” he said. “We live in a world, a modern world, that does not want to hear what I just said.”

The truth must also take over a Christian’s life so that he or she can live a life of love. Deacons must demonstrate that love to their fellow Catholics.

“As deacons and wives, the grace of the sacrament, the grace of your ordination, endures in your life,” he said. “You who are given this ministry of the Word can help your brothers and sisters rediscover who Jesus is.”

Deacons must begin by loving their family the way Christ loves — without expecting anything in return, and they must love with a joyful heart. Joy is a “deep sense of contentment” that all things are well in the Lord, Msgr. Caggiano said.

“It is joy that will bring people home. If we become a community of the truth, love and joy, then we will have answered the question of what it means to be Catholic,” he said.

Deacon Anthony Rizzuto, director of the Office of Child Advocacy, Implementation and Oversight, said Msgr. Caggiano’s talks were “inspiring.”

“It’s wonderful to get together as deacons and hear a very inspiring talk from the monsignor,” he said.

Deacon Joe Whipple, who serves at Our Lady Star of the Sea in Marblehead, said he was glad to hear from Cardinal-designate O’Malley. The dialogue they had is an “expression of the bond of unity between the archbishop and [the]diaconate,” he said.

Deacon Whipple added that he hoped to reflect on the convocation and gain a clearer appreciation for what it means to be a deacon and how he can more effectively answer the call he received at his ordination.

Joanne Gaffney, whose husband is a deacon who serves at Immaculate Conception in Revere, said that the convocation was “uplifting.”

“It’s more food for the journey. We need days like this to keep us fresh, alive and give us grace for the journey,” she said.