Cardinal honors jubilarian deacons

WESTON -- Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley presented deacons ordained from 1980-1983 with cross pins marking their tenure in service to the Archdiocese of Boston April 24 at an evening prayer service and social hour held in their honor at St. Julia Church.

“I am grateful for the opportunity to share the occasion with the jubilarians,” said the cardinal, who mingled with the deacons and their wives for conversation and photos. The event was co-sponsored by the Office of Clergy Personnel and the Office of Clergy Support and Continuing Formation. The deacons were formed at St. John’s Seminary in Brighton.

“The deacons and the work they do with their wives are very important,” Cardinal O’Malley said to the more than 25 permanent deacons who attended the service with their wives -- as well as priests -- who came to lend support and encouragement.

“As a member of the archdiocese’s pastoral committee, I have seen firsthand the benefit of the permanent deacons in the archdiocese,” said Father George Evans, the pastor of St. Julia’s. “This event was a chance to celebrate their work and for them to come together as a group,” he said.

Father Evans said he usually has deacons assisting in his parish.

Permanent deacons must be at least 35 years old and, unlike priests, may be married before ordination. However, if they are single when they are ordained they must remain celibate and if widowed they may not remarry, he added.

Some men, after their wives pass away, answer a calling to the priesthood, but it is a personal decision, said Father Evans. “It is not a stepping stone to the priesthood. It is a calling unto itself.”

Because many of the deacons are married, their wives make a unique contribution to the archdiocese, he said. “The wives are not ordained, but they are part of the deacons’ process of discerning his vocation and they give valuable support to their ministry.”

Kathy Dolan, a St. Julia’s parishioner who helped organize the prayer service and dinner, said she was happy her parish could play host.

“Unless you have deacons in your parish, you might not realize how valuable they are,” she said.

Deacons enrich the whole life of the parish from their pastoral ministry to parishioners to their contributions to liturgy and religious education, she said.

Father Evans said having deacons in the archdiocese is an ongoing and growing part of its renewal. “We need well-trained, dedicated, perceptive and generous deacons,” he said.