In any setting, the deacon can be a great asset to the pastor. Approximately 50 percent of permanent deacons live in the community they serve and there is a comfort level and approachability with parishioners.
"Two Catholic, rocket-scientist clergymen walk into a bar ... ."
Obviously, we are talking about Father Paul Soper, the director of the Pastoral Planning Office, and Deacon Dan Burns, the director of the Permanent Diaconate Formation Office -- and it's no joke. Although both men are scientists by education, and have well-honed senses of humor, each is very serious about his vocation. With the implementation of Disciples in Mission, their work is intertwined.
In January 2014, Cardinal Seán P. O'Malley signed a Decree of Promulgation stating, "The Archdiocese of Boston... by implementing the pastoral plan, Disciples in Mission, seeks to have every parish of the archdiocese a center of evangelization. At the heart of this pastoral plan, Pastoral Service Teams of priests, deacons and laypersons working in one or more parishes under one Pastor are an essential element of this evangelization and strengthening of parishes. Deacons will play a vital role in Disciples in Mission as part of the Pastoral Service Teams." On Sept. 20, 13 men will be ordained as permanent deacons for the Archdiocese of Boston. It is likely that some of them will live in or serve one of our 32 collaboratives.
The Permanent Diaconate Office website states: "The restoration of the Diaconate as a permanent order at the Second Vatican Council has been an abiding and profound gift to the Church. ... A Deacon is ordained to the three-fold ministry of Word, Liturgy, and Charity, working in obedience to his bishop and in close fraternal cooperation with priests. Through Holy Orders, the deacon acquires a special relationship to the bishop ... . The deacon should be a creative leader, one who gradually initiates a meaningful response of loving service from the community to those who are in spiritual or material need." Reading these words, it is no surprise that Cardinal Seán asks Deacons to play a "vital role" in the implementation of Disciples in Mission.
An important part of Disciples in Mission is the development of the local pastoral plan which makes promoting vocations to the diocesan priesthood a pastoral priority. Vocations to the permanent diaconate and religious life also merit attention. In an effort to recruit men for the diaconate, Deacon Burns has asked deacons to be available to speak about the diaconate in their region, in parishes without a deacon. For those interested, there is a structured Inquirer Program. (Dates and times are on the website www.bostondiaconate.org). Inquirer sessions examine the call and discernment process; the diaconate ministry lived within married and family life; and, the application process -- formation experience. The fourth session is a discernment retreat. Married men are encouraged to attend all four sessions with their wives. Sister Mary Reardon, SND, Assistant Director of Permanent Diaconate Formation, works closely with candidates' wives throughout the formation process.
The Church of Boston is a multi-cultural Church and Deacon Burns maintains a particular interest in our multi-cultural communities. While striving for wider participation, he is pleased that of the 50 men in five diaconate classes -- three formation classes, one in-coming class, and the 2014 ordination class -- 40 percent are from ethnic communities. The majority are Hispanic. The Haitian, Chinese, Brazilian, Iraqi, and Vietnamese communities are also represented. The men grow in friendship and understanding over their formation years and Deacon Burns sees that, "everyone's experience of faith is broadened by the presence of different cultures." The number of multi-cultural collaboratives is growing and these men will be a blessing to the pastoral plan.
In any setting, the deacon can be a great asset to the pastor. Approximately 50 percent of permanent deacons live in the community they serve and there is a comfort level and approachability with parishioners. Deacon Patrick Guerrini, Director of Diaconal Life and Ministry, works with deacons after ordination, providing opportunities for ongoing formation and spiritual enrichment. Deacon Guerrini will assist new deacons to get settled in their first assignments.
Disciples in Mission is still new. Phase I collaboratives are just over one year old and Deacon Burns acknowledges that navigating new terrain is hard, but he gives sound advice to the deacons -- advice for all of us, and it's not rocket science, "just keep an eye on the unifying mission: Jesus Christ." We pray for all deacons and especially for those who will be ordained Sept. 20.
Susan Abbott is Coordinator of Parish Outreach for the Archdiocese of Boston's Office of Pastoral Planning.
Susan Abbott is the former Coordinator of Parish Outreach for the Archdiocese of Boston's Office of Pastoral Planning.