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Priests do not have a monopoly on service: we all have our own vocation to live

Fr Michael Kane reflects on the role of the permanent diaconate, and the need for all of us to serve the Church.

This summer has been a bumper year for priestly ordinations in Motherwell Diocese. In the space of a few weeks four men were ordained and have recently taken up their first appointments in parishes across the diocese. I always feel that priestly ordinations offer a good indicator of how healthy the local church is. The gift of new priests gives a sense that the diocesan family is missionary and evangelical.

Yet these are not the only ordinations which will be celebrated in our diocese this year. Two men will also be ordained as deacons: one of them, David Harper, in my own parish of St Augustine’s, in just a few days. Perhaps in former times the permanent diaconate was a ministry with less prominence in the Scottish Church but today deacons form a vital part of our Catholic life. They bring a different perspective to ministry and come from varied backgrounds.

 

God’s calling

David is a married man and father of three children. He also has a day job as a financial adviser and is considerably younger than the average permanent deacon at just 44. David’s vocation began to emerge after hearing his parish priest preaching about our common responsibility to care for the Church, and speaking directly to the men in the congregation, asking them: “Is God calling you to this way of life? If so, then do something about it!”

For David this sparked a period of intense questioning. It also set off some important conversations with his wife and family. In the end he decided to join the formation programme and begin his journey of prayer, study and discernment.

 

Diaconal vocation

Five years later David lives with the conviction that God is directly calling him to this vocation of ‘diakonia’ or service.

For these past 18 months he has been with us at St Augustine’s on a pastoral placement, engaging with the different ministries and groups in our parish. He has got to know the people here, and importantly they have got to know him (foibles and all!)

This Thursday Bishop Joseph Toal will come to our parish to ordain him as a minister of the Church and confer upon him the office of Deacon. This is a day we have been looking forward to for many months.

 

Inspiring vocations

My own hope is that the occasion might even inspire other vocations within the parish.

Of course, for David the real work will begin immediately after his ordination. Straight away he will take on the responsibilities of a minister of the Church. First and foremost he will be obligated to pray parts of the Liturgy of the Hours, promising to sanctify the hours of his day by praying for the family of the universal Church.

He will also assume a liturgical role with new functions assigned to him. He will assist at the altar, proclaim the Gospel, preach on the Word of God and distribute Holy Communion alongside the priest as an ordinary minister.

 

Diaconal duties

David will also Baptise children, celebrate marriages outside Mass, bless people, places and religious objects. He will lead devotions and Holy Hours and give Benediction at the Altar. He will also visit the sick, bringing them the life-giving nourishment of Holy Communion.

He will work with the children in the primary school and accompany the young people in the secondary school. He will also lead sacramental catechesis and support the various prayer groups and associations within the parish. This is a varied ministry with a rich tapestry of opportunities to serve God and others.

 

 

Serving the people

In all these ministries the Church hopes to show the face of Jesus the servant; the One who came to serve and not to be served. So often in the Church we speak of ‘vocations’ in an exclusive way to mean priestly vocations or priestly service. This is a dangerous equivalence. God does not give priests a monopoly on service. Nothing could be further from the truth.

God calls all of us, in different ways, to follow Him. As Saint Paul reminds us, we are the many parts of the Body of Christ that make up His Church, and each of us is called to some form of service.

The celebration of a diaconal ordination or a marriage or a religious profession is a timely opportunity for us to widen our understanding of this powerful and emotive term ‘vocation.’

 

St Stephen

As we prepare in these final days for David’s ordination I have asked all our parishioners to join in praying a special Novena to St Stephen, the first martyr of the Church and patron saint of deacons. Our prayer asks God to pour out gifts and graces upon David as he begins his diaconal ministry.

Perhaps I could even be so bold as to ask readers to offer your prayers for David as he prepares his heart, marriage and his home to begin this new and exciting ministry.

You might also remember a prayer for Alan Brown who will be ordained in St John the Baptist’s Church in Uddingston on September 14. What a great sign of life and mission in our diocesan Church!

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