By Antonina Zielinska
To show his gratitude and support of the diaconate ministry, Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio sponsored a day of prayer, reflection and hospitality for deacons and their wives.
“We thank God for the gift of the diaconate that helps the Church in so many ways,” he said during Mass. “We are here to better understand your roles as deacons and deacons’ wives.”
During his homily, the bishop recognized the deep biblical history of the diaconate. He recounted how in the early days of the Church the apostles chose men who could better serve the immediate needs of the people as the Church grew. They would be the ones that would look after the widows, orphans and the sick.
Today deacons continue in their roles as mediators, the bishop said, especially between priests and the people.
“It’s like being a bridge; but bridges are things that are walked on,” he said.
This hit home for Gerarde Pierre-Antoine, the wife of Deacon Clemenceau Pierre-Antoine.
“Everybody walks on bridges; you need to accept it,” she said. “Be strong and keep the faith, and God will help.”
Deacon Pierre-Antoine said he is grateful for the eight years he has served as deacon. He said he likes the role because it allows him to serve the Lord by serving God’s people.
“I didn’t become a deacon on my own; it was a gift from God,” he said.
Deacon Jorge Gonzales, the director of diaconate formation for the diocese, said helping deacons not to feel alone is a big part of the yearly Diaconate Convocation held this year on Nov. 7 at the Immaculate Conception Center, Douglaston.
Deacon Gonzales said these men are busy in their parishes and don’t always have time to catch up with each other. Nonetheless, he said, the diaconate is a brotherhood. And although this year’s convocation was a time of celebration, it was also marked by sadness. That morning many deacons attended the funeral Mass of Deacon Patrick Logue.
“This is a ministry that is not done alone; it is done in community with our bishop, our priests and our brother deacons,” he said. “This is how we keep the deacon family together.”
He said the yearly convocations are an important day for deacons to attend “to remind ourselves that we are not alone in our ministry.”
This year the convocation included two sessions, each held in both English and Spanish and presented by Renew International. The first was a spiritual reflection on the upcoming Year of Mercy.
The second was a practical presentation explaining diocesan efforts to foster small prayer groups in every parish. Sister Maureen Coleary F.S.P explained the benefits of small prayer groups, including a less intimidating environment to invite those who are not yet part of the Church. She said these groups can better see the needs of each member and make everyone feel welcome. However, these small groups need support so that they stay strong and true to the Church.
“Materials and resources are so important to the ongoing vibrancy of small groups,” Sister Maureen said.
That is where Arise Together in Christ comes in. Bishop DiMarzio has financed the membership fee for all parishes to participate and now it is up to parish leadership to bring it to the people.
Deacon Gonzales said that although Arise Together in Christ has already been presented at the pastors meeting, it was also important to speak directly to deacons and their wives.
“This way we can understand fully what this program is about and participate in full,” he said.
Among the highlights of the convocation was the special recognition of the 11 deacons who are celebrating their 25th anniversaries of ministry.
Deacon Francois Innocent was one of those 11. He said he feels grateful for having been called to service. He said among the most rewarding aspects of his ministry are the people that he serves. He said they make him feel needed. Sometimes this is a challenge, he admitted, recounting a recent time someone called him seeking information when he was already in bed. However, he is heartened by the fact that people see him as someone who they can come to for help.
‘This is a wonderful ministry and vocation,” he said. “It’s a ministry you cannot execute without sacrifice. But there is great reward.”