My dear brothers and sisters in the Lord,
On Saturday, May 25, I will ordain 18 Permanent Deacons for service to the Diocese in Brooklyn and Queens, as well as one Transitional Deacon who is well on his way to the priesthood.
The Ordination of our permanent deacons occurs every other year, since a new class begins according to that schedule. The program of the Permanent Diaconate is a five-year program; the first year being a year of aspirancy and discernment, and then four years of study and formation.
This year’s class is the first to have received a Master’s Degree in Theology from St. Joseph Seminary in Dunwoodie. Previously, the courses taken were accredited but not degree oriented. Now those candidates with college degrees are able to receive a Master’s Degree which qualifies them to become directors for religious education and for possible further studies should they so wish to do so in the future.
Those who do not have college diplomas receive a certificate that is awarded for the completion of the same classes and they receive the same training; however, they do not receive a degree. This has been an added factor in the training of our Permanent Deacons. It is interesting to note that two of the wives will also receive a Master’s Degree in Theology, as many of the wives come to class with their husbands. So, both may receive the same academic training and credentials.
Our diocese has always emphasized the team approach between those married deacons and their wives to make sure that the ministry they undertake is something that will strengthen their families and not weaken them. Both must be in concert regarding the ministry of a deacon. Although we do not accept candidates, nor will we ordain candidates, until they reach the age of 35 and have fulfilled most of their family responsibilities for young children, we recognize that the team approach works best for all concerned.
The deacons in the Diocese of Brooklyn are ordained primarily for the service aspect of the Diaconal Order. They are sent to serve God’s people. Each does this not only by participating in the Liturgy and administering the sacraments of baptism and marriage that are proper to them, but also engaging in other areas of service to God’s people. These areas of service include, but are not exclusive to, feeding of the poor, assisting those who are in prison, guiding and teaching new converts to the faith, as well as assisting in confirmation programs.
The ministry of a deacon usually follows their own gifts and talents, as each does what comes naturally to them. We generally insist that someone who is applying to the diaconate program has already been involved in some type of ministry in their parish, especially the ministry of service. These candidates already know what this diaconal call is all about and are confirmed in that service by their ordination.
Before I ordain the candidates for the Permanent Diaconate, I have the opportunity to have an interview with them, and their wives if they are married. This time gives me a better insight into their relationship with each other and also what they wish to accomplish as deacon and wife together. In assigning the deacon, it is important that I know some of the characteristics and some of the desire that they have for their ministry.
In the past, we have been very successful in matching deacons either to a special ministry at another parish or even remaining in their home parish if there is sufficient work for them. Some parishes have more than one deacon, while some have none. So, we do our best to “share the wealth” you might say by matching Permanent Deacons to where they are most needed in Brooklyn and Queens.
The application for the Permanent Diaconate program is coordinated by the Diaconate Office under the direction of Deacon Jorge Gonzalez, and their assignment is handled by the Office of Clergy Personnel, under the direction of Deacon Julio Barreneche. These two deacons help manage the good works of the deacon for the Office of the Bishop.
Whenever a man and his wife put out into the deep seeking Ordination as a Permanent Deacon, they take a big step which builds on the first sacrament that they share, the sacrament of marriage, and adds to it the sacrament of holy orders. This is a unique relationship which they build upon in these two sacraments, one of which they share and the other in which they help each other in a life of service. I ask you to join me in praying for these new Permanent Deacons and their wives that they may fulfill the ministry to which they are called in the service to the people of Brooklyn and Queens.