Three Permanent Deacons were ordained for service in the diocese on Saturday 21st October: Denis Kelleher, Tralee, Thady O Connor , Kilcummin and Pat Coffey, Killorglin. Bishop Ray Browne welcomed all gathered in St. John’s church Tralee to this major diocesan event. See below Bishop Ray’s Homily. Photos
Homily: Ordination to the Diaconate of Patrick Coffey, Denis Kelleher and Thady O’Connor St John’s Church Tralee, 12 noon, 21 October 2017
Today we ordain three people, Patrick, Denis and Thady, to an Order that is still quite new in the diocese, the Permanent Diaconate. They will join our two deacons, Conor and Jean Yves who are here by my side. The Permanent diaconate was restored fifty years ago by the Second Vatican Council. Today it is well established in many countries such as England and the U.S.A. The first permanent deacons in Ireland were ordained in May 2012. Now ten dioceses in Ireland have deacons, in all roughly seventy deacons, and some other dioceses are in preparation.
Recall all the different ministries and ways of service in our Church : Sacristans and Liturgy Committees; Sacramental programs in our parishes and National Schools; Eucharistic Ministers and Readers; various volunteers at parish and pastoral area level; the Legion of Mary and the Vincent de Paul; church music and choir personnel ; chaplains in our secondary schools and various hospitals; Accord and Cura volunteers; staff in the Diocesan office and the Diocesan Pastoral Team. As we introduce something new, it is good to be mindful of all that we already have. At a time when our priest numbers are declining it is all these ministries that will enable us continue to have the fullness of parish life throughout the diocese.
All ministry and all service in the Church is based on the person and ministry of Jesus. United with Christ in baptism Christians, in their church community, are called to continue Christ’s work. Christ sent the apostles to teach all nations, to proclaim the Good News, they were to be shepherds of the flock. This continues in the ministry of bishops. The Eucharist is the centre of our faith and the centre of parish life. Priests are ordained to proclaim God’s Word, to celebrate Mass and the Sacraments. Jesus whole life was at the service of others. Constantly in the Gospel we see Jesus responding to people in need. Deacons are ordained for this service.
You often hear it said what deacons cannot do e.g. celebrate Mass or anoint the sick. What is it they are called to do? Whenever a deacon is participating in a Liturgy it is he that reads the Gospel. Deacons have a particular bond with the Gospel. I see the ministry of a deacon as centred on the Word of God. The greatest service one can give to anyone is to share the Word of God with them. I am conscious that tomorrow is Mission Sunday. Go share your faith with all naotions. This year’s theme is “Reach out. Spread the Joy.” In a few moments when I present Pat, Denis and Thady with the book of the Gospels I will say: “Receive the Gospel of Christ, whose herald you now are. Believe what you read, teach what you believe, and practise what you teach.”
The second element of our basic understanding of the diaconate is service to the local church communities, – everyday service of the spiritual needs of the people with a special concern for the poor and people who are struggling. Today poverty can be emotional and spiritual as much as material / financial. Deacons continue the work of Jesus who proclaimed the Gospel and served the people. It is particularly appropriate today to honour Christian service. Listen again to the Word of God. In our Gospel Jesus speaks of rulers who ‘lord it over’ people and he states: “This is not to happen among you. Anyone who wants to be great among you must be your servant, the son of man came not to be served but to serve.”
In our second reading from the Acts of the Apostles we see that the ministry of the deacons first arose out of a full meeting of the disciples called to address the issue of the neglect of the needs of one group of people in the daily distribution of food. It is appropriate today also to recall the account of the ‘washing of the feet’ at the Last Supper, “If I your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have set you an example that you also should do as I have done to you.” Jn 13:14. The ministry of diaconate honours Christian service.
It is good to take a moment today to look back at the road Patrick, Denis and Thady have travelled. September four years ago they commenced their preparation. They first had an introductory year to see was this their calling, their vocation. There then followed three intensive years of studies: readying themselves in terms of scripture, theology and spirituality; understanding pastoral involvement in all aspects of the life of the Church; appreciating the ministry of deacon. It was a great challenge taking on major studies and all the long journeys to Thurles involved. They each got full support from their wives and families. Fr Eoin Mangan was the priest who took full responsibility on behalf of the diocese. St Patrick’s College, Thurles and the Pallotine Retreat House, Thurles provided all the teaching input and the full facilities. Sincere thanks to all who have been involved in their preparation.
Today’s Rite of Ordination includes a text giving an overview of the life and ministry of a deacon. It is an Instruction addressed to all of us here.
My dear brothers and sisters, these men are about to be ordained as permanent deacons. Consider carefully the ministry to which they are called: The Holy Spirit will strengthen them to serve the Church as ministers of the Word, of the Altar and of Charity. They will proclaim the Gospel, prepare the sacrifice, and give the Lord’s Body and Blood to the community of believers. It will also be their duty at the bishop’s discretion, to bring God’s Word to believer and unbeliever alike, to preside over public prayer, to baptise, to assist at marriages and bless them; to give viaticum to the dying, and to lead the rites of burial. Once they are consecrated by the laying on of hands that comes to us from the apostles, they will perform works of charity in the name of the bishop or parish priest. From the way they go about these duties may you recognise them as disciples of Jesus, who came not to be served, but to serve.
Patrick, Denis and Thady, as you receive Holy Orders as deacons, follow the example of Christ the Suffering Servant. Do the will of God generously. Serve God and all people in love and joy. Like the men the apostles chose for works of charity, you
should be men of good reputation, be filled with wisdom and the Holy Spirit. Show before God and all people that you are above every suspicion of blame, true ministers of Christ and of God’s mysteries, men firmly rooted in faith. Never turn away from the hope which the Gospel offers; now you must not only listen to God’s Word but also preach it. Hold the mystery of faith with a clear conscience. Express in action what you proclaim by Word of mouth. Finally, on the last day, when you go to meet the Lord you will hear him say “well done, good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of your Lord.” Amen
Bishop Ray Browne