I’ve been a full fledged member of the Catholic Church for almost twenty years, yet, there are still things that make me scratch my head. Surely, I’m not the only person who looks around my Catholic Church and thinks, “I wonder what that’s all about?”
One of those things I always wondered about were deacons. Who are these fellows? What do they do? How does one become a Deacon?
I did not grow up in the Catholic Church, and the first church I attended did not have deacons. According to a 2009 study by the USCCB, there are as many as 16,000 Deacons in active ministry. In my current parish, we are truly blessed to have a wonderful deacon, who was willing to sit down (via email) and chat with me about his role in our Church.
Deacon Gerry Mattingly has been an ordained Deacon of the Roman Catholic Church since August 2006. His road to the Diaconate spanned over twenty years, as he first began to contemplate the role of a Deacon while at St Rita. His brother in law was among one of the first Deacons ordained in our Archdiocese (Louisville). After retirement, Gerry completed a two year Archdiocesan Ministry Formation program, then applied to become a Deacon after much prayer and discernment.
He had this to say about the training process:
My wife and children have always been supportive of me becoming a deacon. My wife, Mary Jo, said that she could see that I was being called by God to serve. After discussing this with her several times, I think she probably saw my being called before I did. One of the conditions of becoming a deacon just before ordination is that the deacon candidate’s wife must sign a letter to the Archbishop granting her permission for the husband’s ordination to the Order of Deacon.
The process to become a deacon when I entered the Deacon Formation Program in July, 2002 was a four year program, with two years of formal training at Spalding University. The formation has since been changed. It is now a five year program with four years of training provided by Saint Meinrad Seminary. The first year of diaconate formation is a year of aspirancy. You and your spouse, if you are married, attend classes and discern whether this is truly what God is calling you to. During our formation, wives were expected to attend all of the training classes for four years with their husbands. After the second year of formation the Archbishop conferred on us the Order of Reader at a special Mass. After the third year of formation. we received the Order of Acolyte. After the fourth year of formation, Archbishop Kelly ordained 13 of us at the Cathedral of the Assumption on August 26, 2006.
He has truly answered the call toward the ‘New Evangelization’, heading up three blogs: his personal blog, Deacon Gerry, as well as blogs for his parishes, St Francis Xavier and All Saints. Parishioners can find inspirational stories, as well as news of upcoming events at the individual churches. You can also find him on Twitter,and maintaining the Facebook page for St Francis Xavier.
Every year, deacons from all over the U.S. gather at Xavier University in Cincinnati for a conference and continuing education. This year’s keynote speaker was Deacon Greg Kandra from the Diocese of Brooklyn. The topic of Deacon Greg’s talk was “Evangelization in the Digital Age”. The basic point of Deacon Greg’s talk was that if we as deacons and our parishes are not using the Internet and social media, we are not reaching a sizable portion of our parishioners, especially teen and young adults. When I got home from Cincinnati, I decided to give blogging a try. Another driving force for me was that our sister parish, All Saints, didn’t have a website and both parishes needed a vehicle that had an inviting appearance and could be used to disseminate information on a real time basis to parishioners. The goal of all the blogs is to expand the view of the readers. Sometimes, we have a myopic view of the Catholic Church. We need to remember that the Church is truly “catholic”, with a little “c”. I never dreamed the positive response that I have received from parishioners and others about the blogs. I also never dreamed that people from all over the world would visit the blogs. Blogging has definitely became a passion of mine.
When he’s not busy blogging, you will find him taking Communion to the home bound and elderly in our community, serving as the Worship Committee Chairperson, and scheduling Communion Ministers. He is responsible for planning funeral liturgies, and meeting with the deceased’s family. He counts this as one of his areas of expertise as a Deacon – to be present for those people in their hour of need.
Do you have a Deacon (or two) in your parish? Have you thanked him for answering his call to serve?
You can read more of Dianna’s interview with Deacon Gerry over at The Kennedy Adventures, in her weekly Saints and Scripture Sunday link up. She discusses all things faith and family, and would love to have you stop by!