WCR PHOTO | RAMON GONZALEZ
Four soon-to-be-ordained deacons and their wives walk to the sanctuary at the start of the June 2 Mass of Ordination for the Edmonton Archdiocese.
In a moving celebration at St. Joseph's Basilica, Archbishop Richard Smith ordained four married men to the permanent diaconate June 2.
This brings to 21 the number of permanent deacons serving in the archdiocese, 18 of whom were educated and formed in the Edmonton Archdiocese.
The new group of deacons includes a medical doctor, a retired teacher and school administrator, a cattle rancher and an industrial level electrician. All have extensive ministry experience.
Having undergone a four-year period of formation, the deacons will now serve in their own parishes at St. Thomas More in Edmonton, St. Augustine in Ponoka, Blessed Sacrament in Wainwright and Holy Trinity in Spruce Grove.
In his homily, Smith said the deacon is expected to serve with a threefold ministry of Word, sacrament and charity. In these areas, he said, deacons must serve not in their own name but in the name of Jesus Christ.
"Serve as he served," the archbishop told the men, calling their ordination a moment of great joy for the Church.
As Smith congratulated the four, the congregation erupted in applause. "Didn't I tell you this was a happy moment for the Church?" he said.
Following their ordination, the deacons joined the archbishop in the celebration of the Eucharist.
Deacon-maker Ron Woytiuk, director of the formation program for the permanent diaconate, was admittedly "jubilant" during the ordination ceremony.
"When you journey with the men who apply for the program over a four-year period, you learn a lot about them, about the challenges they face and how committed they are to developing their skills toward the ministry," he said in an interview. "So I have a privileged position that I really value."
Woytiuk started the last four-year program with eight candidates. Four didn't make it "because things changed in their lives."
WCR PHOTO | RAMON GONZALEZ
The four diaconal candidates lay prostrate in the sanctuary prior to their ordination by Archbishop Richard Smith June 2 at St. Joseph's Basilica.
Reasons for the men dropping out of the program range from "change of heart" to medical circumstances.
"There's a host of things that can change in a person's life in four years."
Woytiuk said the permanent diaconate is working well because "a culture of the diaconate" is being created in the archdiocese, which has resulted in an increasing understanding of the role of the deacon among lay people and clergy. "It's certainly very exciting for me to watch that happen."
For the pastors and members of the four parishes from which the deacons hail, the arrival of the permanent diaconate means not only someone to share the workload, but also a new dimension to ministry.
"We are very excited about the ordination of Rollie Comeau," said Fred Calkins, one of about 50 people who came from Ponoka to the ordination. "He is going to be a tremendous asset to the parish. He speaks well and gets his point across."
Calkins said the Knights of Columbus at St. Augustine Parish were so excited about the ordination they chartered a bus to bring parishioners to the basilica. Forty came in the bus and more than 10 on their own.
Hospital chaplain Father Ray Guimond, who helped nurture the diaconal vocation of Carlos Lara while he served as pastor at Wainwright several years ago, said he is happy the archdiocese has permanent deacons now.
"(The diaconate) was a gift from the Second Vatican Council and I was almost disappointed that we had to wait so long but I'm so glad now that we do have them," he said at a reception following the ordination. "They help us and the people."
At the ordination ceremony Guimond and Father Adam Lech helped Lara to dress in his new deacon garb.
"I was the one who asked Carlos (Lara) to become a deacon. I don't remember whether he said 'yes' right away but I was so thrilled when he said 'yes' eventually."
Joanne Comeau, the wife of newly ordained Deacon Roland Comeau, was all smiles at the reception while her husband shook hands and gave blessings to the people.
"Today was a very special day," she said. "It's been a great journey and as a couple we hope to serve the Lord together."
Comeau had a First Communion scheduled for the night of the ordination and four Baptisms for the following day, including the Baptisms of three of his grandchildren.
"He'll be an amazing deacon," Joanne Comeau said. "It's truly his calling."