Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of October 11, 1999
Permanent deacons may lie in archdiocese's future
By GLEN ARGAN
Archbishop Thomas Collins is pondering the establishment of the permanent diaconate in the Edmonton Archdiocese.
"It's something that's under consideration. My sense is we should probably do it," Collins told the Archdiocesan Pastoral Council Oct. 2.
But before implementing the permanent diaconate, he said he wants to get the feeling of the people of the archdiocese and to see how the diaconate is working in other dioceses.
Collins said for now he wanted "to float the issue without really getting into it."
In some dioceses, the diaconate is working well, but problems have arisen in other places, he said.
It's important, he said, that deacons be well trained and that two extremes be avoided. They should not suppress lay ministry nor should they be seen as a way to replace the priesthood.
Deacons were appointed in the earliest days of the Church in Jerusalem as a ministry of service. This form of ordained ministry flourished in the early centuries of the Church. But eventually the diaconate in the Western Church was restricted to a transitional stage for men about to be ordained priests.
The Second Vatican Council (1962-65) revived the permanent diaconate in the Western Church as an ordained ministry open to married or celibate men. Deacons have a threefold ministry in preaching, liturgy and the service of charity.
Today the majority of the world's deacons are in the United States. In Canada, while some Eastern dioceses have significant numbers of deacons, there are few in the West.
The Calgary Diocese is currently setting up a program which may lead to the ordination of some permanent deacons in a few years.
Collins told the APC that the diaconate arose in the early Church during the "separating out" of the office of the 12 Apostles into the episcopacy (bishops), priests and deacons.
After his brief presentation, the archbishop quickly heard three possible objections to establishing the diaconate.
"Is it only guys who can do that?" asked one woman. Will deacons replace lay ministries, asked another. Is the diaconate a way to cope with the shortage of priests, asked a man.
The diaconate is restricted to men because it is part of the sacrament of Holy Orders, Collins responded to the first question.
"I don't see this as replacing other ministries in the Church," he said in response to the second.
"The only thing that will assist with the shortage of priests is more priests," he said in response to the third. Even if the archdiocese has enough priests, there should still be more lay ministries and deacons. "We need them all."
Later, he told the WCR that he expects to set up a process later in the year for systematic reflection on the issue of whether to ordain deacons.
It would likely be better, he said, to have deacons performing some ministry of service on the diocesan level and perform a liturgical role in a parish on the weekend than to have them based in parishes.
"I think it's better to emphasize the service dimension and have the liturgical dimension connected to that."
Collins emphasized that the issue "is not on the front burner for me. I'm not putting a great deal of emphasis on this."