Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of April 21, 2003
Collins opens door to deacons
Deacons help in liturgy, serve others
By RAMON GONZALEZ
WCR Staff Writer
After years of talk about the need for permanent deacons, the Edmonton Archdiocese seems ready to act.
Deacon George Newman, a Toronto expert on the diaconate, will address the annual assembly of priests in Jasper in May to explain how to set up a program for the permanent diaconate.
Archbishop Thomas Collins made the announcement at a meeting of the Archdiocesan Pastoral Council April 12.
In an interview, he said the archdiocese could be ordaining permanent deacons within three or four years. The program may start with 10 to 15 candidates at Newman Theological College later this year.
Collins said the Edmonton Archdiocese is particularly suited to run the program "because we have Newman" Theological College. He noted the college's bachelor of theology program, which includes about 1,000 hours of class time and outreach, meets the Vatican requirement for the formation of deacons.
"The diaconate basically means service," said Collins.
Rome defines the diaconate as a "distinct gift from God which involves service of the Word, of the altar and of charity." In practical terms, a deacon bridges lay and clerical roles in the Church, from ministering to the marginalized to filling some liturgical functions such as preaching and officiating at weddings, funerals and baptisms.
Edmonton deacons may do all of that. "They will be involved within the diocese in various ministries and some of them will also be in parishes," Collins said.
"On Sundays, for example, they may help with the preaching and be involved in various other celebrations of sacraments. So it is an element of a ministry of service outside of the context of the parish plus liturgical ministry within the parish."
The archdiocese still has to plan the program and hire a director. Once that's done, the archdiocese will make official announcements about the program and invite candidates to apply, Collins said. "We will have an application program very similar to that for the seminarians."
The majority of deacons in North America are married and hold down full time secular jobs. Some dioceses invite married candidates to attend the training sessions with their wives.
In the early Church, permanent deacons performed important roles. But abuses led to the suppression of the ministry in the 10th century.
Now permanent deacons are back, particularly in North America. Since the Second Vatican Council restored the ministry, more than half of the world's 22,000 permanent deacons have been ordained in the United States.
In Canada in 1995, there were 761 deacons in 50 of 73 dioceses, mostly in Ontario, Quebec and Winnipeg. Calgary set up a diaconate program in mid-1999.