Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of September 20, 2004
Permanent diaconate program launched for archdiocese
By RAMON GONZALEZ
WCR Staff Writer
The Edmonton Archdiocese's permanent diaconate program is now in full swing with program officials expecting to ordain the first slate of deacons within four years.
Thirteen diaconate candidates and their wives, including eight from Edmonton and area, attended the program's first study session at Providence Renewal Centre Sept. 11-12. Presenters at the session, a general introduction and orientation, were Archbishop Thomas Collins, formation director Father Paul Terrio and program director Ron Woytiuk.
The candidates must attend 10 weekend study sessions a year for four years to be eligible for ordination. Wives can participate in all the sessions if they wish but are required to participate in at least four, Woytiuk explained. "It's important that the role of the deacon is supported by the wife."
Permanent deacons are expected to serve at least eight to 10 hours a week proclaiming the Gospel, doing works of charity and working in various ministries in parishes.
The program prepares them for those roles through sessions on topics such as human formation, spirituality and the Scriptures. "We feel it's necessary for them to have some facility on giving homilies or preaching," Woytiuk said. "And the formation committee and the archbishop feel that it is very important for them to have a strong basis in the Scriptures."
The next session will be held Oct. 2-3 and will focus on diaconal spirituality. Deacon George Newman and his wife Cam of the Diocese of St. Catharines, Ont., will lead the session.
The role of the deacon is much broader than that of a liturgical minister. 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.
"Their role is very similar to the road to the priesthood," noted Woytiuk. "Before you become a priest you become a deacon."
Rome defines the diaconate as a "distinct gift from God which involves service of the Word, of the altar and of charity."
Edmonton deacons may do all of that. "The diaconate basically means service," the archbishop said last year. "They will be involved within the diocese in various ministries and some of them will also be in parishes.
"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 won't release the names of the candidates but Woytiuk said they are all married with families, their ages ranging from 40 to 60. The 13 were selected from a slate of 31 original applicants. Five others were deferred to the second formation period, which is expected to start two years from now.
Deacons may serve in their own parishes but not necessarily. "Deacons take a vow of obedience so it is conceivable that they can be assigned to a parish other than their own," Woytiuk explained.
He said the personal circumstances of each deacon would be taken into account before giving them their assignments.
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, half of the world's 28,000 permanent deacons have been ordained in the United States. There are deacons in 135 countries.
In Canada in 2003, there were 920 deacons mostly in Ontario and Quebec dioceses.