Historic ordination of six permanent deacons for the Diocese of Elphin
The first ever ordination of permanent deacons in the diocese of Elphin and the largest ordination ceremony ever to take place in the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, Sligo, took place today, Saturday 8 December 2012 – the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.
Permanent deacons are men, married or single, who carry out a ministry of service. First and foremost, the deacon is ordained to serve as a visible sign of Christ who came to serve rather than to be served. The work of the permanent deacon does not replace that of a priest but rather complements it in full collaboration with that of the laity. The areas of ministry entrusted to deacons include assisting the priest at Mass, celebrating baptism, officiating at the rite of marriage and presiding at funerals. At Mass the deacon will also read the Gospel and may preach the homily. He is called in a special way to minister to the poor, the vulnerable and the marginalised.
The introduction of the permanent diaconate to the diocese of Elphin has been in preparation for the last ten years. The new deacons undertook a four-year, intensive programme of academic study and spiritual, human and pastoral formation based at Saint Angela’s College, Sligo. They are all married, in full-time employment and come from all corners of the diocese. In the New Year, they will be assigned by the bishop to minister on a part-time basis in various parishes, parish clusters, hospitals, schools and in church-based organisations.
The six ordained as permanent deacons are: Wando Araujo originally from Brazil but now living in Roscommon town; William Gacquin from Curraghboy near Athlone; Damien Kearns from Gleann, Riverstown, Co. Sligo; Frank McGuinness originally from Rosinver, Co. Leitrim and who works as the Director of Youth Ministry and Safeguarding in the Diocese of Elphin; David Muldowney from Ballinameen, Co. Roscommon, and Seamus Talbot who lives in Kilteevan, Roscommon.
Commenting on the ordinations Bishop Christopher Jones, Bishop of Elphin said: “Today’s ceremony is a truly historic occasion for the people and priests of the Diocese of Elphin. We have to search back almost 1,500 years of our history to find perhaps a similar ordination – back almost to the times of Saint Patrick himself. I feel humbled to be part of such an occasion. I am even more humbled to witness the faith-filled enthusiastic willingness for service of our six new deacons and the generosity and sacrifice of their wives and families against the backdrop of the somewhat uncertain times in which we live in.”
The large congregation at the Sligo Cathedral shared the joy of the occasion in a beautiful and uplifting ceremony involving the wives, families and friends of those ordained together with a large representation of clergy and laity from parishes throughout the diocese.
Congratulating the newly ordained deacons, their wives and families, the chairperson of the Elphin Diocesan Pastoral Council, Ms Evelyn O’Donnell, remarked that this day had been a long time in the making. She noted how “as husbands and fathers employed in a variety of different occupations, they are perfectly positioned to build bridges between the sanctuary and the home, the sanctuary and the workplace and between clergy and laity. It is my belief that this will make a positive contribution to ministry in the diocese and bring further enrichment to our lives of faith. I wish them all God’s blessings in the years to come.”
Speaking on behalf of the Elphin Diocese Priests’ Council, Canon Eugene Mc Loughlin, parish priest Roscommon, expressed his joy at seeing almost a decade of preparation and planning for the introduction of the Permanent Diaconate to the diocese of Elphin finally come to fruition. “I would like to congratulate the six new deacons, their wives and families and wish them all God’s blessings in their future ministry. I compliment them for the time and effort they have put into their formation over the past four years and the sacrifices both they and their families have made in the process. Along with the priests of the diocese, I very much look forward to working with them in the future.”
Speaking after the ceremony on behalf of the newly ordained, Deacon William Gacquin emphasised that “it is indeed an historic and a special day in the life of the Church in Elphin and in our own lives also. On behalf of the newly ordained deacons it is indeed fitting that we express our thanks first and foremost to Almighty God for the privilege of being called to serve his Church.” He went on to express the thanks of the newly ordained deacons to Bishop Jones for ordaining them and in particular for his “inspirational leadership in promoting the reintroduction of the Permanent Diaconate to the diocese. He also thanked “all the priests and people of the diocese who have been so supportive of the diaconate.” Turning to family and friends present he ended by stating: “Our final words of thanks are probably the most important and that is to sincerely thank our families who have been so supportive of us on our journey and whose support we will rely on into the future. We come from a variety of family backgrounds so we thank our parents, children, brothers and sisters and we express our deepest thanks to each of our wives Endelina, Trish, Louise, Meg, Teresa and Carmel.”
Notes to Editors
- In 2001 the Irish Episcopal Conference received permission from the Holy See to proceed with the restoration of the Permanent Diaconate in Ireland. In 2005 approval was received for the document The Permanent Diaconate: National Directory and Norms for Ireland and this document was subsequently published by the Irish Bishops. In March 2009 the Bishops appointed a national training authority under the chairmanship of Bishop Donal McKeown to approve and monitor formation for permanent deacons in this country. This body ensures that the preparation of candidates for ordination to the diaconate is in keeping with the expectations of the Church.
- This is the second such ordination of permanent deacons in the country. Last June, eight deacons were ordained for ministry in the Archdiocese of Dublin. Six other dioceses in Ireland have permanent deacons in formation at this time – Armagh, Dromore, Kerry, Kildare and Leighlin, Kilmore and Waterford & Lismore.
- In the Catholic Church, there are three degrees within the Sacrament of Holy Orders: bishops, priests and deacons. In recent centuries, the Order of Deacon within the Roman Rite tended to be seen as a step towards becoming a priest. However, in the 1960s, the Second Vatican Council restored the Permanent Diaconate as a distinct ministry of service.
- The Diocese of Elphin includes portions of counties Roscommon, Sligo, Westmeath and Galway. The patrons of the Diocese are Saint Asicus, Feast Day 27 April and The Immaculate Conception which is celebrated on 8 December. Over 70,500 Catholics are served in the diocese by 48 priests in active ministry (2011 figures). There are 37 parishes and 90 churches in the diocese.
- Photographs from the ceremony will be available on request from the Catholic Communications Office.
For media contact: Catholic Communications Office Maynooth: Martin Long 00353 (0) 86 172 7678