It is difficult for us, at this remove, to appreciate the sense of excitement that the Second Vatican Council generated in the life of the Church. We need to remind ourselves that the First Vatican Council in the late 19th century didn’t get to complete its work due to the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian war. This meant that within the Church through the early part of the 20th century there was a growing expectation of the need for the Church to reflect on and evaluate its place in the world. It fell to the unlikely figure of Pope John XXIII in 1958 to convene the Second Vatican Council. It met in several sessions from October 1962 to December 1965. As they say the rest is history.
In preparation for the Council there was a firm focus on going back to the original sources in the life of the Church. From these original sources would come the inspiration and direction of the renewal. We are here to-day because of one element of that work of going back to the sources.
We know of the role of the Permanent Diaconate from scripture and the writings of the Fathers of the Church. It was from the beginning a distinct and vibrant ministry in the life of the Church. For a combination of reasons its place and role lapsed over time. The Second Vatican Council as it were unearthed this buried treasure of the Permanent Diaconate and restored it for our time. This restoration evolved more quickly in some parts of Church than others. In Ireland, its restoration is in process for the last decade or so. We rejoice in the Diocese of Cloyne to-day to ordain six candidates to the Permanent Diaconate for service in the Diocese. We thank God for the faith and generosity of:
Today is the culmination of a four-year journey of preparation, of study, reflection and prayer. This has called not just for their personal commitment but also the support and engagement of their wives and their children. For this family solidarity and commitment, we are truly thankful.
Today we need to remind one another of the threefold ministry of bishop, priest and deacon. Each have their role and place in the life of the Church. The diaconate is a distinct ministry in the community of the parish. But like all ministry/service it is interdependent and interconnected. As the Permanent Diaconate is being re-established in the Diocese it will take us some time to adjust to this new ministry in our midst. It will require patience and forbearance on the part of all.
My friends, the Scripture readings chosen for our celebration to-day point us to the wellspring that has made this day a reality.
In the verses from the prophet Jeremiah it is clear that the Lord is the one who calls, who takes the initiative. We, by the openness of our hearts, come to hear that call which comes in many guises. John, Brian Edward, Peter, Damien and Garrett have heard that call and with generosity of spirit said Yes. “I will go Lord …….. speak Lord, your servant is listening …”
“Go now to those to whom I send you
And say whatever I command you …”
‘There! I am putting my words into your mouth’
In the Acts of the Apostles we’ve heard how in the earliest days of the Church the community of disciples chose from among their member seven men of good reputation filled with the Spirit and with wisdom to assist in service to the people.
“They presented these to the Apostles who prayed and laid their hands on them”. This is the example we follow to-day. As a community of disciples we walk in their footsteps trusting that in doing so the number of disciples will increase by our mission.
Jesus said to his disciples “you are the salt of the earth ….. you are the light of the world. A city built on a hilltop cannot be hidden … your light must shine in the sight of men and women so that seeing your good works, they may give praise to your Father in heaven”. The message is clear from those verses of St. Matthew’s Gospel, disciples do not face inwards in a ‘holy huddle’ disciples of their nature and calling must go out to the lost, the poor, the lonely, the meek of the earth – to give them light and hope to lift up their hearts so that they can live in joy and freedom.
To exercise this ministry in Ireland to-day will call for deep faith, courage and perseverance. You will encounter many people who are and will be a great support to you as you plough this new furrow. You would be naïve not to expect to encounter apathy even to the point of hostility. “Have courage, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). Remember as you go forth in mission in the name of the Lord Jesus he is with you. You are not alone so many disciples will be walking with you.
The Bishop addresses the Congregation:
These men, your relatives and friends, are now to be raised to the order of deacons. Consider carefully the ministry to which they are to be promoted.
They will draw new strength from the gift of the Holy Spirit. They will help the bishop and his body of priests as ministers of the word, of the altar, and of charity. They will make themselves servants to all. As ministers of the altar they will proclaim the Gospel, prepare the sacrifice, and give the Lord’s body and blood to the community of believers.
It will also be their duty, at the bishop’s discretion, to bring God’s word to believer and unbeliever alike, to preside over public prayer, to baptise, to assist at marriages and bless them, to give viaticum to the dying, and to lead the rites of burial. Once they are consecrated by the laying on of hands that comes to us from the apostles and are bound more closely to the altar, they will perform works of charity in the name of the bishop or the pastor. From the way they go about these duties, may you recognise them as disciples of Jesus, who came to serve, not to be served.
He then addresses the Candidates:
John, Brian and Edward, Peter, Damien and Garrett
My sons, you are being raised to the order of deacons. The Lord has set an example for you to follow.
As deacons you will serve Jesus Christ, who was known among his disciples as the one who served others. Do the will of God generously. Serve God and mankind in love and joy. Look upon all unchastity and avarice as worship of false gods; for no man can serve two masters.
Like the men the apostles chose for works of charity, you should be men of good reputation, filled with wisdom and the Holy Spirit. Show before God and mankind that you are above every suspicion of blame, true ministers of Christ and of God’s mysteries, men firmly rooted in faith. Never turn away from the hope which the Gospel offers; now you must not only listen to God’s word but also preach it. Hold the mystery of faith with “a clear conscience”. Express in action what you proclaim by word of mouth. Then the people of Christ, brought to life by the Spirit, will be an offering God accepts. Finally, on the last day, when you go to meet the Lord, you will hear him say: “Well done, good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of your Lord”.
Notes for Editors
- The history of the diaconate (that is, of the ministry of deacons) is traced back to the Acts of the Apostles in the Church’s earliest days, when the Apostles chose seven men to assist in the care of the faithful. Among these seven were Stephen and Philip. The Acts of the Apostles testifies to the ministry of Stephen as an eloquent and ardent preacher of the Gospel and to his martyrdom. Acts also testifies to Philip’s ministry of catechetics and sacramental preparation and to his baptism of the Ethiopian. Among the Churches saints and martyrs are many deacons, including Laurence whose service as deacon in Rome included the administration of the Church’s goods and a deep love for the poor whom he described as “… the treasures of the Church.”
Over the centuries many of the tasks of the deacon were undertaken by priests and by Monastic and Religious communities. The diaconate became, in the Latin Rite of the Catholic Church, a final stage on the road to priesthood, while always maintaining its distinction as a separate order. The Second Vatican Council called for the restoration of the diaconate. This permanent diaconate, which can be conferred on married or single men, constitutes an important enrichment for the Church’s mission. For almost fifty years permanent deacons (that is, deacons not destined to become priests) have served the Church in many countries throughout the world. The Bishops of Ireland began the process of introducing permanent deacons in Ireland in the 1990s. The first deacons were ordained for the Archdiocese of Dublin and the Diocese of Elphin in 2012. The diocese of Cloyne first accepted aspirants for the diaconate in 2013. Six men have now completed the formation process and three more are at present in formation.
Permanent deacons have their first responsibility within their own marriages and family lives. They also continue in their secular employment and are responsible for their own upkeep and the upkeep of their families. Their ministry is, therefore, restricted in time by those commitments but they remain deacons at all times. It is the Church’s intention that the two sacraments of Matrimony and Holy Orders would enrich each other in the life of the deacon.
- The six men ordained to the Permanent Diaconate are:
- Garrett Cody (52), originally from Glasheen, Cork, now lives in Garryvoe, in the parish of Ballymacoda, with his wife Bridget and three teenage children. Garrett works as a Manager with the HSE in Older Persons’ Services in Cork. The greatest challenge Garrett expects to face is the integration of family and professional life with ministerial responsibilities.
- Peter Gurbal (44), originally from Bratislava, Slovakia, now lives in Cobh with his wife Lenka and five children ranging in age from thirteen to one year old. Peter is a sales assistant in the grocery sector. Peter is interested in all aspects of ministry, especially leading prayer groups among the younger generations.
- Damian McCabe (40), originally from the northern coast at Fahan, Buncrana, Co Donegal now lives on the southern coast at Whitegate in the parish of Aghada, with his wife Rachel and two daughters aged nine and three. Damian works as a Chartered Accountant with PepsiCo Ireland. Damian enjoyed his time of formation, especially growing in his own faith and developing a clearer understanding of the Church.
- Edward Mulhare (50), originally from Cahergal Lawn, Ballyhooly Road, Cork, now lives in Castlemartyr, parish of Imogeela with his wife, Valerie, and five children aged from eighteen to nine years old. Edward works as a Cabinet Maker with ORM Ltd, Castlemartyr. Eddie says: “The deacon will be a witness to the faith in the workplace, the housing estate and among neighbours and friends.”
- John Nestor, (47), originally from Douglas, Cork, also lives in Castlemartyr with his wife Catherine and two teenage children. John is a triplet. John is a social care worker. John sees the deacon being of service to the marginalised and promoting justice and the social teaching of the Church.
- Brian Williams, (43), originally from Clonmel, Co Tipperary, is at present moving to the parish of Macroom, Co Cork with his wife Sharon and two daughters aged nine and five. Brian has been the Director of Cloyne Diocesan Youth and Community services for the past ten years. Brian’s hopes for his ministry as a deacon: “I hope that as a deacon I might be able to reach out to and connect with people who are feeling isolated in our communities.”
- Bishop William Crean is Bishop of Cloyne. This homily was preached yesterday during Mass for the ordination of six Permanent Deacons at the Cathedral of Saint Colman, Cobh, Co Cork.
For media contact: Catholic Communications Office Maynooth: Martin Long 00353 (0) 86 172 7678 and Brenda Drumm 00353 (0) 87 310 4444