At the Mass in late June in which he ordained 10 men to serve as permanent deacons of the archdiocese, Cardinal Dolan reminded the congregation in St. Patrick’s Cathedral that the permanent diaconate is “still relatively new in the eyes of the Church,” having been restored 50 years ago by Blessed Pope Paul VI after the Second Vatican Council.
In the Archdiocese of New York, as well as across the United States and the globe, the ministry of the permanent diaconate has flourished over the past half-century.
Nowhere has that flourishing been more noticeable than in the United States, where about 40 percent of the permanent deacons in the Church now serve. Their numbers here reached 18,287 in 2017, according to the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA). That number has risen consistently in the past couple of decades. In 1995, there were 10,932 deacons serving the Church in every diocese in the United States.
The archdiocese has been no exception to this rule. Last year, 388 deacons were serving in the parishes and institutions of the archdiocese. The first 12 men were ordained as permanent deacons by Cardinal Terence Cooke in 1973. In recent years, a similar number continue to be ordained to serve here.
The archdiocese’s Diaconate Office is ably led by Deacon Francis Orlando, director of diaconate formation, and Deacon James Bello, director of diaconate ministry and life.
Along with the important responsibility of serving at the altar during Mass and other liturgical celebrations, permanent deacons conduct sacramental training in parishes, support catechetical, youth ministry and RCIA programs, visit the sick at home, and in hospitals and nursing homes, minister to prisoners, and much more.
The vast majority of permanent deacons are married, and thus the deacon’s vocation serves as a visible witness to the fidelity of his life as a husband and father. In fact, the journey to ordination and beyond is a shared experience for the spouses, with the wives participating in formation classes.
The half-century of ordained service was a milestone marked by a record turnout at the National Diaconate Congress held in New Orleans July 22-26. About 1,300 deacons were present, including four from the archdiocese. Many brought their wives and children, for a total turnout of 2,800 people. The theme was “Christ the Servant: Yesterday, Today and Forever.”
Archbishop Christophe Pierre, the apostolic nuncio to the United States, said his travels throughout the country show him the “hard work and generous service” permanent deacons provide.
“Deacons have been able co-workers with their bishops, priests and laity in many dimensions of ecclesial life, especially the apostolate works.”
The nuncio reminded the deacons that their work is not their own. “The work is Christ’s. It is one thing to serve at the altar. It is another to be an evangelizing force in the world.”
We offer hearty congratulations to our deacons for a job well done, and continued encouragement and prayers for their important mission in the years ahead.
We also hope our readers will take the opportunity to say a word of thanks to the deacons they encounter in their own parishes throughout the archdiocese.