Bishop Denis Nulty, Bishop of Kildare and Leighlin, has said that all of us, lay and ordained, are called to give service in different areas of our Church – it is seen as living out our baptismal calling and the firming up of that call during Confirmation. Bishop Nulty was speaking in the Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, in Portlaoise Parish on Sunday 10 July at the ordination to the diaconate of Joseph Yang Shuai SVD.
Bishop Nulty said, “A deacon is called to serve and to be of service; it’s for him a special calling, as in Joseph’s case for a period of time before ordination”. Ordination as a transitional deacon generally occurs after a seminarian has completed at least three years of study in theology. Transitional deacons exercise the very same ministry as permanent deacons, as such they are now ordinary Ministers of Baptism; are able to preside at weddings; assist the priest at Mass; proclaim the Gospel and preach, as well as preside at wakes and funeral services”.
Highlighting the importance of the diaconate year, Bishop Nulty said, “There is a danger that the focus can be on priestly ordination and the diaconate year can be slithered over, as if it were of no great import. Nothing could be further from the truth. Deacons are not priests and this privileged time must allow them opportunity and space to linger with those whose bruises need bandaging and hearts need healing. A deacon shouldn’t be in a rush; he needs to witness sometimes by bringing to life that beautiful word in the very first psalm – lingering. The greatest gift a priest is to a parish and to a community is presence; the greatest gift a deacon brings is the ability to linger, not to pass by, but to see, to look and to act”.
Bishop Nulty continued, “The image that has in recent years become best associated with the diaconate is a painting by the late German priest, Father Seiger Koder, who died in February last year, just after his ninetieth birthday. Koder, himself was a prisoner of war during World War II. In his priesthood he combined his work as a parish priest with his work as a most respected artist. His depiction of the washing of the feet is possibly that image most associated with the diaconate as the face of Christ is reflected in the bowl of water. Similar paintings of the ‘Samaritan Woman at the Well’ and the ‘Last Supper’ equally see the face of Christ reflected in the well and in the chalice of wine. I’m not sure if he painted what we familiarly know as ‘The Good Samaritan’, but what really is for Luke ‘The Compassionate Samaritan’, but if he did, I have no doubt the face of Christ would be transposed on that Samaritan traveller”.