Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, Archbishop of Dublin and Primate of Ireland, ordained four married men to the permanent diaconate in Saint Mary’s Pro-Cathedral on Sunday 2 June, the feast of Saint Kevin, Patron Saint of the archdiocese. The four deacons ordained into service for the Archdiocese of Dublin were Rev Donald Devaney, Rev Noel McHugh, Rev Gerry Malone and Rev Greg Pepper.
In his homily, Archbishop Martin said, ‘Today, through the laying on of hands and the prayer of consecration, we ordain four new permanent deacons for service in the Church of Dublin. I congratulate the candidates and I thank them on the manner in which they have prepared themselves for this ministry.
‘I thank your wives and family members, the parish communities from which you spring and in which you have worked in these years. I thank the team that has prepared you for this day, led by Father John Gilligan and I join in the joy of the other permanent deacons who serve the people of God in this diocese.’
He continued, ‘Your service as deacons is inserted into the changing patterns of ministry in the Archdiocese of Dublin. We have priests, deacons, lay pastoral workers, catechists, male and female religious, and so many individual Christians and groups of believers who work together at the service of the mission of the Church. This is not simply a measure to address the falling number of priests. It is to reflect the true nature of the Church as a community of the missionary disciples of Jesus working together, respecting the charism of each.’
Archbishop Martin went on to say, ‘The Church is never just the Church of the perfect. Jesus knows us in our weakness. We all need God’s love to heal and convert us in our weakness. We can only be witnesses to Jesus if we allow Jesus to come to our aid. The believer or the Church must constantly be alert to reject any the temptation to the arrogance of power. The power and the mandate received by ministers and disciples of Jesus can only be authorised by Jesus himself and must always be carried out in the manner revealed by Jesus.
‘The ministry of the deacon is a ministry of service. A ministry of service is not simply about doing things. It is about becoming identified in one’s entire being with the Jesus who serves.’
He added, ‘Those called to evangelize must be ministers of Jesus and his love and that alone; otherwise they witness only to themselves, their ambitions, their passions, their harshness and nastiness, their greed.
‘Ministry in the Church is ministry of service. When the notion of representing the Jesus who serves becomes undermined in the life of the Church then the Church becomes inward looking and self-serving.
‘The life of the Church must be and must be seen as a witness to the Jesus who serves. This is especially true in any way in which the Church sets out to serve the poorest and the weakest. Church documents speak of the Church having a “preferential love for the poor”. This means not just doing things for the poor. This means ensuring that what is done with and for the poor is the best. Sadly, in the past the Church allowed itself to become involved in forms of institutional care that failed in the standards which witnessing to the care of Jesus demands.’
Archbishop Martin continued, ‘Some will say that times were different or that institutions did not have the financial wherewithal to do better. Some will say that Irish society was different and that the Church was not alone in the manner in which the poor were betrayed. There is certainly an element of truth in such reflection but where the poor were let down by the Church, the person of Jesus was betrayed. An inward looking, self-serving Church becomes an arrogant Church. The caring Church must rather be a beacon of what care and love for the poor demand.
‘An inward looking Church then slips inevitably into becoming a contented, safe, comfort-zone for the likeminded. It becomes a sign of fear and self-protection rather than courage. An inward looking Church becomes a sign of the lack of the Spirit. It was the Spirit who gave the early Christians the courage at Pentecost to overcome their fears and anxieties and go out, helped by the Spirit, to speak of Jesus in a language that everyone could grasp.’
He concluded, ‘Deacons must measure their lives not just by “what they can do” in their ministry, which sacraments they can administer. The order of deacons is called to be a special witness to the Jesus who serves and is called to witness with integrity to Jesus in a culture that longs to be compassionate yet is heavily marked also be anxiety and harshness, by brutality and violence. The Church, which in its members bears the consequences of sin and compromise, must allow the presence of Jesus to transform our weakness and allow our Church in humility to become a true beacon of compassion.’
‘Our Gospel ends with the assurance that God will remain with us until the end of time. Jesus invites us to share in his life and to reflect his life in the world and bring his message of love into lives and hearts. The harshness of our world needs that message. Our new deacons and all who minister if the Church must imbibe and uncompromisingly reflect the loving-kindness of out God in the way we live.’
Archbishop Diarmuid Martin’s full homily can be found on www.dublindiocese.ie.
The permanent deaconate is a voluntary part-time ministry, for married or single men. The areas of ministry entrusted to Permanent Deacons fall under three general headings, Altar, Word and Charity. Deacons can assist the priest at the celebration of the Eucharist; they can celebrate Baptism and Marriage and preside at funerals. They also facilitate visiting the sick, prisoners and the bereaved and promoting awareness of the social teaching of the Church.
In partnership with priests and parish pastoral workers, their role includes supporting the structures, which allow for the wider participation of the lay faithful in a range of ministries in the parish and in the wider community.
The weekend’s brings the total number of ordained Permanent Deacons in the Archdiocese of Dublin to 26. There are 16 women and 9 men appointed as Parish Pastoral workers throughout the Archdiocese, working in collaborative ministry in parishes with priests and lay people. For more information, see www.dublindiocese.ie.