NINETEEN NEW SERVANTS OF THE GOSPEL
Our diocese was singularly blessed yesterday by the ordination of nineteen new deacons to serve in our parishes and institutions. They have been studying and preparing for eight years, probably the longest period of formation in the United States (four years in the Lay Pastoral Ministry Institute and four more in the deacon formation program. One can not easily calculate the time spent in class. But they persevered and prospered. All their hopes and dreams became a reality yesterday morning at St. Jude’s Cathedral as Bishop John Noonan, Auxiliary Bishop of Miami, imposed his hands on each of the men asking the Holy Spirit to impart the power of the office on each of them. In the front rows of the pews were their wives, children, and parents, so proud and beaming. And there was their bishop unable to perform the ordination rite at home praying for them and asking the Lord for the gift of coming to the Cathedral for a few words at the conclusion of the two hour ceremony. God heard my prayers and I made it.
When the fathers at the Second Vatican Council restored the married diaconate, it was clear that it was something envisioned for the mission countries of the third world. Instead, the United States has the highest number and percentage of married deacons in the world and the mission Churches have not utilized the opportunity choosing lay catechists and leaders instead. Having listened to the late Cardinals Dearden of Detroit and Bernardin of Chicago express their doubts about the new phenomenon of all these new deacons and their fear of the “clericalization” of the laity, I began my service here as bishop with certain doubts – enough to seek a seven year hiatus in preparing new deacons while we evaluated what we had. Our pastors convinced me that the diaconate has been enormously helpful in their ministry in the parishes and their work in the prisons, jails and the Port of Tampa filled holes in our ministry for which there simply were no priests. I was wrong in my reservations and about five years ago we began plans to prepare more men for this ministry of service.
Four years ago twenty-six men started their final four years of formation. Nineteen persevered. We contracted with St. Leo University to see to their theological and pastoral formation. They attended classes during the week and on week-ends. With the loving support of their spouses and the patience of their children, year by year they came closer to their goal and then there was yesterday. Today at Sunday Mass they began their ministry. They can preach, baptize, witness marriages and assist at the altar. Many of them will help in the RCIA and have a hand in religious formation in their parishes. Some of them may ultimately administer some of our smaller parishes if the number of priests available requires it. Even though we have the greatest number of men in the seminary in our forty-one years as a diocese, there will always be a need for deacons.
They promise not to marry should or when their spouses are call home to God. They are generally not paid and promise ten percent of their time assisting in their assignments. They must now, as of this class, be prepared to serve where ever they are sent and since they are clergy, they now with this class come under the Clergy Personnel Board for assignment. Several of the new ordinands were asked to serve other than their home parishes where my Personnel Board felt their was a real need and they graciously accepted.
I feel very good about these nineteen men. If your parish receives one of them as a deacon you will be lucky. Congratulations to them are in order and to our local Church.
Updated: Watch Bishop Lynch’s Remarks at the Ordination