MARRIED CLERGY – THEY ARE HERE ALREADY
This morning (Saturday) we held the annual deacon recommitment Mass at the Bethany Center for our 125 “permanent deacons” and their wives. It is always a very pleasant moment in the life of the diocese and it is followed by a luncheon and a report from Father Ralph Argentino on the state of the diaconate in the diocese. He told me that forty dioceses are represented among our deacons on assignment or with faculties. These men were all trained elsewhere and eventually moved to the central west coast of Florida and sought permission to minister (“faculties”) from the Diocese of St. Petersburg. In addition, we currently have forty-three active deacons who have studied here and been ordained for service here. No matter where they are from, they are an impressive group.
Deacons are members of the Roman Catholic Clergy, hence the teaser in the title. Their wives are an important part of their ministry, both supporting their husbands in their initial choice to pursue the diaconate and in assisting in many instances in the performance of the service which their husbands give to the Church. Some of the wives have taken all the courses that their husbands were taking in preparation for their ordination (and it has been said that the wives would outshine their spouses sometimes on tests and papers). Once ordained the deacons mostly work in parishes, baptizing, witnessing marriages, preaching on Sundays and weekdays, preparing parents for the baptism of their children, adults and children for Christian initiation, and readying confirmation classes. They also preside at wakes, graveside services and really help the priests out in many ways. Some are involved in special ministries such as prison, hospital, port chaplaincy, etc. Roman Catholic ministry in the United States would be generally bereft without these good men.
At the time of their ordination, the deacon understands that should their spouses die, they are restrained by the law and practice of the Church from getting married again so in addition to the sacrifice of time (we ask 10% of their waking hours each week as a minimum) they also must be ready to embrace celibate chastity as well. Our new class ordained last October was present today and all those to whom I had an opportunity to speak reported that they were happy in their ministry. So is the Church of St. Petersburg, gentlemen and ladies, and thanks for the gift of your time and talent in your ministry of service.