The deacon’s ministry calls everyone to service

By Deacon Joe Donohoe 
Director of Deacon Personnel for the Archdiocese of Denver 

The Archdiocese of Denver has just released a Deacon Resource Manual providing information on the different service ministries of permanent deacons. It is meant to help the Catholic lay faithful understand and engage in the many ministry opportunities available in Northern Colorado. This resource manual is not all inclusive of deacon responsibilities but provides many services that respond to the Beatitudes and often cross parish boundaries.  

Explaining the importance of the service ministry of the deacon requires some background on the three-fold ministry of the deacon.  These ministries are fused into every deacon, who have responded to God’s call to be a living icon of Jesus Christ, the Servant.  The three ministries of the deacon are: the ministry of the Word, liturgy, and charity, justice and service.  All deacons in the Archdiocese of Denver are sent by the archbishop to conduct these important ministries of the Church as a part of their vocation and lead the faithful into various communities, seeking out the lost. 

Most faithful Catholics witness the deacon conducting the ministries of Word and liturgy at the Mass when he proclaims the Gospel, preaches a homily, teaches and when he is the minister at the altar.  But the deacon as the minister of charity and justice, while present in the Mass, is not as visible as the others.   

For the deacon, the ministry of service is eucharistic.  It is an act of reverence and love that makes the service ministry of the deacon a sacramental work of the Lord himself.  This is consistent with St. Pope Paul VI’s Apostolic Letter, Ad Pascendum, which states that the Sacred Order of Deacons is to be “a driving force for the Church’s service or diakonia toward the local Christian communities, and as a sign or sacrament of the Lord Christ himself.” 

As a sacrament, this sacred responsibility of the deacon’s call to service culminates and advances in the Mass.  During this Sacred Liturgy, the deacon receives the offertory gifts from the congregation as a sign of their prayers and, indeed, of their lives.  This offering includes the heart of the deacon’s prayers for all those he has encountered in his ministry.  All these lives are placed on the paten and in the chalice as an offering to God, which the deacon prepares as he prays that the human offering may become divine.  Once prepared, he turns those lives over to the priest celebrant, who is acting as Christ In Persona Christi. The culmination of this offering is when it becomes the body and blood of Jesus Christ during the words of consecration. 

The ministry of service advances when, at the end of Mass, the deacon dismisses the congregation.  In essence, he instructs the faithful to go out into the world and show others what they have received in the Mass – the Eucharist, the real presence of Christ.  This instruction requires all the faithful to touch hearts and help others recognize who it is that created them and who it is that redeems them so that, by our actions and words, we may bring Jesus to those who may not recognize him.   

The Resource Manual provides avenues for the faithful to be active in the call to touch the hearts of those in need of grace.  It provides a brief description of those service activities where deacons are involved, many outside the parishes.  These ministries vary from working in the prisons, to public prayer events to assisting those who are lost or sick.  The manual also includes points of contact for each of these ministries where deacons participate in bringing Christ to the peripheries. However, make no mistake: these are not uniquely clergy responsibilities nor are they necessarily exclusively deacon functions.  Most of these ministries rely on the participation of the Catholic lay faithful to be successful.  God calls all of us to reach out beyond our church buildings to extend a hand to others.  It is important to respond to him by using your talents to build the Kingdom of God and touch the hearts of those who are longing for God.   

This manual is an evangelization tool to respond to our call to “cast into the deep” and bring forth an abundant harvest.  It is important to respond to him by using your talents to build the Kingdom of God and touch the hearts of those who are longing for God. You are invited to review the manual and reach out to a family member, friend, a fellow parishioner or a stranger who needs healing and could benefit from these resources.    

In addition, a new program called “Faith in Action” allows those searching for ways to “go out and proclaim the Gospel” to get involved.  This program includes deacons talking about their ministries along with meeting those described in the Beatitudes; the hungry, poor, thirsty, sick, imprisoned, lonely, mournful and the dying. The Faith in Action program is in response to Christ’s words in the Gospel of Matthew, “Whatever you did for one of the least of these, you did for me” (Mt 25:40).  The program is designed to take people into the communities and provide an abundance of talent to those seeking help from God and the Church.  Our hope is that a renewed energy will emerge to help assist those who have a passion for responding to God’s call and want to be involved in showing Jesus to those in need of his goodness.   

Deacon Resource Manual 
Click here to view the manual. 

For more information, contact the Office of Deacon Personnel at (303) 715-3198 or Deacon.Donohoe@archden.org  

COMING UP: Q&A: USCCB clarifies intent behind bishops’ Eucharist document

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Last week, the U.S. bishop concluded their annual Spring meeting, during which much about the Church in the U.S was discussed. In particular, the bishops voted to draft a document on the meaning of Eucharistic life in the Church, which was approved by an overwhelming majority.

Since then, speculation about the nature of the document has run rampant, the chief of which is that it was drafted specifically to instigate a policy aimed directly at Catholic politicians and public figures whose outward political expressions and policy enactment do not align with Church teaching.

The USCCB has issued a brief Q&A clarifying the intent of the document, and they have emphasized that “the question of whether or not to deny any individual or groups Holy Communion was not on the ballot.”

“The Eucharist is the source and summit of Christian life,” the USCCB said. “The importance of nurturing an ever
deeper understanding of the beauty and mystery of the Eucharist in our lives is not a new topic for the bishops. The document being drafted is not meant to be disciplinary in nature, nor is it targeted at any one individual or class of persons. It will include a section on the Church’s teaching on the responsibility of every Catholic, including bishops, to live in accordance with the truth, goodness and beauty of the Eucharist we celebrate.”

Below are a few commonly asked questions about last week’s meeting and the document on the Eucharist.

Why are the bishops doing this now?

For some time now, a major concern of the bishops has been the declining belief and understanding of the Eucharist among the Catholic faithful. This was a deep enough concern that the theme of the bishops’ strategic plan for 2021-2024 is Created Anew by the Body and Blood of Christ: Source of Our Healing and Hope. This important document on the Eucharist will serve as a foundation for the multi-year Eucharistic Revival Project, a major national effort to reignite Eucharistic faith in our country. It was clear from the intensity and passion expressed in the individual interventions made by the bishops during last week’s meeting that each bishop deeply loves the Eucharist.

Did the bishops vote to ban politicians from receiving Holy Communion?

No, this was not up for vote or debate. The bishops made no decision about barring anyone from receiving Holy Communion. Each Catholic — regardless of whether they hold public office or not — is called to continual conversion, and the U.S. bishops have repeatedly emphasized the obligation of all Catholics to support human life and dignity and other fundamental principles of Catholic moral and social teaching.

Are the bishops going to issue a national policy on withholding Communion from politicians?

No. There will be no national policy on withholding Communion from politicians. The intent is to present a clear understanding of the Church’s teachings to bring heightened awareness among the faithful of how the Eucharist can transform our lives and bring us closer to our creator and the life he wants for us.

Did the Vatican tell the bishops not to move forward on drafting the document?

No. The Holy See did encourage the bishops to engage in dialogue and broad consultation. Last week’s meeting was the first part of that process. It is important to note that collaboration and consultation among the bishops will be key in the drafting of this document.


Featured photo by Eric Mok on Unsplash