by Leon Suprenant
Next month, Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann will ordain 17 men to the permanent diaconate, almost doubling the number of men serving in this capacity in northeast Kansas.
I have run into many people who are very excited to have more ordained ministers in our midst, but they are confused as to how exactly they will serve our local church.
As is the case with new priests, Archbishop Naumann will appoint the new deacons to ministries throughout the archdiocese. The men are ordained specifically for the archdiocese, and the archbishop, in close collaboration with the personnel board, will specify in the appointment letter where each deacon will serve.
The relevant church document says the archbishop’s “principal criteria for the assignment are the pastoral needs of the diocesan church and the personal qualifications of the deacon.” The archbishop also takes into account the deacon’s family and work situation.
All of the new deacons will be assigned to a particular parish. Most, but not all, will be assigned to their home parish. For pastoral reasons and the greater good of the local church, a few may be assigned to neighboring parishes.
On the one hand, deacons are ordained for the archdiocese, not a particular parish, so there’s no requirement that they go back and serve in their home parish. On the other hand, there usually is no reason why they shouldn’t, and certainly the archbishop isn’t going to require a deacon to uproot his family and move to a different part of the archdiocese!
In the parish, the new deacons will be visible leaders. They have specific roles in the liturgy (e.g., proclaiming the Gospel, leading the prayer of the faithful, etc.) and can officiate at baptisms, weddings and funeral services, as needed.
Even more, the deacon’s ministry of service in the parish can take many shapes, from faith formation and sacramental preparation to evangelization efforts to outreach to the poor, sick and outcast.
At the beginning of their parish assignment, the deacon and pastor will complete a “ministry agreement form” in which they will jointly determine the areas where the deacon can be of most assistance in the parish, given both the needs of the parish and the deacon’s gifts and availability.
But that’s not all. The new deacons will also receive an “extraparochial” assignment, which is an assignment that takes them beyond the boundaries of the parish.
Several of the deacons from this cohort will be assigned to the archdiocesan marriage and family life office, because strengthening marriage is such an urgent need at this time.
Others will be assigned to prisons, hospitals, Catholic Charities, pro-life ministry and other outreaches to marginalized or underserved populations.
Please pray that God will do great things for the local church through these new deacons!