Church in the USA Celebrates 50 Years of Reinstatement of the Diaconate
It was in 1968, that is exactly 50 years ago, that the diaconate was reintroduced as a permanent ministry in the USA. This was the motivation for the National Association of Diaconate Directors and for the Committee for Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations of the U.S. Bishops’ Conference to issue the invitation to a national conference, an event which is currently taking place in New Orleans. 2,800 deacons, wives and persons in charge of the diaconate came to the conference. Such a number is extraordinary even for U.S. standards.
The highest number of deacons
Approximately 6% of the worlds Catholics live in the U.S. Yet, no less than 18,000 permanent deacons exercise their ministry among them. This represents 40% of all permanent deacons worldwide. “The approach here was a very pastoral one”, is the explanation given by Deacon Gerald DuPont (President of the International Diaconate Centre and former President of the NADD) for this circumstance. The restoration of the diaconate took place in 1968 within a context of huge transformations, also for the Church. Deacons can connect Church and Society in a very particular way.
Mission in the world
In his opening speech, Cardinal Joseph William Tobin, Archbishop of Newark, NJ, identified the greatest problem faced by the Catholic Church as being the gap between faith and everyday life. For many Catholics, the dismissal at the end of the Mass is at the same time the conclusion of their practiced faith, at least until the following Sunday. However, “Ite, Missa est” is not a conclusion, quite on the contrary, it means sending out on sending out on a mission. The fact that the deacon is designated to express it is indicative of the character of his ministry. He connects, in an exemplary fashion, faith and its concretion in everyday life. The Eucharist nourishes faith. But faith is lived in everyday life.
Strikingly many wives
The majority of the participants in the Jubilee Conference was made up of diaconal couples. This is somewhat less surprising if one knows that the wives are very intensively involved in formation period. They graduate, in part, from the same program, obtaining thereby the same theological qualification as their husbands.
Deacon Martin Brunner-Artho, Missio Director, participates in the conference held in New Orleans between the 22nd and the 26th of July, in his capacity of International Diaconate Centre (IDC) Delegate