Bridge builder in Luxembourg
The permanent deacon, bridge builder in an “exotic country”
Luxembourg is an exotic country: on 2,586 km2, there are 626,000 people from almost every nation in the world. A little more than half of them are Luxembourger citizens. 445,000 people make a living in our small country, including 204,000 who cross the border daily from Germany, France and Belgium (data as of 2020).
The permanent deacon community of the Archdiocese of Luxembourg is just as diverse as Luxembourgian society at large.
In the Diocese of Luxembourg the first permanent deacons (two of them) were ordained before 1983. Since then, the number of permanent deacons has risen to more than 20. But, as mentioned before, there is a lot of diversity, because among them as well there are several nationalities: Luxembourgers, Germans, Portuguese, Frenchmen and Italians. There are also some who cross the border. In addition, among our current 4 candidates there is a Lithuanian and a Luxembourgian of Croatian descent.
A country like ours, which was historically marked by Catholicism, is struggling with the secularization of society and with a decrease in the number of practicing members of the Church or their aging. The notorious wealth of our country and the constant improvement of the economic circumstances do not contribute to people thinking about God or the meaning of life or that they engage in the quest for God. Luxembourg used to send missionaries into the world, but today our country has become a mission territory. This is also one of the biggest challenges for the permanent deacons. They are witnesses to a society in which people have lost their connection with God, despite the fact that they still have their children baptized, still marry in the Church and still ask for religious funerals.
On a pastoral journey with young people in Thailand, I felt like the exotic among the exotic. How often was I addressed as a priest and people thanked me for the “beautiful Mass”. The ensuing conversations were very interesting. To be a witness!
I have mentioned our country’s wealth which many of us can enjoy. But this does not refer to everyone: in a European statistic, Luxembourg is on par with Romania in matters of poverty risk. This is referring to financial poverty in a country which has a very good social security network. Despite this, we keep encountering people who fall through the cracks of even this network and have absolutely nothing to live on. Aside from this financial poverty, we also encounter other forms of poverty which occur in a financially strong society: isolation, families falling apart and alienation. For us deacons, there is a lot of work to do in order to build bridges between people and people, people and institutions and to offer assistance in many life situations.
Our Archbishop Jean-Claude Cardinal Hollerich repeatedly stressed the advantage permanent deacons have in that they live family lives (most of us are married). This should allow us to be closer to the everyday experience of other people. Most of our permanent deacons are married and have children; they, therefore, face some problems, which, for example, priests experience differently. Some of us, and the number is increasing, have regular jobs and exercise their ministry as deacons in their spare time. Thereby, we often experience firsthand the problems of the working people.
We permanent deacons constantly become bridges, bringing humanity to God.
Married, three children, one granddaughter