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Permanent Deacons in Hong Kong

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Current Situation

Hong Kong is the first diocese in Asia to promulgate the ministry of Permanent Deacon. As early as in year 1988, the Priest Council of Hong Kong Diocese initiated a formal consultation on the subject of establishment of permanent deacon. After gathering and considering the relevant opinions, the then Cardinal John Baptist Wu finally set up the ministry of permanent deacon for Hong Kong in 1996. On the fifth day after the return of sovereignty of Hong Kong in 1997, for the first time the bishop ordained two permanent deacons for Hong Kong. Since then, there has been a total of 31 permanent deacons ordained. Among them, three were passed away, one has migrated and five have retired. It remains 23 active permanent deacons in place.

Vision and Mission

In 2013, in addressing the closing ceremony of the “International Conference of Chinese Permanent Deacon” held in Hong Kong, Cardinal Tong Hon, expressed his hope that Hong Kong would have more permanent deacons in future, with a target to have at least one Permanent Deacon in each parish (i.e. to double the current number to more than 50) in ten year time and the Church in China would be able to develop this ministry in the long run. The Hong Kong Diocese bears a leading role in the development of permanent deacon in Asia.
During the Conference, Vicar General Dominic Chan, who is the Chairman of ‘Diocesan Commission for the Permanent Deacon’, also stressed that the essence of Christian charity of the ministry of permanent deacon is to serve the weak and under privileged.

Services provided by Permanent Deacons in Hong Kong

Vatican II has made it clear that the revived ministry of permanent deacon is to reach out to the secular world and serve the Church in a new dimension, so that the spirit of charity and justice will bear witnesses throughout the society. The revival of permanent deacon under the auspices of Vatican II is very much like a hand of the Church, a hand stretching out far and wide to reach the world. The permanent deacons will follow the directives of Vatican II to spread the gospel and bring good news of the Church to society. In return, they will also gather the fruits and take their testimony in the society back to the Church. The priest, permanent deacons and laity are all duty-bound to share the same role. However, as a person leading a life in the secular world, a permanent deacon would be more sensitive to social justice and better able to speak up on behalf of the under-privileged. Therefore, it is the bishop’s responsibility to assign the duties of permanent deacons by putting appropriate proportion of efforts of the deacons in discharging religious duties, charity and social services to avoid being involved too much in purely parish services.
In fact in the assignment letter given to a newly ordained permanent deacon, there is a clause suggesting their services hours to the parish duties and charity/social services which is in a proportion of 30/70, respectively.

Bild vergrößern However a study revealed that there are still some Permanent Deacons who has involved too much in the parish services.

Types of services provided by Permanent Deacons in Hong Kong
Parish Duties Charity and Social Services
Items No. % Items No. %
Parish Management 14 60.9 Pastoral services in Hospitals 7 30.4
Parish Finance Management 5 21.7 Prison Ministry 15 65.2
Parish Human Resource Management 7 30.4 Pastoral services post release from Prison 1 4.3
Catechumen Class 22 95.7 Concern to homosexual and Family 1 4.3
Assist in officiating ceremonies/mass 23 100 Bereavement Ministry 15 65.2
Homily 21 91.3 Pastoral services in Schools 8 34.8
Eucharistic Ministry 23 100 Pastoral services in labour Ministry 6 26.1
Eucharistic Blessing 21 91.3 Harbour Ministry 1 4.3
Baptism 14 60.9 Airport Ministry 2 8.7
Infant Baptism 16 69.8 Care for the elderlies 12 52.2
Home Visit to parishioners 14 60.9 Care for the disabilities 3 13.0
Blessing of the house 14 60.9 Care for the mentally deficient People 3 13.0
Spiritual director of laity association 22 95.7 Marginalized youth 1 4.3
Funeral Services 22 95.7 New Immigrant 3 13.0
Small Laity Group 14 60.9 Single parent families 4 17.4
Prenuptial Inquiry 12 52.2 Broken families Services 3 13.0
Social Concern Group 15 65.2 Marriage Ministry 12 52.2
Spiritual director for retreats 19 82.6 Foreign labour Services 1 4.3
Family and marriage Group 11 47.8 Care for the homeless 4 17.4
Wedding 13 56.5 Care for the singleton elderlies 9 39.1
Inquiry : permission/dispensation in marriage cases 8 34.8 Provide meals for grass-roots citizens 1 4.3
Counseling to parishioners 1 4.7 Services for “Home for homeless” 1 4.3
Environmental protection Group 1 4.7 Concern about the subdivided flats/Cages 1 4.3
Sunday School 1 4.7
Liturgical Group 1 4.7
Parish council Committee 1 4.7
Small Christian community 1 4.7

Source : Diocesan Commission for Permanent Diaconate of Hong Kong Annual report 2016

Bild vergrößern

Rectification

As seen from the above figures, the involvement of the permanent deacons in parish duties is much more than those involved in charity and social services. The situation needs to be rectified. It is time to strengthen our trainings on subjects that are necessary for carrying out the charity and social services. Therefore, our formation team has organized a series of trainings for the permanent deacons, on every Sunday evening, to serve the underprivileged and assist them to voice out for righteousness, particularly on fulfillment of social justice.

Conclusion

On the way in development of the permanent deacons, there are many areas that need to be learnt and improved. With the directive and guidance of the Holy Spirit, we have confidence that we can go through the hurdles in front of us.

By Deacon Edwin Ng, Hong Kong, IDC Delegate


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