Archbishop Gregory Ordains Nine Men to the Permanent Diaconate for the Archdiocese of Washington
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Washington Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory ordained nine men as permanent deacons for the Archdiocese of Washington at a Mass of Ordination today at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.
The new deacons come from a variety of backgrounds, and include veterans of the armed forces, government employees, a former state delegate, a CFO, and others. The men completed almost five years of theological study and prayer in preparation for ordination. Deacons in the Catholic Church are ordained for a ministry that reflects three aspects: Word, Sacrament, and Charity. The new deacons will now receive from Archbishop Gregory a parish assignment as well as an assignment to a particular focus of charity in the archdiocese. In their ministry, they will proclaim the Gospel, preach, lead the faithful in prayer, baptize, distribute the Eucharist, witness marriages, preside at funerals, and assist those in need.
Archbishop Gregory began his homily by referencing the Second Reading (Acts 6:1-7b) saying, the first deacons were expected to be reputable men, filled with the Spirit and wisdom. “This morning, the Church in Washington, separated by many centuries and by half a world’s distance from the ancient community that sought the first deacons nonetheless seeks men possessing those same qualifications to become our deacons today.”
“The parishes of the Archdiocese of Washington are as multifaceted as those small communities in the ancient Church ever dared to be. We have large populations that include the sick and the homebound, the young and the undocumented immigrant, the poor and the marginalized. The needs of our parochial assemblies are a ripe harvest for the ministry of charity that our soon-to-be deacons must offer. And that alone is why the Church carefully selects those men who are to assume the Office of Deacon.”
“I am proud to say this morning that after careful scrutiny and prayerful examination, you men have been found to possess the qualifications that we believe in faith will allow you to become successful deacons for this multi-cultural, multi-lingual, and richly diverse community that is the Archdiocese of Washington,” he said. “The Church is heartened by your willingness to assume this service for your brothers and sisters in the Lord.”
Archbishop Gregory spoke of the importance of the families of the candidates to the diaconate, saying, “They have been and will continue to be your most important source of encouragement and strength. I thank them for their steadfast support of you during all of the years of your preparation.” He also asked for the grace of the Holy Spirit to assist the wives of the soon-to-be deacons in helping the men fulfill their dual responsibilities as husbands and fathers as well as in their ministry as a deacon for the Church.
“A Deacon according to those most ancient qualifications must be a man who possesses the Holy Spirit. That means that you are to be men who open your hearts and lives to all of the promptings that the Spirit provides. You are to be men of generosity and selfless dedication to the works of charity that are central to the Office of Deacon,” he said. The archbishop instructed them to always exercise their Office with dignity and reverence so as to draw people to the Lord, and encouraged them to deepen their lives of prayer where they would find the strength and the wisdom to fulfill their duties for both their families and their family of the Church.
As he concluded his homily, Archbishop Gregory said, “May we work together in harmony as the deacons, priests, and bishops did of old so that the entire Church throughout the Archdiocese of Washington will grow resplendent in holiness, in justice, and in charity. May God bless each one of you abundantly all the days of your life – first within your own families and then within the family of the Church of Jesus Christ which you pledge to serve today to serve with a sincere and wholesome heart.”
After the homily, during the ordination rite, the men made a promise of obedience to the archbishop and to his successors, and received a stole, worn over the left shoulder to symbolize that the right arm is always free to help others; a vestment called a dalmatic; and the book of the Gospels, a sign that they are to proclaim the word of God. Deacons may be married when ordained but those who are not married take a vow of celibacy.