“Brothers and sisters, rejoice. Mend your ways, encourage one another, agree with one another, live in peace, and the God of love and peace will be with you. Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the holy ones greet you.” – 2 Cor 13:11,12
My Sisters and Brothers in Christ:
In his letter to the Corinthians, Paul exhorts them and challenges them to consider who they are and if they are truly followers of Christ, to consider the responsibility that goes along with this claim. This last verse of Paul’s letter is a mild conclusion to the admonishing tone of the entire letter. The early church was forming a community and that formation brought its challenges. The guidance of the apostles and others like Paul served the people to help them focus on their faith, when there were so many other distractions and difficulties for them. Pope Francis said, “These two terms – apostle and servant – go together. They can never be separated. They are like the two sides of a medal. Those who proclaim Jesus are called to serve, and those who serve proclaim Jesus.”
And while we are some 2000 years later in the life of the Church, the words of St. Paul still ring true. We continue to try to reject the distractions of Satan in our world and form ourselves as a community of faith; a holy temple of the Lord. We continue to grow as apostles and servants.
How do we become “good and faithful servants” (cf. Mt 25:21)? First, we make ourselves available. Pope Francis said, “A servant daily learns detachment from doing everything his own way and living his life as he would. Each morning he trains himself to be generous with his life and to realize that the rest of the day will not be his own, but given over to others. One who serves cannot hoard his free time; he has to give up the idea of being the master of his day. He knows that his time is not his own, but a gift from God which is then offered back to him. Only in this way will it bear fruit.”
The Permanent Diaconate is one community of faith within our larger community of faith. Its charism is one of servitude to the people of God. In the Catholic Church, the diaconate is the first of three ranks in ordained ministry. Deacons preparing for the priesthood are transitional deacons. Those not planning to be ordained priests are called permanent deacons. Married men may be ordained permanent deacons, and single men may be ordained with a commitment to celibacy. Beginning already in the early days of the Apostles, the Catholic Church has held in great veneration the sacred order of the diaconate, as St. Paul bears witness. In the early Church, the deacons were very important to spreading the Word of God and assuring the ministry of service to the poor, the elderly were being carried forth.
The Permanent Diaconate continues to be important to the life of the Church. Permanent deacons are called to be available to others, so that their ministry is not self-serving, but evangelically fruitful. On June 10, I had the honor and privilege to ordain ten deacons to the Order of the Permanent Diaconate. This Ordination is not something these men take lightly. They have prepared through study, prayer, and works of mercy for many years. The discernment and formation process for those who feel called to the vocation of Deacon begins with a year of formal discovery followed by five years of concentrated formation that includes theology classes from St. Leo University and approximately 400 hours of dimensional workshops that help form the men and their wives in the human, spiritual, pastoral and diaconal dimensions of their lives. Their families have accompanied them on this journey for the call to the Permanent Diaconate is a family matter.
A few weeks ago, you were introduced to these fine men in an article in the Florida Catholic. Although these men come from all walks of life and bring different cultures and backgrounds, they share one thing in common – they have responded to God’s call to serve the Church and God’s people through the vocation of Deacon.
Join me in a prayer of gratitude for Deacons Jimmy Avellan, Armand Carpentier, Carlos Conselho, Eddie Cruz, Richard Dodd, Steve Floyd, Carlos Martinez, Mike Nussear, Antonio Torres and Michael Willems.
May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with all of you.
Bishop John Noonan
Diocese of Orlando