By Christina Leslie | Correspondent
Calling the event “powerful and reflective,” deacons from the Diocese of Trenton and their wives were among the more than 1,300 brethren and their families at the 2018 National Diaconate Congress, held July 22-26 in New Orleans.
Exploring the theme “Christ the Servant: Yesterday, Today and Forever,” the five-day conference of Masses, general assemblies and workshops was sponsored by the National Association of Diaconate Directors and marked the 50th anniversary of “Sacrum Diaconatus Ordinem,” the document issued by Blessed Paul VI restoring the permanent diaconate.
Deacon Richard Currie called the slate of distinguished clergy and deacon presenters “a powerhouse of speakers” who explored varied topics of interest.
“My wife, Mary Beth, and I were talking about it, and we think it felt more like a retreat,” said Deacon Currie, who ministers in the parishes of St. James, Pennington; St. Alphonsus, Hopewell, and St. George, Titusville. “The speakers were so powerful and reflective. They gave us information we could chew on for a long time.”
Fellow attendee Deacon Steve Scott, concurred.
“The comments by the cardinals were interesting,” said Deacon Scott of St. Benedict Parish, Holmdel, calling a speech by Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin, , C.Ss.R., of the Archdiocese of Newark “very down-to-earth, humorous and supportive.”
In addition to Cardinal Tobin, presenters and celebrants included Archbishop Gregory M. Aymond of New Orleans; Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston and president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Deacon James Keating, director of theological formation for the Institute of Priestly Formation, and Deacon Greg Kandra, Emmy award-winner and multimedia editor for the Catholic Near East Welfare Association who blogs at “The Deacon’s Bench.”
Topics that were addressed included how the permanent diaconate was restored as a result of the Second Vatican Council and how the ministry has evolved in the past 50 years; clarification and discussion on the ministry of the deacon, and how evangelization and caring for others is at the core of a deacon’s vocation.
“It was nice to have a brotherhood with guys from all over the world,” said Deacon Scott, who was ordained 13 years ago. “It was wonderful to be instantly part of peoples’ lives.”
Deacon Currie, marking 18 years of service in the diaconate added, “It was wonderful to be with deacons from all over the country and the world, like Hawaii, the Philippines, Australia and Taiwan.”
Both men professed that the support of their families was paramount in their ministry.
“My wife, Peg, supports me. That’s what families are for, to keep you grounded,” Deacon Scott said. “God is doing it all, and we are there to do the work, whatever they need. We are Christ the servant for the people.”
Deacon Currie added, “When I first began [diaconate service], my wife was an active public professional, but over the years she has played more of a role in my service. We serve together as a married couple.”
Addressing the deacons, their wives and families during the congress’ opening Mass, Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States, quoted St. John Paul II in his remarks saying, “The service of diaconal ministry finds its identity in evangelization… not office work, but evangelizing.’”
The message hit home with Deacons Scott and Currie.
“Look at Stephen and Philip,” said Deacon Scott of the two early followers of Christ martyred for their faith. “Evangelization is a part of who we are. They tell us, ‘Receive the Book of the Gospels whose herald you are now.’”
“I agree with the archbishop,” Deacon Currie said. “I am evangelizing when I speak with the parents of children preparing for First Penance and First Communion, urging them to take a more active part in the Church themselves. I am evangelizing when I speak with really wounded people seeking peace with the annulment process.
“Evangelization is not only external, like people walking around with sandwich boards,” he continued. “There is also internal evangelization, like inviting a next-door neighbor who has been away from the Church to attend an outdoor Mass.”
“A deacon enables others to participate more, not just to be the guy who does it all. I train others to be [Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion] to enable them to lead. It is not the pastor’s parish, but the parish of the people, to help them minister as well,” Deacon Currie concluded.