March 31, 2014
PAULA FOURNIER
PRAIRIE MESSENGER

PRINCE ALBERT, SASK. – In September 2013, Bishop Albert Thévenot established a program for the permanent diaconate in the Prince Albert Diocese.

On Jan. 25, eight married couples and two single men coming from across the diocese met at the Diocesan Pastoral Centre to begin the initial six-month discernment process.

Thévenot said three reasons lay behind the need for permanent deacons: a desire to enrich the Church with the special gifts of the diaconate, to strengthen the grace of diaconal ordination to those who already exercise this ministry, and a concern to provide regions where there is a shortage of clergy with sacred ministers.

He invited those who felt a calling to the vocation to pray for guidance and, if married, to pray together with their wives.

"A deacon personally serves the poor, sick and imprisoned, bringing the Gospel to those in need. He preaches and practices social justice, proclaims the Gospel and preaches at liturgical celebrations, provides catechetical instruction, adult faith formation and sacramental preparation," writes Thévenot.

"Deacons assist priests during Mass, administer Baptisms, witness marriages, preside at funerals, officiate at benedictions and lead community prayer services."

Deacon Allan Hinger, ordained in 2002 in Calgary, is currently living with his wife, Bonnie, in Goodsoil, Sask., working with pastor Father Javier De Los Angeles Cortazar at St. Boniface Parish.

EXCITED DEACON

He shared his excitement in watching the diaconate formation taking shape.

"We have never questioned our call to the diaconate, but we have at one time or another, felt both overwhelmed and the Spirit move," Hinger said.

"I often feel excited and calm with confirmation at the same time, which might sound strange. The diaconate has always felt like an incredible opportunity and unquestionable blessing for us.

"Even in those times when I struggle to write a homily, I feel strengthened by the Gospel text and I know I am privileged," he said.

TEACHERS

During the first meeting, Thévenot described deacons as teachers, preaching the word of God and inviting people to conversion and holiness by being witnesses and communicators of the faith, promoting what the Word invites us to do and be, and helping people to understand and live by this word, "people with a deep prayer life, truly people of prayer."

SERVANTS

In speaking to diaconal couples, he asked them to share and be interested in their ministry and involved in their parish.

As Thévenot concludes in his letter, "The title 'deacon' means servant. The diaconate is a distinct vocation, or calling, to imitate Christ in his service to all humanity, to bring the world to Christ and Christ to the world."