Diocese’s permanent deacons convene, renew commitment to service
Permanent deacons from throughout the Diocese of Peoria who convened March 5 were told by Bishop Daniel R. Jenky, CSC, that “you are my hands in the corporal works of mercy and the needs are unending.”
“We need deacons to give example and to help in the living function of feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and those in prison,” Bishop Jenky told an assembly that included about 90 permanent deacons, their wives, and the 10th class of deacons now in formation.
“You make Christ’s loving hands present in every good deed you do,” said the bishop, who addressed the deacons and answered questions following a Mass at St. Mary’s Cathedral during which the deacons renewed their commitment to diaconal service.
The deacons resolved to serve “with humility and love” and “be servants of all” as they minister in word, sacrament, and charity. Their wives also stood to renew their support of their husband’s ministry through love, prayer, and assistance.
“It is how we treat the little, the least, and the last that we honor our Lord,” said Bishop Jenky. “And you are the front lines for that. You are not the only ones, but it’s your ordained ministry.”
STAY CLOSE TO THE GOSPELS
To accomplish their service to the Gospel, the deacons were urged to stay “very close in communion with Christ” by keynote speaker Deacon James Keating, the director of Theological Formation for the Institute for Priestly Formation, located at Creighton University in Omaha.
In a series of presentations at the Spalding Pastoral Center on deepening their spiritual lives, Deacon Keating urged the deacons to “stay close to the word of God.”
“The spirituality of the deacon should emerge from and live in the Gospels,” said Deacon Keating. “The deacon should be an expert in teaching people how to pray the word of God because he himself is in the word of God praying every day.
“Of all the people in the diocese, the deacon should be a leader in teaching people how to pray with Scripture,” he said.
At the close of Mass, Msgr. Tim Nolan, episcopal vicar for the permanent diaconate, asked the 24 members of the class now in formation to stand. The class, which organized in 2014, is scheduled to be ordained in 2017.
“I’m a proud papa,” said Msgr. Nolan in leading applause for the new class.
BISHOP TAKES DEACONS QUESTIONS
Bishop Jenky did not mention any candidates’ names or parties in answering a question from a deacon about how best to pray and work this election year.
“We have to pray for good leaders,” said the bishop. “We don’t always get them.”
Catholics have to stay involved in the process, he told the deacons, because “the peril to our church is real” from those who are working to get the church out of health care and education, for example.
“There is an aggressive pagan culture and we’ve been losing more than we’ve been winning,” said the bishop. “We have to be active, we can’t get beaten down.
“I think there is a cultural desire to have the church withdraw from the public forum. But we can’t surrender.”
Reflecting on the tone of the political discourse this year, Bishop Jenky said “I always thought things couldn’t get worse, but they’re liable to.” He said it may come down in November to “holding my nose and voting for the (candidate) who will do the least harm.”
Bishop Jenky was also asked about the status of the sainthood cause for Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen, which was suspended in 2014. He encouraged the diaconate community to keep the cause in their prayers, saying “negotiations are going on.”