New deacons in Kildare and Leighlin

Saturday, January 21st, 2012

Seven men from the diocese of Kildare and Leighlin were received as candidates for the Permanent Diaconate in Carlow Cathedral. 

Fr Ruairi O’Domhnaill (pictured), who gave the homily on the occasion recalled Cardinal O’Fiach’s reference to the Irish laity as the great sleeping giant.  “Sometimes I think that we, as ordained men, carried our boyhood fear of sleeping giants into our adult lives in the Church, and have been afraid to awaken the giant for fear he will run amok in the Church and we will lose control of what he may do. 

“When Paul VI established the norms for permanent deacons in the Church, he specifically set among them the task of promoting and sustaining the activity of the laity.  In other words a specific task of permanent deacons is to awaken the sleeping giant of the laity,” said Fr O’Domhnaill.

He urged the deacons to measure their success, not in the amount of time they spent working, but to the extent to which they encourage, empower and facilitate others to take their place within the Church’s mission.  Fr O’Domhnaill said it was historic to accept seven men formally as candidates for the permanent diaconate, as never before in the long story of Carlow Cathedral had such an event occurred. 

In the diocese, it is over one thousand years since such an event occurred.  The seven men are Patrick Roche, David O’Flaherty, Joe O’Rourke, Fergal O’Neill, Gary Moore, John Dunleavy and Jim Stowe.

Fr O’Domhnaill said that the diaconate ministry has three elements: firstly, the deacon witnesses to Christ through the integrity of his own life with his family and in his daily work and ordinary human interaction; secondly, the deacon serves the Church through the liturgy.  He baptises new members; and he presides at non-liturgical marriage and funeral rites.  Thirdly, the deacon is called to serve through practical acts of charity among the poor and overlooked.

Acknowledging the generosity of each candidate and their substantial time commitment to lectures and pastoral work, Fr O’Domhnaill also spoke of the sacrifice of spouses and families that made the candidates' commitment possible.

Permanent deacons were very much a feature of the first millennium of the Christian community but the ministry fell out of use before the dawning of the year 1000AD, and diaconate simply became a stage on the road to ordination for priesthood. 

It fell to Pope Paul VI, on the advice of the bishops of the world, to restore the ministry of permanent deacons in 1967.

In 2001, the Irish Episcopal Conference received permission from the Holy See to proceed with the restoration of the Permanent Diaconate in Ireland.  In 2005, approval was received for the document The Permanent Diaconate: National Directory and Norms for Ireland.  In March 2009, the Bishops appointed a national training authority under the chairmanship of Bishop Donal McKeown to approve and monitor formation for permanent deacons in this country.

In December 2010, Cardinal Brady admitted six men from the Archdiocese of Armagh as Candidates for the Permanent Diaconate.  In October of the same year, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin celebrated the Rite of Admission to Candidacy with the first group of men to begin their formation for the Permanent Diaconate in the Archdiocese of Dublin. 

In November, it was the turn of Bishop Leo O’Reilly launched the Permanent Diaconate in the Diocese of Kilmore at a special gathering.

by Ann Marie Foley