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Ten to be ordained to permanent diaconate

By RENEE WEBB, Globe senior reporter
(Email Renee)

The largest class of permanent deacons will be ordained May 3 at Cathedral of the Epiphany in Sioux City.

According to Deacon David Lopez, diocesan director of diaconate formation, this is the Diocese of Sioux City’s 20th group of deacons to be ordained. The first deacon class, which consisted of two men, was ordained in 1977. Through the years there have been three groups of seven ordained.

“I am deeply moved by the work of the Holy Spirit, calling forth the vocation of the permanent diaconate and giving people courage to accept their vocation,” he said. “It’s not a small commitment to enter in the formation program and know that it will take five years if everything goes well; sometimes it takes a little longer.”

Deacon Lopez acknowledged the time commitment and sacrifices in family life can be very daunting.

“I am deeply impressed by how powerfully the Holy Spirit is working among the men of our diocese, allowing this to happen,” said the diaconate director, who stressed that credit for the large number of men to be ordained does not go to him personally. “This is a great gift for the whole diocese.”

Once formation begins, he said it goes quickly but the thought of committing to five years of study can be a formidable obstacle. Deacon Lopez assured, however, the rewards are tremendous.

“The way in which these 10 men are going to contribute to the life of their parishes and of the whole diocese has been deepened and strengthened by the hard work they have put in to prepare themselves to complete all of our expectations in the formation program and to grow spiritually so that they love God and love the church now more than when they began,” Deacon Lopez said.

These 10 will bring the number of active deacons in the diocese to 45.

Advice from deacons

As these 10 prepare to begin diaconal ministry, Deacon Tim Murphy of Carroll said he wanted these men to know that things might not change right away.

“Sometimes it takes a while for people to realize you are a deacon and to find your niche – ways you can help,” he noted. “It takes a while to get into the vocation. And theirs is discernment all of the time. I am still doing that.”

Deacon Murphy also suggested that the new deacons should not make any commitments without first speaking to their wives.

Ordained in 1998, Deacon Murphy serves as the diocesan director of personnel for the diaconate program. He is assigned to St. Lawrence Parish in Carroll and Holy Family Parish in Lidderdale.

“The diaconate has been a blessing in my life. It’s helped me grow in my faith and have dependence on God to help me do what I need to do,” he said. “Whether it’s serving people in the hospital in difficult situations or when I don’t have what I need – my character or skills – knowing God will provide.”

Deacon John Rudd, ordained in 2012, would like to tell the men who will soon be ordained deacons that they should be open to where the Lord takes their ministry.

“When I started in formation, I just thought I would volunteer in my own parish but now I work in Catholic parishes outside of my parish,” he said. “You have to realize that God may not just be calling you to serve your smaller area, you have to be open to serve the broader church.”

Deacon Rudd is assigned to St. Patrick Church in Estherville and Immaculate Conception Church in Graettinger.

Deacon ministry

“Deacons are ordained to be ministers of the Gospel and ministers of the cup,” Deacon Lopez said. “The ministry of the deacon in a general way and the life of a deacon even more generally is meant to be a proclamation of the good news of Jesus Christ.”

He stressed there can never be enough people proclaiming the love and mercy of Jesus Christ in the world. Being able to do this with the gifts and power of the Holy Spirit that they receive in ordination, the deacon noted, strengthens their witness.

“There is an enormous amount of ministry that needs to take place in all of our parishes and communities and the deacons can contribute a great deal to this,” Deacon Lopez said.

While parishes are organized around priestly ministries such as the Eucharist and confession, he said there is much a deacon can do in addition to proclaiming the Gospel and assisting at the altar.

The fostering of prayer, family life and basic Christian virtue, the encouragement to follow the teachings of the church and evangelize others, visiting the sick, ministering to those who are suffering and catechesis of all ages are just some of the ways deacons can minister in the parish.

“There is so much ministry that needs to be done every day and so much ministry that goes unfilled because there are not enough leaders in the church to take people where they are and bring them to Jesus Christ,” he said. “Deacons are being prepared to do that – not only for themselves but to encourage others to step up and take on those responsibilities as well.”

Deacon Lopez acknowledged that lay people can become involved and lead many ministries in the church, but often parishioners don’t feel comfortable “just going and doing it. They want someone with the authority of the church to tell them that the church needs them to do it.”

Because pastors are so busy, he said it’s helpful when deacons can take on some of the coordination and behind the scenes work of ministries under the direction of the priests.

“A good deacon extends the pastoral reach of the pastor to direct the life of the church,” said Deacon Lopez, who added with all that needs to be done, he would love to see several deacons in every parish. A goal of the diocese is to have at least one deacon per parish.

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