It will give me great pleasure to ordain 27 candidates to the Order of Deacon at the Cathedral Shrine of the Virgin of Guadalupe on the first two Saturdays of February. Fourteen of the men will receive the Sacrament of Orders on Saturday, February 2 and thirteen will be ordained on Saturday, February 9. The ordination class of 27 men reflects the diversity of the diocese. Three are Vietnamese, two Hispanic, one Chinese and one Korean. In 2011, twenty-nine Hispanic deacons were ordained.
Permanent deacons are an important part of the clergy of the Church of Dallas. Restoration of the diaconate as a regular ministry in the Church, in my opinion, was one of the most significant changes made by the Second Vatican Council.
On June 18, 1967, Pope Paul VI restored the permanent diaconate in the Catholic Church by Motu Proprio. Permanent deacons were an active ministry in the early Church and into the Middle Ages. St. Francis of Assisi and St. Lawrence were among the most famous of the early permanent deacons. The order, as a separate ministry, fell into disuse and the diaconate became a step on the way to the priesthood until the Second Vatican Council.
Forty years ago this year, the first two permanent deacons were ordained for the Diocese of Dallas by Bishop Thomas Tschoepe. Since that time 263 men have been ordained to the permanent diaconate in Dallas. Some have retired, others moved out of the diocese and many have died.
Candidates for the permanent diaconate undergo more than five years of formation. The Diocese of Dallas’ formation program is considered one of the strongest in the country. It is conducted in cooperation with the School of Ministry of the University of Dallas.
Deacons fill many roles in the diocese. Most of our deacons have full time positions in addition to their ministry, but others work full time for the dioceses and some parishes.
A new class is now being formed. Invitations to start the Aspirancy Path of Diaconate Formation were sent to 51 men who recently went through a three month process of inquiry and discernment. Those who accept the invitation and continue through formation will be ordained in the spring of 2018.
Our deacons are a great gift to the Church. I often wonder how we did without them.