ACA: Providing diaconal and marriage ministry
By Nissa LaPoint
Archbishop’s Catholic Appeal
Deacons are often seen as the minister helping the priest at the altar who proclaims the Gospel. But there is an element of their ministry that sometimes goes unnoticed—that is their call to service.
Deacons receive the sacrament of holy orders, wear a Roman collar and carry out a ministry of word, liturgy and charity. They cannot consecrate the Eucharist or hear confessions.
Many people notice deacons in their call to liturgy and word when they assist and preach at Mass and celebrate marriages, baptisms or funeral liturgies. However, deacons are also called to minister to prisoners, the sick, migrants, the poor and the marginalized. Some faithful are unaware of this part of the deacon’s vocation.
“Most people don’t know what a deacon does (outside of the liturgy),” said Deacon George Morin Jr., pastoral associate at St. Vincent de Paul Parish in Denver.
A deacon since 2000, Deacon Morin said a vocation in the diaconate demands not only knowledge of the faith but a real desire to serve.
“I became a deacon because I wanted to serve the Church,” he said. “I believe my gift is to preach and that’s what drew me to the diaconate.”
The Denver Archdiocese has 186 deacons—active and retired—serving and ministering to the faithful. Their ministry would not be possible without the generous support of donors to the Archbishop’s Catholic Appeal (ACA), an annual campaign that supports nearly 40 archdiocesan ministries.
The archdiocese’s Diaconate Office receives a portion of the funds from the campaign—a total of $7.9 million was given to ACA last year—which assists with the many functions of the office including the continuing formation of deacons, spirituality training and ministering to the faithful.
This year, the Diaconate Office is focused on many initiatives including forming committees to assist with various ministries, furthering its formation classes and establishing a network of chaplains to serve the retired clergy of the diocese, said Deacon Joe Donohoe, director of deacon personnel.
In January, Deacon Rob Rinne, liaison for retired clergy, began working to build a chaplaincy—comprised of both priests and deacons—who will minister to retired and elderly clergy. Nearly 100 priests and deacons in the archdiocese may need to receive the sacraments if in a hospital or if ill—or they may need other kinds of assistance.
“What we’re trying to do is build a system where we can care for each other,” Deacon Rinne said. “We will represent Christ and no one will be abandoned when they’re ill.”
Marriage and Family Life Office
Another necessary ministry the ACA assists is the Marriage and Family Life Office. The ministry is focused on building the body of Christ by proclaiming the truth of God’s plan for marriage, human sexuality and family life.
Natalia and Ben Schumann benefitted from the marriage-prep program of the archdiocese—one of the functions of the office—before their November 2010 wedding. They met with their parish priest, were mentored by a married couple and attended classes on natural family planning—the Church’s approved method to achieve or avoid pregnancy using the physical means that God has built into human nature.
Through the classes and their experience as a couple, the Schumanns came to see their marriage as a witness of God’s love in the world.
“We, as a family, are able to serve the larger Church,” said Natalia Schumann, 26, who works at the Denver Archdiocese’s Pastoral Center. “Just as any sacrament, our marriage sacrament is a physical sign of God’s invisible love. So our family and our marriage should be shared with other people.”
They began to share their marriage, among other ways, by teaching a class to couples for the Marriage and Family Life Office. They spoke about unity and the ways a couple can achieve this unity through prayer, forgiveness and openness to life.
“The world and the devil really try to break into that unity in many ways,” Schumann said.
Every couple, she added, can work toward this unity and find their own way to witness to Christ.
“Ben and I feel like its part of our call to share our marriage,” she said.