Saturday, June 11, 2022

Deacons, the sick, and communion ministers

In our parish of Dulce Nombre de María, we have about 28 extraordinary ministers of Communion. They meet once a month, for planning and for continuing spiritual formation. I have accompanied them for several years, even before being ordained a permanent deacon. 

This morning we met. 

Our pastor, Father German, was with us for about an hour helping us plan for the celebration of Corpus Christi. Though there are many villages in our parish without communion ministers, we want to have all the parish the opportunity of Eucharistic adoration for some time during the week leading up to next Sunday’s celebration of Corpus Christi. 

In some places there will be the traditional Forty Hours celebration, forty continuos hours of adoration before the exposed Eucharist. In other places, there will be shorter times for adoration.

The ministers had already made provisional plans in their sectors to have adoration in most places for at least ten hours. They’ll have to make some changes because there will be Masses with Father German or another priest in most of the sectors of the parish to close the Forty Hours devotion. 

 After this, the pastor left for some pastoral visits to the countryside. 

During the course of the meeting, concern arose about one minister, not just because of his absence at many meetings but also for other reasons including his failure to visit the sick and elderly in his village. 

Our parish’s understanding of communion ministers is very clear. They serve at Masses; they lead Holy Hours and other Eucharistic devotion. But key to their ministry is visiting the sick and bringing them Communion. They are expected to visit all the sick, even those who do not receive Communion. If they don’t do this, their ministry in not complete. 

This is not the case in many parishes, even here in Honduras.

A young priest, who spent almost two years in our parish in a pastoral experience, then as a deacon, and finally for a few months after his priestly ordination, has shared how the communion ministers in his parish just serve at the altar.

As we discussed this, one of the communion ministers remarked that they are doing what a deacon does. 

I was pleased, even flabbergasted, that they see that the role of an ordained deacon is to serve at the table of the Lord and the bedside of the sick and the poor. And they identify their service with the order of deacons.

Central to my understanding of the diaconate is that the permanent deacon is called to be “the driving force” for the diakonia of the entire People of God, a phrase used by Both Pope Saint Paul VI and Pope Saint John Paul II. 

 In my service and in my accompanying these ministers and others, I hope to arouse in them and all the faithful a deeper desire to live out their baptismal call to diakonia, as servants. 

When I can do this, I do not feel threatened by what they do. I do not try to do everything and thus displace their living out their call. I serve in building up the Body of Christ by helping People of God see their place in the Body of Christ and live it more fully.

For all this, I am grateful to God, to the Church that called me to this ministry, and to these extraordinary minister of Communion who show me how blessed and “extra-ordinary” is the call to serve the sick.

Part of the mural on the front of the church office, by El Indio Rivera.

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