Wednesday, October 05, 2022

An integrated diaconate – the triple ministry

William Ditewig, in his most recent book, Courageous Humility: Reflections on the Church, Diakonia, and Deacons, repeats and emphasizes the teaching of the church that the ministry of the deacon is to the triple ministry of Word, Sacrament, and Charity. A deacon serves in all three dimensions, not neglecting even one of them. My last five days could be seen as a test case for this understanding of the diaconate. 

The parish’s communion ministers usually meet on the first Saturday of each month, to share concerns, to do some sharing, and for continuing formation. The pastor or I usually are in charge of the formation. I try to attend every meeting, to accompany them and to help them work through questions and concerns. This is a way to help animate their diakonia, their service rooted in our common baptism. 

This month I didn’t attend their meeting since there was the ordination of a new presbyter in the diocese. I was supposed to go with the pastor, but he sent me on ahead, since I would have to be vested for the Mass and ordination. I served as deacon at the Mass and ordination, something I have done a few times. I hastened home after the Mass, in an effort to try to catch up on domestic chores. 

Most Sunday mornings I go to a rural village for a Celebration of the Word with Communion. But I decided to spend the morning at home – reading, praying, preparing for the week.

My life has been a little hectic these past few weeks.

Monday. September 26, I returned from a whirlwind trip to our sister parish in Ames, Iowa. Tuesday, I set out for a meeting of the National Commission for Integral Ecology, a new ministry of the Honduras Conference of Bishops. I returned home on Wednesday.

These three days entailed about fourteen hours of driving. Needless to say, I was exhausted and had to catch up with the pastor, especially in light of the damages wrought by the severe rains during September. I also had laundry to do as well as some shopping for groceries.

Sunday afternoon I served as deacon at Mass in San Agustín. Before Mass, the pastor asked me if I was ready to preach! I was. But before Mass, the pastor and I met with the local church council. (Every village has a church council which is in charge of the administrative details of the local church. Padre German shared a concern about the possible extension of a gold mine onto the Cerro Quetzal, by San Agustín. The mining company has a mine in nearby San Andrés, Copán, and you can see the mine from the front steps of the church. The mining company uses a cyanide leeching process to extract the gold from the rocks. There are thus a number of serious environmental issues. In addition, the mining company dug up and moved the remains of those buried in the local cemetery of the village of Azacualpa. Father asked the council to investigate if the reports are true so that we can respond.

Monday, I was planning to accompany the pastor to two villages for Mass, one with Baptisms. He called me early in the morning asking me to go to the one village for the baptisms, since the bishop had asked him to attend to an emergency situation. I went and, in the midst of a Celebration of the Word with Communion, I baptized ten children (under 7 years of age.) I, of course, preached. But what was unusual was the location of the celebration – the local school. They are building a new church and so have to seek an alternative venue for worship. Surprisingly, it went very well. After leaving, I looked at my phone and found I had just missed a call from the parish secretary. She called and told me that the pastor wanted me to celebrate baptisms in another community that evening. Of course I said yes. So, after a short period of rest at home, I left about 4 pm for another celebration with another ten baptisms of children under 7. The next day was the feast of Saint Francis of Assisi and I had planned to accompany the pastor for two Masses. He had five Masses planned, the first one at 6:30 am in the parish center, the last in a mountain village at 6 pm. I got to two villages where I served as deacon and, to relieve the pastor, preached on Saint Francis.
I got home about 6 pm, tired but glad to have served. As I have mentioned in an earlier post, the parish has suffered much from torrential rains during September. In response to this, several communities have responded trying to help. The pastor had shown me several sacks of corn, donated by one of the communities affected by the rains. They wanted to help others in the parish who were suffering from the intense poverty which is all around us. The pastor asked me to help get the grain to families in need. I talked with people from several different parts of the parish to identify families in need and will be distributing the corn and some other provisions later this week. I also learned that some clothing had been distributed. I know that there are people who need clothing, but I dreaded having to go through the clothing. Right after the November 2020 hurricanes Eta and Iota, we got lots of clothing, much of it unsuitable or unusable. Thanks be to God, these sacks of clothing were much more suitable. The two cooks and I spent several hours today sorting the clothing. I’ll be going around the next few days to distribute the clothes and the food stuffs. I plan to do this starting tomorrow morning. But first I have to meet with two young people who are getting marriage, together with two witnesses, in the final interviews. After that, someone will pass by who needs some financial help with an operation on Friday. Such is part of the life of a missionary deacon. I also have had to contact people to cancel a meeting as well as to determine where there are needs in light of the ongoing poverty and the effects of the torrential rains. The diakonia of the Word – preaching, connecting with catechists, and more. The diakonia of the Sacrament – assisting at the altar, baptizing, accompanying the Communion ministers, interviewing couples preparing for the sacrament of matrimony and more. The diakonia of Charity – assisting with financial needs, distributing food and clothing to those in need, accompanying the pursuit of justice and the protection of our common home. There’s more that I do but this gives you an idea how one deacon tries to live out the fullness of the ordained diaconal ministry – always seeking to be a driving force for the diaconal service of all the people of God.

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