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Deacons’ Council Minutes
September 15, 2004

Present:  Deacons Donoghue, Bulpett, Crimmins, Hardcastle, Hickey, Messina, Shanahan, Whipple, and Wildes

            Deacon Frank Tremblay was also present for the meeting.

Absent:  Deacons Canova*, Delaney*, Goldy, Guerrini, Menz*, Morel, Ryan*,  and Santosuosso

            * Deacons Delaney and Ryan had informed the Director that they would be unable to attend. Deacons Canova and Menz understand that their service ended after they completed two years on the Council.



            Before the meeting formally started, Deacon Donoghue called the attention of those present to three books and passed a copy of each around for them to view:

He felt that  they would be useful not only for deacons personally but also as resources in recruiting potential candidates.

1. Opening Prayer.

Deacon Donoghue began the meeting at 7:10 p.m. He referred to today’s memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows and noted that her sorrows were those of one who loves. One only avoids sorrow by avoiding involvement. He concluded with the prayer for the Memorial from the Liturgy of the Hours and the opening of Mass.

2. Mentoring Newly Ordained.

            Deacon Messina stated that he was concerned about deacons who find themselves assigned in difficult situations. He noted that the draft Directory calls for a three-year program of ongoing formation for newly ordained deacons and distributed copies of an article titled “Mentoring Newly Ordained Permanent Deacons,” adapted by Deacon Thomas C. Welch from an article by Rev. Raymond J. Webb in the Spring, 1999, issue of Seminary Journal.

            He said that there are 14 candidates to be ordained next Saturday, and in response to a previous request there are 17 volunteers to serve as mentors for them. The mentoring is expected to follow a simple approach: to “be there for them.” The mentors should be in contact with their neophytes monthly. After three or four months they will meet with Deacon Messina to define the program as it will go forward. A letter outlining these procedures will be mailed to the mentors in a day or two.

            Deacon Bulpett recalled the Emmaus Program, in which the Diaconate participated shortly after his ordination, as serving a similar purpose. Deacon Messina noted that in the early days there were also fraternities, some of which have kept going while others faded. Some fraternities were based on ordination class and others on area of residence. Deacon Hickey agreed that both the Emmaus program and fraternities sustained many deacons by enabling them to avoid feeling alone.

            Deacon Messina stated that he and the rest of the office are available to deacons. Deacon Wildes observed that as Associate Director he had felt he was a minister to ministers. He added that spiritual directors can also be helpful.

            Deacon Tremblay inquired whether recently ordained deacons would be appropriate mentors. Deacon Messina replied that a certain amount of experience as a deacon is needed.

            Deacon Tremblay then asked if mentors would have helped in cases of difficulty for newly ordained deacons in earlier years. Deacon Messina answered, “Absolutely.”

            Deacon Shanahan arrived at this point.

3. Parish Closings: Deacons Affected.

            A list was provided identifying each deacon assigned to a parish which has been designated to close. The list includes the names and locations of the closing parishes and the telephone numbers and, where available, the e-mail addresses of the deacons.

            Deacon Donoghue remarked that most deacons have been helpful in regard to the closings; a few have not. He also felt that some things have not been well handled by the archdiocese, e.g., with respect to welcoming parishes.

            Deacon Hardcastle suggested that deacons should be reassigned where they are wanted. Deacons Donoghue and Messina said that in many cases they are going to the parishes that the people are going to, but in other cases the new parish is not a good fit.

            Deacon Shanahan asked about the redrawing of parish lines. Deacon Donoghue said the Kathleen Heck in her presentations shows people what the new lines are.

            Several deacons commented that instances where two parishes were closed and a new one erected were problematic.

            Deacon Bulpett felt that the archdiocese was not handling the closings well. For example, inventories were taken during Masses.

            Deacon Shanahan noted that the people are poorly formed in ecclesiology. Deacon Whipple added that there is poor communication from the archdiocese to the people.

            Deacon Donoghue said that while it is important to let people vent, it is not easy to do so.

4. Class of 2008.

Deacon Donoghue reported that 17 of 43 applicants had been accepted as aspirants for the Class of 2008. He had distributed a list of their names, their wives’ names, — all are married — their telephone numbers, and their addresses. He noted that the average age of this class was fairly young (but did not present a precise figure).

5. Formation Team: Rev. Chris Kirwan.

            Fr. Chris Kirwan will work with the Spanish-language program. Deacon Donoghue noted that, contrary to his and others’ expectations that the need for a Spanish language program would be fading away as more Hispanics became familiar with English, in fact Hispanic immigration is continuing and it is new immigrants who are applicants. So the aspirancy year for Spanish-speaking applicants will be in Spanish. There will be an ESL component in order to mainstream the Hispanic candidates in the later years. As with the diocese, the goal here is immersion and unity, rather than continued separation.

            Deacon Hickey recalled that during his formation even when both groups were on break at the same time, each group kept generally separate from the other, which he considers regrettable.

6. Bicentennial Ideas?

            Deacon Donoghue stated that there had been some responses to the recent request for suggestions. He would like to redo the Emmaus program or something similar. The archdiocesan bicentennial will probably be a year of prayer in some way. In addition to these, possibly we could create a network of archdiocesan ministries of charity which would make it possible, when people come forward with a need, to refer them to a deacon in the area who could assist them in finding a way to fill the need.

            Deacon Messina added that the idea would not be to have, for example, a diaconate food bank, but for the diaconate to be a resource to provide referrals to those who can provide assistance. For example, deacons could be a resource for food drives. Deacon Donoghue mentioned Project Bread, which will take donations to the food pantry which the donor designates. Deacon Messina gave the further example of the work of Deacon John McDonough in collecting such necessities as blankets and rice.

            Deacon Wildes observed that a lot is going on of which we are currently unaware, as was the case with Deacon Frank Mandosa’s involvement with the Arlington Food Bank.

            Deacon Messina noted that the hope was to have something that would be regional or diocesan wide. Deacon Donoghue added that something like a food network would have the advantage of raising awareness of the diaconate as a charitable ministry. Deacon Messina mentioned that because of the service nature of diaconate, some dioceses do not assign deacons to parishes.

7. Deacon Convocation.

            Deacon Donoghue announced that May 7, 2005, is the date of the convocation. He is working with Fr. Jim Mahoney, the Director of Clergy Ongoing Support. When the question of location arose, Fr. Mahoney said, “Have it in a hotel.” Bill Ditewig has agreed to speak, and Archbishop Seán is scheduled to come. The convocation is intended to include time for a continuing education component and for us to come together and celebrate who we are. It will also be an occasion to recognize the major anniversary classes and deceased members of the diaconate community; and as such it replaces the Mass for the deceased and the luncheon for the anniversary classes.

8. Open Discussion.

            Deacon Tremblay he had three concerns which had arisen over the past year.

First, he wondered if the Deacons’ Council functioned like the Presbyteral Council, and, if not, should it do so or should there be such a body? This question arose because his spiritual director suggested that he write the bishop regarding the other two concerns. It seems to Deacon Tremblay that there should be an official sounding board through which the diaconate can communicate with the archbishop.

Several deacons indicated that the two bodies do not function alike. Deacon Donoghue added that it would, however, be consistent with the Archbishop’s agenda for the Deacons’ Council to function like the Presbyteral Council.

[Note: The presbyteral council is called for, and its role is set forth, by the Code of Canon Law. Canon Law does not require a deacons’ council; its existence and functions seem to be at the discretion of the diocesan bishop, who is, therefore, free to give the council the role he wishes it to have.  — J.E.W.]

Second, Deacon Tremblay said that he had been asked to run the RCIA program in his parish. He considers it a good program, but we aren’t doing anything to get people into it. He wonders how we can evangelize. There is at present no support mechanism in the archdiocese. Could there be a diocesan data base which could provide material for a brochure, such as articles on RCIA, and give guidance on how to evangelize in the parish or town.

Deacon Hardcastle said that his first focus was to bring back inactive Catholics. He feels that it is important to be a doer rather than a talker — letting one’s example attract others.

Deacon Hickey said that his parish has an Evangelization Committee, and there is a “Welcome Home” sign on the church.

Deacon Whipple felt that in determining what can be done in a parish much depends on the pastor and his attitude toward evangelizing activities

Deacon Tremblay wondered if the Archbishop is aware that the Office for Evangelization was closed.

Deacon Donoghue commented that the mindset of deacons is significant. Deacon Hardcastle replied that in many instances treading water is the mindset, rather than establishing new programs.

Deacon Messina stated that the deacon is in a unique position at this point to help stem the tide of defections from the Church, to keep folks from falling away.

Deacon Wildes noted that over the years there has never been a large volume of converts in his parish. He finds that success comes by asking people: there was a non-Catholic wife of a Catholic who said she had never considered joining the Church because “nobody ever asked” if she would consider it. Deacon Bulpett reported a similar instance in which a Methodist husband of a Catholic had been afraid of his sister’s reaction to his joining the Church.

Deacon Whipple recommended the book Creating the Evangelizing Parish by DeSiano and Boyack, Paulist Press.

Third, Deacon Tremblay regretted the charging of tuition for deacon candidates during formation. He noted that there is a scholarship fund for seminarians and wondered why there is not one for deacons.

Deacon Hickey mentioned that the Milwaukee Archdiocese gives each deacon $300 on account with the diocese, to be spent on educational programs. He also remarked that the Hartford Deacons’ Council works well; but it seems that in many places there is fear of a labor union forming from a council.

Deacon Donoghue stated that the tuition provides $30,000 of income. The office makes strenuous efforts to assure aspirants that if tuition is problematic, it will not stand in the way of their possible vocation.

Returning to Deacon Tremblay’s first area of concern, Deacon Donoghue said that there should be a vehicle for deacons to address the archbishop, and he believes that Archbishop Seán also wants it.

On the second topic, Deacon Shanahan said that evangelization had been a concern of his for many years. He called attention to the National Catholic Evangelization Center and stressed that it is important to keep inviting people back. The Pope’s encyclical on evangelization defined the term in such a way that it includes everything believers do [apart from sin].

Deacon Wildes recalled that Cardinal Medeiros had a three-year evangelization program and that Bishop Ruocco had put it that “Evangelization is making Jesus better known.”

Deacon Bulpett asked if the election of new members of the council is still going on. Deacon Donoghue replied that it is still in process.

Deacon Bulpett mentioned that the book, Eats, Shoots and Leaves, by Lynne Truss, contains many references to the Bible, which was originally written without punctuation: in some cases the modern translator’s choice of punctuation can affect the meaning of a passage.

Deacon Hickey said that the NCDC meeting in Baltimore over the July 4 weekend was very good but poorly attended. At their November meeting the bishops will discuss whether to continue it. He also noted that the NDICE has moved its meetings from Notre Dame to Cincinnati. It is a good organization, better known in the Midwest than on the East Coast. There are also regional organizations for continuing education in the Southwest.

9. Next Meeting.

            The next meeting of the Council will be Wednesday, December 15. Subsequent meetings for this year will be March 16, 2005, and June 15 – both Wednesdays.

The meeting adjourned at 9:10.

                                                                                                Respectfully submitted,

                                                                                                (Deacon) John E. Whipple, Secretary

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