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Deacons’ Council Minutes

May 23, 2006

Present: Cardinal Seán; Deacons Donoghue, Guerrini, Hardcastle, Pepi, Delaney, Shanahan, Spiri, Straub, Koffel, and Whipple

1. Opening Prayer

Deacon Donoghue began the meeting at 7:50 p.m. He welcomed Cardinal Seán, who led the opening prayer.

2. Formation Report

Deacon Donoghue updated us regarding the new formation guidelines for permanent diaconate candidates, which emphasize the human, pastoral, and spiritual aspects of the deacon. In order to best implement the new program and retool the old, the incoming class of 2006 is delayed until September of 2007. There are 30 aspirants (not yet candidates) for the new class. The ensuing time will help to prepare for course evaluation, Saturday sessions, formation development, etc. Deacon Donoghue emphasized that the decision for the delay was based on formation and not financial matters. Cardinal Seán thought it would be good to keep candidates involved during the current year to maintain connection, perhaps offering a day of recollection. The class is potentially quite large in number; candidates will be informed this summer.

3. Office of Clergy Support and Ongoing Formation

Deacon Delio was unable to be in attendance this evening. Deacon Delio is working on a survey to be sent to all deacons, as earlier minutes have noted.

4. Cardinal Seán

Cardinal Seán remarked that the financial transparency report went over quite well. He will be meeting shortly with the pastoral planning committee to project needs for personnel and finances.

The Cardinal noted four priorities in which he sees the future role of the deacon:

  1. Parishes are becoming increasingly difficult to staff due to the priest shortage and aging clergy. He suggested at some point deacons may be called as parish administrators in light of this.

  2. A sense of vocation is needed for married partners. Fewer people are getting married. Deacons and their wives might assist in marriage preparation to promote this.

  3. There is a great need for both adolescent and young adult formation, particularly after Confirmation. Cardinal Sean noted a sense of piety present among youth that we need to tap.

  4. The Cardinal would like to launch and evangelization outreach to adults and inactive Catholics or unchurched in particular. One particular program meeting with success is called RENEW. Deacons and their wives can help in this regard. Approximately 24% of the US population is Catholic, but only 33% attend Mass, and in Boston it is closer to 20%. The Cardinal noted that large dioceses have trouble maintaining high numbers, whereas in the South a small diocese may result in almost 75% participation. Deacon Shanahan inquired about a census possibility, and the Cardinal noted this is a good start but evangelization is a big initiative and needs much planning, follow up, and committed groups. RENEW has met with much success in New Jersey. More information will likely be made available this Fall. An alternative program being used by some is called ALPHA. The cardinal offered that people need to be asked and they will respond.

Cardinal Seán mentioned that 2008 would be the Boston diocese’s 200th year, as it will be for Philadelphia. A long shot visit to the US by Pope Benedict was a possibility at that time.

5. Regional Reports

Deacons Koffel and Spiri reported on the west region’s third meeting. Fifteen deacons were in attendance. Bishop Edyvean has been supportive. A discussion ensued on ways to get more attendance, including topics, speakers, etc. The West Region has taken good initiative in setting agenda, evening prayer, general discussion, and providing food.

While those from recent classes were more likely to join fraternity groups, Deacon Delaney noted that the senior deacons are alive and well and do meet on occasion, including a recent cluster meeting with deacons and wives in attendance.

Deacon Pepi had inquired by email of the Merrimack deacons regarding desire for fraternity meetings. Several responses indicated some groups meeting in particular with classmates, but many felt wider cluster groups (esp. from newly ordained to hear experiences of seasoned deacons) on a monthly/quarterly basis and less frequent but annual/semiannual regional meetings would be helpful and desirable.

Deacon Hardcastle reported that Bishop Irwin has been supportive of the North regional meetings.

Deacons Guerrini and Straub reported that the Central region has had difficulty in getting meetings together; an invite of 22 deacons resulted in an attendance of 4. A discussion ensued as to best way to get Hispanic/Latino deacons involved; there has been a sense of ordination specifically for the Spanish, but Deacon Straub felt that sense changing recently and more integration possible.

Cardinal Sean interjected that personal invitations might be more effective than e-mail in increasing attendance.

6. Other Business

a) An inquiry was made as to status of photo ID’s for deacons taken this past year; these have been delayed pending the decision on the Diaconate formation program but should be available in some short time.

b) Deacon Pepi inquired of the status of Deacon Delio’s initiative for a survey to be sent to all deacons; this was believed to be on track for distribution some time this year.

c) Deacon Donoghue reported that Deacon Rizzuto requested the help of deacons to gently persuade pastors to reinforce the Talking About Touching (TAT) initiative to elementary grades as part of the religious education program. Fifty percent of parishes have still not participated. Deacon Pepi noted that his parish has trained hundreds of adults through the CAP program that was very successful but the TAT program was meeting resistance from teachers and parents. Deacon Hardcastle and Deacon Straub noted the same, and Deacon Hardcastle mentioned the public schools were addressing such a component on safety. Deacon Pepi noted that his parish has been using a very successful sexuality program for Junior High students over the past 12 years, with a TAT component added over 6 years ago. This has met with great acclamation from both parents and students, with a 90% success rate, and seemed a good alternative rather than introducing at such an early age level. Cardinal Sean encouraged dissemination of the junior high program to the office of Child Advocacy, but stressed this was also necessary for the younger grades, since schools were not teaching safety and the Church has a responsibility now to do so. Deacon Whipple felt that we need to reach the children early, prior to adolescence, to prevent sexual abuse more commonly seen in families. Deacon Pepi noted that with all the good work the church has done to eradicate sexual abuse, it was sad to see others focused on the TAT component compliance rather than emphasizing the positive outcomes of the past two years. Cardinal Sean affirmed that the Church has done more than most all other organizations in child abuse prevention and education programs.

d) Deacon Koffel noted that the Bridgeport Diocese guidelines and liturgical role for deacons, recently sent by Deacon Donoghue, was well received, and all agreed this to be a useful document that all should review.

7. Next Meeting

The next meeting of the Council was not determined, but would likely occur in the fall of 2006.

The meeting adjourned at 9:14 PM

Respectfully submitted,
(Deacon) John W. Pepi

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