CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 8 December 2018

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Deacons Jubilee

The Vatican has launched a three-day celebration to lead up to the day of Jubilee for Deacons, which is marked on May 29.

It is a celebration for permanent deacons the world over and timed to coincide with the Jubilee of Mercy. Deacons and their families from a variety of places have been invited to Rome to be part of the three-day programme, which includes a meeting of deacons and their families, catechesis, a few seminars, sacramental liturgies and a pilgrimage.

The motto of the jubilee year, Merciful like the Father, is a good guideline for deacons in their daily ministries. In his letter proclaiming the year, Pope Francis wrote, “Mercy is the very foundation of the Church’s life.”

Here he is promoting mercy as the most needed and the greatest witness of ministry, especially among the poorest and weakest of our brothers and sisters.

Hong Kong is organising its own programme. A variety of activities prepared by the Diocesan Commission for Permanent Diaconate and Jubilee Year of Mercy Task Group will take place around the city.

Planning to establish the ministry of the permanent diaconate began in 1993 and the commission was set up in 1996. The following year the first two deacons were ordained.

In the last 20 years, 26 permanent deacons, three of whom have now completed their journeys on earth, have joined the group.

With the exclusion of four who are reaching retirement age, there are currently 19 serving in parishes and other ministries.

The development of the permanent diaconate in Hong Kong has been fairly rapid and its future is promising. However, what cannot be ignored is that the recognition of deacons among rank and file Catholics, and even some clergy, is in bad need of development.

Maybe 20 years is too short a time to develop a recognisable culture for the permanent diaconate within the Church. Encounters can be superficial and lack holistic understanding, leaving the programme at the finding-its-feet stage. It is maybe hard to understand or accept a part-time clergy.

Permanent deacons have the dual vocation of marriage and holy orders: commitment to family and Church community. It can be a difficult juggling act and recognition should be given to the generosity of the deacons’ families, as the vocation has a profound effect on family life.

May 29 marks the 20th anniversary of the establishment of the office in the diocese and is a call to deacons to reflect on their role within the Church to discover their own being within the traditional history of the Church and within the theology of the sacrament of the holy orders, in order to play a vibrant role in liturgies and service.

We must thank God for his care over the past years and the gift of the permanent diaconate, but also remember that the commitment of the deacons to their service needs our support, acceptance, encouragement and trust.

It is a good opportunity to think of ways to boost their morale and bring out the spirit of communion within the one sheepfold, under one shepherd. SE