CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Sunday, 1 September 2019

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Deacons welcome but misunderstood

HONG KONG (UCAN): Hong Kong was the first Latin-rite diocese in Asia to begin promoting the permanent diaconate in 1997 and a survey carried out by the Hong Kong diocese reveals that parishioners accept permanent deacons, but do not fully understand their ministry.
Conducted by the Catholic Studies Centre of the Chinese University of Hong Kong over a three-year period, the results of the survey were released April 23 with the expectation of a more detailed version coming in June.
Over 4,000 people, as well as clergy, deacons, sisters and seminarians were interviewed in compiling the results.
“The latest survey is the first research on the ministry since the last one was done 25 years ago in 1992 when the ministry was under preparation,” Father Dominic Chan Chi-ming, the vicar general of the diocese, explained.
“We feel grateful now that well over 90 per cent of the clergy and people have accepted laymen to become permanent deacons. Less than 20 per cent of the clergy accepted this in 1992,” he commented.
Although 70 per cent of respondents welcome the permanent deacons to their parishes, Father Louis Ha Ke-loon, the head of the research project, suggested more education is needed as many of those interviewed said they did not know many details about the diaconate ministry.
“The lay respondents thought that there was not much difference between a permanent deacon and lay Church workers as they do similar tasks. This shows that they do not have a clear vision of the ministry devised in the Second Vatican Council,” he said.
The permanent diaconate is an ordained ministry in the Catholic Church with three essential functions: the proclamation of the gospel, service of the liturgy and the administration of charitable works.
There are more than 44,000 permanent deacons worldwide, with most of them in western countries.
At present, Hong Kong has 21 active deacons and six candidates. “Growth is steady with two to three new applicants every year,” Father Chan, the chairperson of the Permanent Deacon Commission, said.
“The applicants have to be over 40-years-old. Currently, the deacons are all married men, but they are not all retirees as we don’t want to create the impression that it is a second career for retired Catholics,” he explained.
The deacons serve in parish and charitable services, with 50 per cent of them involved in prison chaplaincy, funeral services, care of elderly people and pastoral ministry to married couples and families.
They also share their experience with Chinese Catholic communities that are interested in the ministry in places like Macau, mainland China and Taiwan.

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