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Hong Kong throws weight behind permanent diaconate in Taiwan

TAIPEI (Agencies): The bishops of Taiwan invited Father Dominic Chan Chi-mingand two permanent deacons from Hong Kong, Reverend Paul Yeow Yau-hung and Reverend Joseph Sung Wan-lung, to take part in a pilot training programme on the permanent diaconate in Taipei on July 28 and 29.

They were invited to share the experience of the diaconate in the diocese over the past 20 years.

Archbishop John Hung Shan-chuan, from the host city of Taipei, pointed out that Vatican II had reintroduced the age-old permanent deaconate as a sign of the full breadth of the sacrament of holy orders and as a sign of respect for the varying graces and vocations given by God to the Church.

The archbishop pointed out that the ministry of deacon was a practice in the early Church and he said that he sees an historical value in beginning the ministry in Taiwan during the 50th anniversary celebrations of the council.

He stressed that permanent deacons are not little priests or merely a backup for priests, but have a vocation in their own right to bring out the full richness of the sacraments and the innate value of charity more clearly.

Over 100 people from across the seven dioceses in Taiwan attended the two-day seminar organised by the vicar general of Taipei, Father Roch Chaw.

Father Chan pointed out that the introduction of the permanent deaconate in Hong Kong was not smooth sailing, as in 1988, when it was first mooted, 80 per cent of the priests in the diocese were against it.

However, he stressed that what was far more important was that 80 per cent of the laity were in favour of the programme.

Reverend Yeow said that there is still a lot of ignorance about permanent deacons, as some people view them as sub-priests and others as superior lay people.

He pointed out that their true vocation is to serve and participate in the management of parish pastoral programmes, as well as being part of the outreach of various ministries.

Reverend Sung added that they also have a specific liturgical role, both in the Mass and as a Church witness at weddings and minister of baptism.

In addition, they play an important role in administration and education, as they usually have professional backgrounds that qualify them well for these jobs.

Reverend Yeow pointed out that permanent deacons add a further dimension to the sacrament of holy orders, as they are mostly family men.

His wife, Yeow Yeu-hung, said that her husband’s vocation is very much a family affair and that praying for him in his ministry, giving joyful support and accompaniment are all vital.

She added that one of her most important roles is being a good listener.

Father Chan attacked another myth in saying that the diaconate is not a job for people who have retired, but is a vocation in its own right in the service of the people of God and proclaiming the word of God.

He added that historically, they were assistants to bishops and priests during the celebration of liturgies, explaining that in this way, they helped people to find their own place in the Church.

Father Chan went on to say that the experience in Hong Kong has seen deacons emerge as volunteers, who work for little or no financial recompense.

He said that it involves taking part in a three-to five-year formation programme and that candidates must have a background in taking an active role in the liturgy as a reader or Eucharistic minister.

Father Chan invited people from Taiwan to join a reflection on the formation of permanent deacons to be held in Hong Kong on 16 November 2013.

Hong Kong has 14 permanent deacons, one of whom is not married and has worked extensively in the prison ministry.

The Chinese Regional Bishops’ Conference decided to begin the programme in Taiwan and Father Chan pledged the support of Hong Kong during its development.

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