NEW ORLEANS — The core vocational work of permanent deacons is to evangelize and care for others, not to perform office duties, the apostolic nuncio to the United States said July 22 to more than 1,300 deacons attending the 2018 National Diaconate Congress in New Orleans.
In his post-Communion remarks at the opening Mass of the five-day gathering, Archbishop Christophe Pierre noted that St. John Paul II had declared that the “service of diaconal ministry finds its identity in evangelization.”
“Not (in) doing office work,” but in “evangelizing,” Archbishop Pierre said.
The opening Mass was celebrated in a ballroom holding 2,200 seats. Of the 18,500 permanent deacons in the U.S. — who represent more than half the worldwide total — 1,300 permanent deacons were attending the July 22-26 conference, along with their wives and children, for a record total of 2,800 attendees.
“I’m quite amazed to see so many deacons and wives of deacons,” the nuncio said, as his message from the altar was displayed to the far reaches of the room on two oversized video screens.
Recalling the 50th anniversary of the restoration of the permanent diaconate in the Latin-rite church by Blessed Paul VI through his 1968 “motu proprio” (on his own initiative) titled “Sacrum Diaconatus Ordinem,” Archbishop Pierre lauded the permanent deacons for their humble service of charity, proclaiming the word and leading the faith community in prayer.
He echoed Pope Francis’ remarks that defined permanent deacons as “pioneers of the new civilization of love.”
“This is Christ’s call, isn’t it?” Archbishop Pierre asked. “Don’t forget, the job is Jesus’. Otherwise, it is your job, your work, right? No. The work is Christ’s. It is one thing to serve at the altar. It is another to be an evangelizing force in the world.
“In my travels throughout the United States, I’ve seen how permanent deacons continue to serve through their hard work and generous service. Deacons have been able co-workers with their bishops, priests and laity in many dimension of ecclesial life, especially the apostolate works.”
Archbishop Pierre praised the deacons for their works, especially in hospital ministry. He also said the Church as a whole must do more to prepare couples for marriage and to enrich the marriages of those already married.
“We should invest more in marriage preparation,” he said.