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For over forty years, since quite soon after Pope Paul VI implemented the Second Vatican Council's directive to restore the Order of Deacons as a permanent and stable ministry, we have had deacons ministering in our parishes and schools and a thousand other places. Still people come up to me and ask, “What is a Deacon? What can you do that the average Catholic in the pew can't?” The best way to answer that is to look at the source of all our ministry, Jesus Christ Himself. At the Last Supper He commissioned His Apostles to do three things. In John 17 :17-21 we read that Jesus asks the Father to consecrate the Apostles in truth so that the world might be believe that the Father has sent Him. They are to proclaim the Gospel. In Matthew 26, Mark 14, and Luke 22, He told them to take bread and wine and “Do this in memory of me”, offering perfect worship to the Father by recalling Jesus's Passion, Death, and Resurrection. And in John 13, Jesus takes on the lowly task of washing the disciples feet showing that they must serve as He served. The Bishops of the Church, by the commission of Jesus Christ through the ministry of the Apostles, exercise this three-fold ministry of Word, Liturgy, and Service. Each Bishop serves a local Church as its chief administrator. He sanctifies the Church as its chief liturgist and celebrant of the sacraments. And he teaches the Church as the principal teacher and proclaimer of the Gospel. But as we read in Acts 6, very quickly the Apostles saw that they needed help in fulfilling the ministry. Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit they chose 7 men to be their assistants in the distribution of food to the widows and orphans in the Jerusalem Church. Tradition sees these men as the first Deacons. The Bishop calls some men to be priests, his collaborators in the ministry of governing, sanctifying, and teaching, to shepherd the parishes which are the house churches of the one Church of Austin. Configured sacramentally to Christ the Priest, they offer the One Sacrifice for the whole Church. Deacons – the word comes from the Greek _diakonos_, meaning “servant” – are sacramentally configured to Christ the Servant. Deacons are to serve the Church by assisting the Bishop and his priests as needed and in direct ministry to the whole Church. Deacons seek out the under-served. They find unmet needs and fill them. Deacons are not “Priests-Lite”. As Fr. Joe Komonchak, professor at Catholic University and a keen historian of the Council was wont to observe, "Vatican II didn't renew the diaconate because of a shortage of priests but because of a shortage of deacons." For the Church to be fully itself, it must have all three orders of Apostolic ministry functioning together in harmony. So what do deacons do, besides the things you see us do, assisting at the altar, officiating marriages, and baptizing babies: Deacons teach. They counsel couples having difficulty with their marriages. They do marriage preparation. They help prepare annulment cases. They minister in jails, and hospitals, and nursing homes. They ride with the Mobile Loaves & Fishes trucks. They visit people in financial need for St. Vincent de Paul. In squad cars and fire engines, they ride with police and fire fighters to be a spiritual support in the midst of the first responders' chaos and danger. The ministry is helping a single mother with two small children find the money to pay the rent or the electrical bill because the collector has come knocking on the door. It may be counseling, mentoring, and cajoling someone through the spiritual healing process of filling out the annulment paperwork. It is sometimes sitting with the weeping young wife and her hostile husband. She wants a baby and he wants a divorce. He's afraid he can't handle the responsibility of a child. The ministry is varied and a source of spiritual joy beyond description. _As each one has received a gift, use it to serve one another as good stewards of God’s varied grace. Whoever preaches, let it be with the words of God; whoever serves, let it be with the strength that God supplies, so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ to whom belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen._ (1 Pt 4:10-11)

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