2016-05-28 16:14:00

Jubilee of Deacons: ordered to serve the joy of the Gospel

(Vatican Radio) This weekend here in Rome, the Church is marking the Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy in a special way with the Jubilee of Deacons. As their very title suggests – taken as it is from the Greek word for “servant”, diakonos – Deacons are ordained to a ministry of service in the Church: they proclaim the Good News liturgically, they assist priests at the Altar, and they preach to the faithful on matters pertaining to authentic Christian living. Deacons also bring the Blessed Sacrament to the sick in hospital and to the housebound: they visit prisoners, offering them both companionship and counsel; they baptize, receive the marriage vows of couples entering Holy Matrimony, and they pray for the dead.

Two Deacons from the United States, the Rev. Messrs. Doug Breckenridge and Greg Kandra, visited Vatican Radio during the course of their pilgrimage to celebrate the Jubilee of Deacons, and spoke with us about the joys and challenges of their vocation, especially in the present generation of the Church in the West, which recovered the Permanent Diaconate as a distinct ministry during and after the II Vatican Ecumenical Council.

Click below to hear our extended conversation Deacon Greg Kandra and Deacon Doug Breckenridge

“I think – and I think many people would agree with this – it is one of the great success stories of Vatican II,” said Deacon Kandra (of the Diocese of Brooklyn, NY, who, in “civilian” life, was a producer for CBS News, and who now works closely with the Catholic Near East Welfare Association and blogs at Aleteia). “In my diocese in particular,” added Deacon Breckenridge  (of the Diocese of Dallas, Tx., who made his career in the banking and finance industry, and who has been committed for several years to working with the Children's Medical Center), “there are three [Diaconate formation] classes going at once: so, every two years, they start a new class of thirty to forty men,” who undertake the roughly six-year program of formation for the Diaconate, which often takes place on nights and weekends over that six-year period.

Both Deacon Kandra and Deacon Breckenridge are married – and while there is no requirement that men in the Permanent Diaconate be married, the vast majority of men who pursue their studies to the end and accept Ordination are married when they do. “My wife was very supportive,” explained Deacon Kandra, “she and I prayed together when I was discerning this – in early 2002 – and she said, ‘I just feel this is something you are supposed to do,’ and I said, ‘I do too.’.”

Deacon Breckenridge explained that Deacons’ wives do not only play a central role in discernment, but also in ministry. “A wife can choose to have her husband taken out of formation at any time, without him knowing that his wife has asked,” said Deacon Breckenridge. He went on to say that his ministry has informed his married life. “It has deepened our relationship,” he said, “we both are more active in the Church,” since he was ordained, and Mrs. Breckenridge also contributes to her husband’s service specifically as a Deacon. “She is my best editor for my homilies,” he explained.

“We also help in all areas of marriage ministry,” Deacon Breckenridge continued, “I think it is one thing that, as a married couple, we bring,” i.e. their experience of married life, which they are happy to share with couples seeking the Sacrament of Matrimony from the Church.

“Being the wife of a Deacon is almost a vocation unto itself,” offered Deacon Kandra. “My wife is a great collaborator – a great prayer warrior,” he continued, “she makes it possible for me to do what I do.”

Deacon Kandra concluded the conversation with high praise for the Diaconate as a calling of service that is one of constant surprise and discovery. “I always say it was the second-best decision I ever made: the first one being to marry my wife,” he said. “It is such an adventure, and it is such a joy: I wake up some days and I can’t believe I get to do what I do.”

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