On Sunday 29 September Bishop Denis celebrated Mass in The Cathedral of the Assumption, Carlow in a “Ceremony to Candidacy” for three prospective Permanent Deacons; Liam Dunne, Eugene Keyes and Vincent Crowley.
This final Sunday in September brings together many strands of Diocesan life …
… it is the first time as a diocese we are marking ‘Safeguarding Sunday’, reminding us safeguarding is everyones responsibility – safe people, safe practices, safe places, safe parishes.
… it is the Sunday when we introduce three Prospective Permanent Deacons to the diocesan community in a Ceremony of Candidacy. I warmly welcome Liam, Eugene & Vincent, their wives, families and priest friends to todays ceremony.
… it is also the Sunday the universal church marks World Day of Prayer for Migrants and Refugees. Pope Francis reminds us “the presence of migrants and refugees – and of vulnerable people in general – is an invitation to recover some of the essential dimensions of our Christian existence and our humanity that risk being overlooked in a prosperous society”.
Today’s scripture exposes economic inequality. The unsettling words of the Old Testament prophet Amos should give all of us a jolt; St. Paul reminds us what we should be doing and striving towards in living a life of faith and Luke’s gospel tells of the plight of Lazarus, the poor man and his opposite number in eternity.
We realise we all fall short. We want to do the best but so often miserably fail to even come close to our best. In the words of Pope Francis again in his spontaneous Penitential Act at the Phoenix Park Mass just over a year ago we pray for “forgiveness for all those times when, as a Church, we did not offer to the survivors of any type of abuse, compassion and persuit of justice and truth by concrete actions” and so we pray …
Figures always make for interesting reading:
- 200 people voluntarily working to ensure safeguarding standards are adhered to in every aspect of the life of our parishes.
- 8 Permanent Deacons working in our diocese, 7 of them, six years ordained, next month.
- 450 Pope John Paul II Award Recipients due to be honoured this November at two diocesan ceremonies.
- 260 Meitheal leaders working across 26 of our secondary schools, thousands of young people impacted by Meitheal over it’s 30 years of existence.
- 130 young people travelled on our most recent Diocesan Pilgrimage to Lourdes.
- 3 candidates presenting themselves after a number of years of study for admission today for candidacy for the Permanent Diaconate.
Numbers of Migrants and Refugees are harder to pin down, that too is a statement in itself. Definitions are important on a day like today. Refugees and migrants – an asylum seeker is someone who is seeking international protection but whose claim for refugee status has not yet being determined. In contract a refugee is someone whose status is recognised under the 1951 Convention relating to the status of refugees.
What we do know is we have a number of asylum seekers who languish too long in Direct Provision centres, and recent emotive commentary around the location of these centres, does nothing for the direct provision system or the communities within which they are located. Direct Provision is far from ideal, but is never a threat to local communities as evidenced in the successful operation of a number of these centres across our diocese. That does not preclude an honest debate and discussion around their location, their capacity, long before the first residents arrive. Issues of trauma counselling, language tuition, school provision, accessing social services should be put in place before a centre is ever opened.
The prophet Amos in our first reading and the plight of Lazarus in our gospel cause us to reflect on social justice issues this Sunday. The have’s and have nots. Those who suffered abuse and for too long had their stories unheard, unbelieved, unregistered – this cannot be allowed to continue. I am truly, truly sorry, but I also realise sometimes saying sorry isn’t enough. On this our first Diocesan Safeguarding Sunday, I once again reiterate our commitment to apply best practice of safeguarding to every aspect of diocesan life.
The introduction of the Permanent Diaconate into the life of our diocese in recent years has made a great and distinctive difference in many of our parishes. The origins of the diaconate are to be found in the words and actions of Jesus “who came not to be served but to serve” and who explicitly gave this service as an example to those who gathered with him at the Last Supper. We totally betray a lack of understanding of the diaconate if we see it in terms of dealing with the current lack of vocations and consequent reduction in priest numbers in the coming years.
The first duty of a Permanent Deacon is to his wife and family and that is why the presence of the wives and families at todays Candidacy Ceremony is so important. The Permanent Deacon becomes the bridge between the sanctuary and the wider world; the interface between the secular and the sacred. Today’s readings bring the ministry of the deacon to life, promoting the social doctrine of the Church, sometimes seen as the Church’s best secret. The Church on the side of Lazarus; the Church campaigning with Amos; the Church standing with migrants and refugees; the Church listening to victims of abuse of position or power. “It is here that deacons will find undreamed of opportunities for ministry, for care, for love, for sacraments, for prayer, for Jesus Christ himself”.
A deacon rightly carries with him parish duties and diocesan duties. In the coming months, with the impending ordination next June of Liam, Eugene & Vincent, I look forward to reflecting with all our deacons on their current appointment and how best to nourish their ministry into the future. The deacon is called from amongst the people to serve and part of that service is participation in the liturgy and a recognised presence in the community. The number of priests at a liturgical celebration should in no way ever obviate the need for the liturgical ministry of the deacon, equally the deacon should always complement rather than replace a well-developed structure of lay ministry. Let us now pray for Liam, Eugene and Vincent as they move a step closer on their journey to becoming Permanent Deacons for service in the diocese …
 Pope Francis, Message for Migrants & Refugees 2019
 Pope Francis, Penitential Act, WMOF2018 Mass in Phoenix Park, 26.08.18
 Mt. 20:28
 Ó Maoldhomhnaigh, Conn: ‘The Permanent Deacon – A Symbol of Service’, MA Dissertation, 1996, pg. 63