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Bishop Denis leads Celebration of the Permanent Diaconate

Bishop Denis celebrated Mass in the Cathedral of the Assumption, Carlow on Sunday 28th October to mark the 5th anniversary of the Ordination of the first seven permanent deacons in Kildare and Leighlin and to also celebrate the introduction of the diaconate to the Diocese.


Just over ten hours ago the clocks went back an hour. As children we loved a night like last night, we could stay up an hour longer or so we thought. An hour longer in bed seemed such a waste, mind you the older we got, the more precious that hour became.

Into the darkness of our winter time is plunged this little known character Bartimaeus, the son of Timaeus, ”Bar” is the semitic-Greek for “son of”. He uses similiar language as Jesus passes, as he persistently shouts:  “Son of David, Jesus, have pity on me[1]. That was on the side of the road outside Jericho! The blind Bartimaeus saw, not with his eyes, because he couldn’t but with his heart.

I have chosen this particular Sunday to commend publicly the contribution the Permanent Diaconate makes to the life of our diocese. Today I am delighted we are joined by so many of the deacons, their wives and families. I welcome:

John Dunleavy and his wife Rosemary,
Gary Moore and his wife Dolores,
David O’Flaherty and his wife Maria,
Fergal O’Neill and his wife Mary,
Joe O’Rourke and his wife Philomena,
Pat Roche and his wife Mairead,
Jim Stowe and his wife Carmel,
Paul Wyer and his wife Maura.

And our candidates currently in formation for the Permanent Diaconate:

Vincent Crowley and his wife Cecilia,
Liam Dunne and his wife Ann,
Eugene Keyes and his wife Evelyn.

The diaconate is an ordained ministry, rooted in scripture. In the days of the Acts of the Apostles, seven were chosen to look after the overlooked needs of the community. It is ten years ago[2] since applications were invited here in the diocese towards this ordained ministry. It is appropriate we gather ten years on to celebrate the introduction of the Permanent Diaconate into the life of our church and for us in Kildare & Leighlin into the life of our diocese. The deacon should always have his eyes open for the one sitting on the side of the road outside Jericho, the deacon should have his eyes open to see Bartimaeus and his ears open to hear his cry for help.

How equally appropriate this Sunday we are joined by members from Viatores Christi whose mission it is to volunteer for a just world, highlighting issues of poverty, inequality, exploitation and injustice. Their presence reminds us this eyes and ears open bit isn’t simply the reserve of the deacons but of all of us. We look forward to their address after Holy Communion. The Christian calling is to all of us baptised followers of Christ, for failing to see with our eyes and hear with our ears, we pray for God’s love and mercy …


The Word Wheel in the Irish Independent is one thing you either work out in the immediate there and then or it eludes you completely! The clue sometime back was ‘BEGGAR’ and the nine-letter word hidden within the quadrants of the wheel was MENDICANT. The dictionary strictly defines ‘Mendicant’ as begging and associates it very much with friars who lived solely on alms – mendicant friars they were called!

Well Bartimaeus was no mendicant friar but he was a beggar and he was like many, sitting at the side of the road. We’re too busy sometimes to see who or what is at the side of the road, there’s always somewhere to go, something to do, someone to see. Isn’t it true? Bartimaeus was familiar with whatever happened on the side of the road, blind – he was ostracised by society, he was always left at the side to deal with the gullies, the bins and the kerbs. And for those of us fully sighted, cover your eyes and see how you get on walking the streets of Carlow this afternoon as the day light hours fade on this the first darker evening of winter time.

It is ten years since applications were invited for the Permanent Diaconate here in Kildare & Leighlin. We were through the leadership and vision of my predessor Bishop Jim Moriarty, very quick out of the traps so to speak. Other dioceses have come very late to the table and still some dioceses have yet to introduce this essential ministry that simply reflects the true nature of the Church as a community of disciples working together, respecting the charism of each. Priests, deacons, female and male religious, parish pastoral workers, lay men and women all have distinct charisms that build up this community of disciples; the permanent diaconate is just one of those charisms but an essential one in the life of the community.

In Ireland today there must be well over 100 Permanent Deacons in ministry, in the coming years, there will be many more. Only two weeks ago we had the ordination of nine Permanent Deacons in Down and Connor Diocese, a few weeks earlier there was an ordination ceremony in Clogher Diocese.

Today I want to publicly acknowledge the contribution the Director of the Permanent Diaconate and your Formation makes to the roll out of this ministry in our diocese, Fr. Ruairí Ó Domhnaill, the Administrator of the Cathedral. I thank Fr. Conn Ó Maoldomhnaigh, the President of Carlow College, St. Patrick’s who hosts the current training programme and Sr. Cecilia Molloy who was involved from the very beginning in accompanying those in formation for the diaconate. I very much thank the priests, Fr. Paul O’Boyle; Fr. Greg Corcoran; Fr. Ruairí O Ðomhnaill; Fr. Liam Morgan;  Fr. John Dunphy; Fr. Pat Hennessy; Fr. Paul Dempsey and Fr. P.J. McEvoy in the host parishes where the deacons minister. I particularly thank your wives and families who support you in your role and have hopefully come themselves to a deeper understanding of faith through your own commitment and dedicated involvement in church and in the life of the diocese.

I see this tenth anniversary today as beginning a conversation, looking at how your particular calling is evolving in your life and in this diocese. The ministry of the deacon is a ministry of service, it’s not simply turning up or turning in. It’s not simply doing things. It’s sitting with the Bartimaeus’ of this world, hearing their pain and listening to their cry. The threefold ministry of deacon is Altar, Word and Charity. Pope Francis often reminds us as church not to be over clericalised, inward looking and self-serving. And this applies to all of us, not just deacons. We are here to serve and to serve as a witness to the Jesus who serves.

The same Jesus who stopped to bring Bartimaeus centre stage with the simple invitation “Call him here[3]. The one at the peripheries is brought central. The gospel passage concludes with Bartimaeus recognising Jesus as “Rabbuni[4]. Only Mary Magdalene would ever use that word again. Two people of great faith – Bartimaeus and Mary Magdalene – two people who for different reasons very familiar with the side of the road – maybe it’s on the side of the road we need to look for great examples of faith and service as we enter winter time in 2018!


[1] Mk. 10:47

[2] In 2008 applications were invited; seven accepted in 2009.

[3] Mk. 10:49

[4] Mk. 10:51