Ordination of Vincent Crowley – Permanent Diaconate:       04.10.20

3.00pm Church of the Holy Rosary, Tullow, 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time – Year A

Introduction:

October is the month we dedicate to the Missions. There are four Sundays in October, on three of those Sundays we will have the ordination of new Permanent Deacons for ministry in our diocese, beginning this afternoon here in the Church of the Most Holy Rosary in Tullow with the ordination of Vincent Crowley. Next week I look forward to ordaining Liam Dunne in the Cathedral and at the end of the month Eugene Keyes in Portlaoise.

Vincent, I warmly welcome you, your wife Cecilia, daughters Ruth & Jackie, son Michael, your brother John and the wider circle of family and friends who gather around you this day. The diaconate is very much rooted in scripture, as seven are chosen in the Acts of the Apostles to attend to the needs of the community. Seven years ago also in the month of October we ordained the first Permanent Deacons for the Diocese – like in scripture there were seven of them; by the end of this month that number will have risen to eleven. I welcome the priests and religious who gather with us, particularly those who have been a part of Vincent’s journey of formation – Fr. Ruairí, Fr.Conn, Sr. Cecilia, Sr. Dolores, Fr. Andy and more recently Fr. Brian.

This twenty-seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time also is ‘Day for Life’ – it brings us into another vineyard and the anger where life is not valued or respected. Slowly we are hearing a soft narrative emerging around so called ‘dying with dignity’ and we know where that leads to – hard cases never make for good law. We must acknowledge the pain of those who suffer but also try our best to articulate a message that is both life-giving and life-affirming. It means standing for a culture that promotes and respects life in the middle of the vineyard where all of us are mere tenants, a vineyard that Vincent will soon be ordained a Permanent Deacon to serve in. But first let’s call to mind our sins …

Homily:

In the July/August edition of Africa I read an article by Oliver Leavy on the Kiltegans 50 years of ministry in Grenada. A photograph of a plaque drew my attention. A plaque that was in a church in Grand Roy, Grenada, celebrating the contribution of the Kiltegan’s to their parish. The plaque read: ‘Church of Christ the King 1939-2014 Priests and Deacons’. Here was public acknowledgement of the priests and deacons who served in their parish.

While the story of the restored Permanent Diaconate is still very much in its early chapters here in Ireland, public acknowledgement or endorsement of their ministry as in Grenada is not as obvious. Yet you hear it at a local level. The contribution is immense. Their presence deeply appreciated. Because of the pandemic restrictions I decided to celebrate three ordination ceremonies in the parishes and among the communities where the men have been rooted during their training programme. It’s also a great way to spread the distinct message of the Permanent Diaconate to a wider congregation.

While the Second Vatican Council restored the Permanent Diaconate, it was in 2007 the Irish Bishops announced the publication of the National Directory and Norms for the Permanent Diaconate. Kildare and Leighlin became only the fifth Irish diocese to restore this ancient ministry of the permanent diaconate. Applications were invited in 2008 and seven candidates were accepted in 2009 and ordained on October 13th 2013. Then there were just twenty-eight ordained across the country, when Vincent, Liam and Eugene are added to that number there will be over one hundred.

It’s interesting that all our diocesan ordinations to the Permanent Diaconate take place in October, the month dedicated to the Missions. The diaconate ministry is rooted in scripture, the first seven were chosen in the Acts of the Apostles to see to the needs of those overlooked in the community. This is in essence the ministry of deacon: serving those in the community who are poor or overlooked, and we mustn’t distinguish what form that poverty takes.

There is a new poverty in Ireland because of the coronavirus pandemic. The uncertainty of what the future holds leaves many of our own plans in tatters. We will be a poorer church and our ministry will be less defined but also maybe less restrained. We will go into vineyards we haven’t entered before and perhaps our message will be more authentic and closer to Him who invites all of us to leave everything and follow Him.

The pandemic has taught us and still teaches us that the spirit of volunteerism and dedication to church at local level remains hugely strong. The deacon must work within and part of these local groups. Our liturgy has gone online and I’m conscious many are tuning in on Tullow webcam this afternoon. It is different watching a live-stream or a webcam. We must prepare even more diligently than ever before so that those watching, those following will stay with us and not turn the dial or move the mouse! Delighted to read in this weeks Tablet a letter from North Yorkshire commending the parish of Portlaoise for their online ministry[1]. Congregations are no longer defined by the contours of a stream, a ditch or a bridge, congregations are now virtual and our task is to hold them in the manner of our preaching and the quality of our celebrations.

Worryingly the number of confirmed coronavirus cases continues to rise on this island, north and south. As Pope Francis said: “On the one hand, it is imperative to find the cure for a small but terrible virus, which is bringing the whole world to its knees. On the other hand, we must cure a great virus, that of social injustice, inequality of opportunity, marginalisation and the lack of protection of the weakest[2]. On this Feast of St. Francis of Assisi Pope Francis has just produced his third encyclical ‘Fratelli Tutti’, a message to all of us written during this global pandemic, conscious of our fragility, vulnerability and need for compassion and hope that only faith can bring. It is too ease to shift our gaze from the homeless, the migrants, the refugees. The Permanent Deacon must immerse himself in a prayerful daily reading of scripture so that he might faithfully intrepret the gospel mission message for others.

Returning to Grenada, I wonder what message might Vincent and his colleagues like to see on a plaque in years to come? That they have laboured in His vineyard and they have remained authentic to their threefold ministry of the word, of charity and of the altar. The permanency of their ministry in a society that at times looks on everything as transitory or passing, will speak volumes to those who struggle on the edges of society, who too many of us too easily shift our gaze from.

In a society and a culture that weakens that word ‘permanent’ it is so powerful to witness Vincent, a family man with a background of 38 years in banking and a huge appreciation of music and liturgy, with the love and support of Cecilia, Ruth, Jackie & Michael, about to enter a ministry of permanent service for the good of our Church. Liam and Eugene will follow suit in the weeks to come. Permanent is an important word. I noted that the dad of the nominated judge Amy Coney Barrett to fill the vacant seat in the United States Supreme Court is a Permanent Deacon for the past thirty-eight years.

Let us celebrate this huge commitment by Vincent and all our Permanent Deacons to Church and to our diocese as I move to the formal instruction …

[1] ‘Impressive Homilies’ written by Rt. Revd. David Hope, The Tablet, pg. 17, 3 October 2020

[2] Pope Francis, General Audience Address: 19.08.2020