The Archdiocese of Anchorage-Juneau ordained four men to the Permanent Diaconate on May 13.
The new deacons — John Agosti from St. Anthony Parish, Sandon Broek from Holy Cross Parish, John Ostrom from St. Patrick’s Parish, and Don Remer from St. Andrews Parish — were ordained by Archbishop Andrew Bellisario, C.M., at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Anchorage.
“We rejoice in their generous acceptance of his call to serve the people of God as deacons,” Archbishop Bellisario said during the ordination of deacons. “It’s an honor for me as your bishop … to celebrate your call to a deeper service of God’s people as ordained deacons.”
Diaconate formation teaches that there is a “calling” to this ministry of service. It does not happen because one is simply looking for a career change to become a permanent deacon. Ordination to this vocation occurs because God is calling that individual to this ministry.
The Permanent Diaconate was reestablished worldwide as an outcome of Vatican II. In Alaska, former Archbishop Francis Hurley commissioned the first two men to be formed and ordained deacons while he was administrator of the former Diocese of Juneau in 1977. When he was assigned archbishop of the former Archdiocese of Anchorage, he once again commissioned the first group of men to be formed and ordained as permanent deacons; one-half of the group in 1981 and the other half in 1982.
The word “deacon” (diakonos in Greek) means minister or servant. In scripture’s Acts of the Apostles (Acts 6:1-6), seven good men who are selected to serve in their community as Hellenists, Palestinian Jews, complain that the Hebrews were neglecting the Hellenist widows in their daily distribution of food.
These seven good men needed to be of good reputation, filled with the Holy Spirit and wisdom, given through prayer and ministry of the word. These seven are considered by many to be the first deacons of the Catholic Church. Their function was to serve at the table for the distribution of food and goods, as well as to ensure a fair and equal share was received by all widows and orphans of the community.
This continues, today, to be the primary function of those men currently ordained to the Permanent Diaconate in the Catholic Church. Working in the prisons and hospitals, visiting the sick, bringing Viaticum to the ill and dying — not to be confused with the Sacrament of the Sick. They also care for the homeless, widows, and the marginalized of our society. Many deacons also assist in their parishes by teaching the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults, Baptism, or adult catechesis classes.
In addition, the bishop of a diocese grants “faculties” to those ordained to the Permanent Diaconate, allowing them to administer the Sacrament of Baptism, witness marriages, preside at communion services, and assist the priest in the celebration of the Eucharist as minister of the cup. It also includes proclaiming the Gospel, reading the petitions of the general intercessions, receiving the gifts, preparing the altar, assisting with incensing, giving instructions regarding posture and movement, and dismissing the assembly.
Upon their ordination, deacons submit to the authority of their bishop and pledge their obedience to the bishop and the bishop’s successor. Many deacons choose to remain unmarried, however, most permanent deacons are married. During formation, in preparation for ordination to the ministry of the Permanent Diaconate, the wives must permit their husbands to enter the formation process and for ordination. It’s also important that the wives of those men participate in the formation process to fully understand the ministry to which their husbands are committing their lives.
The philosophy of the Diaconate is “family, job, diaconate.” This simply means that a married deacon’s first priority is their family and their welfare, commonly done by sustaining an income with a secular job to support their family. The ministry of permanent deacons is voluntary: they receive no material or financial compensation from a diocese or parish. Lastly, should the wife of a permanent deacon precede him in death, the deacon commits to a life of celibacy for the remainder of his natural life.
Many who have been ordained in this ministry have stated it is or was one of the most fulfilling and joyous times of their lives. They stress how it has positively impacted their married life, social life, spiritual life, and relationship with God.
Because of the shortage of ordained clerical personnel in Alaska, many of the archdiocesan deacons have visited many of the mission parishes that are lacking a permanent priest. The missions are typically staffed by local lay personnel. These visits by deacons have been for presiding at communion services, funerals, and weddings, and to support catechetical education for the laity.
There is currently a new formation class that will commence in September this year. The formation program is five years in duration, followed by a two-year working and training process with the parish pastor where a strong partnership is developed.
Editor’s note: To learn more details or ask questions about becoming a deacon, contact the director of deacon ministry for the Archdiocese of Anchorage-Juneau at the Pastoral Center in Anchorage at (907-297-7770) or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.