We just had an ordination yesterday of two men; Felix Min to the priesthood and Richard Conlin to the diaconate. This is a cause for great joy for the Church of Vancouver!
As a deacon, Richard has been ordained to assist with the charitable work of the Church as recorded in Acts of the Apostles, chapter 6. The word “deacon” comes from the Greek word ‘diakonos’, which means ‘servant’. Though all Christians by baptism are called to ‘diakonia,’ or service, deacons serve as a public sacramental sign of Christ in and at the service of the world. Like a priest, a deacon is a member of the clergy who shares in the ministry of the Bishop. Deacon Richard is now called to serve then, both at the Table of God, the Altar of the Church, but also the table of the poor and suffering.
The service of the deacon is threefold. As a servant of charity, the deacon personally serves the poor, the aged, the sick, and the imprisoned, bringing the Gospel to all those in need. As a servant of the Word, deacons proclaim the Gospel and preach at liturgical celebrations. They provide catechetical instruction, adult faith formation, and sacramental preparation. And, as a Servant of the Sacraments deacons assist The Most Holy Trinity priests during Mass, administer baptisms, witness marriages, preside at funerals and wakes, Benedictions and lead community prayer services.
Even though deacons are part of the clergy of the Church it is helpful to remember some of the differences between a priest and deacon. Deacons do not celebrate Mass, hear confessions, or anoint the sick; they extend the sacramental presence of Christ’s service outside of the Church and into the secular world.
Father Felix has very generously responded to the invitation of Jesus himself to serve Him and His Church as a priest. However, we have to remember that his ordination is God’s doing not ours; that His call is a pure gift, not an earned reward and that it is His Grace that lifts up our nature. By ordination Fr. Felix has the character of Christ the Priest, the Good Shepherd branded in his heart as his very identity. Father Felix now acts in the person of Christ to lead us to Him by the celebration of the Mass and the preaching of the Word.
However, priests do far more than celebrate Mass and pray all day. The life of a priest is busy, demanding and at times challenging; nevertheless, it is a very rewarding life. It’s a threefold mission to teach, govern and sanctify. As teachers priest teach the faith. In the ministry of governing priests are pastors who manage parishes where they shepherd, guide and encourage the faithful. And finally, they are called to sanctify the world through the Liturgy and the faithful administration of the sacraments, encouraging all to live a life of holiness.