The establishment of the diaconate took place with the ordination of the seven deacons described in the Acts of the Apostles. Renewing the practice of the early Church, the Second Vatican Council restored the order of deacons as a proper and permanent rank of the hierarchy. This restoration began in Canada in 1969 and in the Diocese of Calgary since 1998.
When candidate John Arbeau was asked by a priest years ago, “My initial reaction was why are you asking me, as I didn’t think I was the person!” But with formation, training, and prayer, he adds that “I have matured and grown in my spirituality to understand the service of a deacon.”
Meanwhile, candidate Randy Gritter, formerly a staunch Protestant, underwent a significant conversion to Catholicism before he felt the call to the permanent diaconate. “I initially learned about the diaconate as a Protestant. We had deacons who were specifically tasked with aiding the poor in our community," he shares. His then-parish priest, Fr. Julian Studden, was highly supportive of his vocation.
When Gritter applied for the second time, he discovered that Fr. Studden had been appointed Vicar of the Diaconate. He interpreted this as a sign that God was guiding him through this door.
Stay tuned to future issues of Faithfully for more detailed vocational stories of each candidate.
During the formation years, our deacon candidates also experienced strong prayer support from their fellow parishioners and mentors. All credited their spouses and families above all for encouraging them.
Speaking of his wife’s unwavering support, deacon candidate Brian Kinahan mentioned, “This has been her journey as well. And, although we've had long conversations about where this journey is taking us, and she has had her uncertainties about it, she has never stopped praying for me, and listening to me during my own doubts.”
“Speaking with the deacons who have come before us, they are glad that we are having the experiences that we are having. It has also been helpful on this journey to get help from their experiences, from their journey and from what they have learned and done,” says candidate Jim Manzara.
Candidate Ricardo Rosero-Gonzallez shared that his understanding on being a deacon has evolved, stating that as a deacon, "I represent the Church whereever I am.” This was echoed by candidate Peter Lilienthal, who added, “The ministry of presence is key to this role, and being able to let the Holy Spirit work through me.”
Strong bonds naturally formed between the 12 deacon candidates and their families during the formative years.
“Our diaconate class of 12 families was very close. We were not immune, over the 4 years, to the struggles and griefs within the path of life,” says candidate Bruce Alan Barnett. “We all experienced the "oneness" of the Body of Christ in our prayers, compassion and empathy shown many times through the journey.”
Written by Alice Matisz and the staff of the Catholic Pastoral Centre for Faithfully.
Catholic Pastoral Centre Staff and Guest Writers