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Archbishop Christophe Pierre - Photo by Gregory A. Shemitz, Catholic News Service

Apostolic nuncio to help celebrate permanent diaconate

More than 270 deacons, deacon candidates, wives and priests will join Archbishop George J. Lucas and a papal representative Oct. 13 to celebrate 50 years of a re-established permanent diaconate in the church.
 
Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States, will celebrate a 5 p.m. Mass at Christ the King Church in Omaha. A reception will be held in the parish social hall after the Mass.
 
“The archdiocese of Omaha was one of the earliest dioceses to respond to the invitation of Pope Paul VI to establish a permanent diaconate in the local church,” said Deacon James Keating, director of the permanent diaconate for the archdiocese.
 
In June 1967, the pope implemented a decree of the Second Vatican Council when he published the apostolic letter, “Diaconatus Ordinem,” and in 1968 gave permission to bishops to re-establish the permanent diaconate in the Latin Church, Deacon Keating said.
 
A formation class for deacons began in 1971, and the first 16 deacons were ordained June 24, 1973. Three of those men are still living – David Gurney, still active, and James Watson, inactive, both at St. Cecilia Parish, and Melvin Hunke who is serving outside the archdiocese.
 
The apostolic nuncio will participate in the celebration as a representative of the pope, Deacon Keating said, underscoring the importance of the diaconate as a permanent rank in Holy Orders.
 
Archbishop Pierre has been apostolic nuncio (or ambassador of the Vatican) to the United States since 2016, after serving nine years in the same role for Mexico.
 
“The deacon has a vital role of accompanying the laity as they transform culture through their own embedded witness in society,” Deacon Keating said. “He is present alongside the laity in all manner of professions. 
 
“They give counsel, pray and serve the needs of the laity from out of this charism,” he said.
 
Deacons assist at Mass, proclaiming the Gospel and often delivering homilies, preside at baptisms, witness marriages, and lead prayer and funeral services.
 
They also serve in prisons, hospitals, nursing homes, juvenile detention centers, shelters for the homeless or the abused, soup kitchens, and other community settings, along with numerous ministries in parishes.
 
A deacon’s liturgical role gives him his compass for identity and mission, Deacon Keating said. “He is to be a man ‘in the Word,’ sharing this Word with all whom he meets in society.” 
 
Since the first class, 383 deacons have been ordained for the archdiocese, with about 242 active in the archdiocese today.

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