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Omaha deacon at Rome event

ROME – Thousands of permanent deacons – including Deacon Jim Keating, director of the Archdiocese of Omaha’s permanent diaconate program – began their Year of Mercy celebration by cutting straight to the heart of what it means to be a deacon and how the ministry impacts their families.

Gathered as pilgrims for the Jubilee of Deacons, they divided into language groups and hundreds of English-, German- and Portuguese-speaking deacons and their families first met May 27 at Rome’s Basilica of Santa Maria Sopra Minerva.

The gathering concluded May 29 with a Mass celebrated by Pope Francis in St. Peter’s Square. The pope urged deacons to be servants who set aside their own self-serving plans and are generous with their lives.

Deacon Keating, who also is director of theological formation at the Institute for Priestly Formation in Omaha, addressed the crowd May 27, focusing on deacons’ role in serving the family. Other deacons spoke about their role in the workplace and serving the underserved.

Deacons are born in families, Deacon Keating said, most of them fall in love and start families before discerning a vocation to the diaconate, and they often are called upon to minister to other families.

A deacon who has had proper formation in prayer, theology and the sacraments "will become a better husband," and his wife "will actually fall more in love" because he will be converted to a closer relationship with Jesus and a greater availability to others, Deacon Keating said.

But, he said, that availability is not so much about time and activity, as it is about "being" a deacon. It’s about "relationships, not ministries," he said.

After the weekend in Rome, Deacon Keating said he noted how positive deacons were about their ministries and how eager they were to learn more. Many also said they would like to see a more substantive formation program in the Gospels.

"It is the deacon who proclaims the Gospel at Mass, and they are desirous to go deeper into the living Word and know its contents and how to share it with the church," Deacon Keating said.

Overall, the gathering of deacons from around the world "was a true grace, and equally an affirmation of all that deacons do for the church," he said.

Catholic Voice News Editor Joe Ruff contributed to this report.

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