Apostolic nuncio celebrates diaconate with deacons, others

Nearly 900 people filled Christ the King Church in Omaha on Oct. 13 as the pope’s representative to the United States celebrated 50 years of the re-established permanent diaconate in the church. 
Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio, concelebrated the 5 p.m. Mass with Archbishop George J. Lucas, Archbishop Emeritus Elden Francis Curtiss, Bishop Joseph G. Hanefeldt of the Grand Island diocese and priests of the archdiocese.
More than 150 deacons and their wives, plus deacon candidates, their wives and parishioners attended the Mass. Deacons and candidates joined the nuncio and other guests at a reception in the parish social hall afterward.
“It means quite a bit that Archbishop Lucas would invite the papal nuncio here in recognition of the deacons,” said Deacon David Bang of St. Vincent de Paul Parish in Omaha.
“It’s a unique situation that 50 years ago Pope Paul VI re-established the diaconate, and we’re celebrating that on the same weekend he is named a saint,” Deacon Bang said, noting the pope’s Oct. 14 canonization Mass in Rome.
During his homily, Archbishop Pierre reflected on the day’s Gospel reading – the story of the rich young man asking Jesus what is required to attain the Kingdom of God. 
“The question of fullness of life emerges in Jesus’ discussion with the rich young man,” he said.
“He, like all of us, is concerned about happiness and eternal life. While he has kept the commandments, his heart’s desire is still not satisfied. He is searching for something more.
“Although he has worldly wealth, he cannot buy eternal life.”
Jesus presented another way – directing him to sell what he had, give the money to the poor, and “come follow me,” to which the man turned away, saddened.
Archbishop Pierre said Jesus demonstrated that other way by emptying himself and becoming the servant of all. Deacons are called to do the same, he said. 
“The Son of Man came not to be served,” he said, “but to serve, and to give his life as ransom for many through his emptying himself, his ‘diakonia’ (service).”
Service and personal sacrifice also are part of being a deacon, Archbishop Pierre said.
“Pope Francis described the diaconate ministry this way: ‘There is no other service, there is no liturgy that is not open to the poor, and there is no service to the poor that does not lead to the liturgy,” he said.
“Deacons are at the service of the people of God in the ministry of the liturgy, the Word, and of charity, in communion with the bishop and his presbyterate.
“We are grateful that God has called men for this vocation of service and communion for the good of the church,” he said. 
Deacon Gary Bash of St. Mary Parish in Bellevue said it was fulfilling to join his fellow deacons, Archbishop Lucas and the Holy Father’s representative to celebrate the anniversary.
“There’s always a sense of fellowship when coming together with our shepherd and brother deacons who share the same burdens, challenges and successes,” he said.
Deacon Bash said he was moved by Archbishop Pierre’s comments on service during his homily.
“God’s grace allows us to pour our lives out to achieve what the Lord wants us to do on this pilgrimage.”
Deacon James Keating, director of the permanent diaconate for the archdiocese, said Pope Paul VI authorized re-establishment of the permanent diaconate in 1968 after the Second Vatican Council, and the Omaha archdiocese was one of the earliest dioceses to respond. 
Deacons are deeply embedded in the culture and serve as catalysts to encourage laity to serve the poor, which then directs people back to the worship of God, he said.
“As the nuncio said so beautifully in his homily, we are meant to preach the Gospel in ways that will lead people both to the poor in service, and then, in adoration, back to the Mass, and then the Mass sends us back out to the poor,” Deacon Keating said.
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