Archdiocese working to fill need for Hispanic deacons

Through personal conversations and pastors’ recommendations, the archdiocese is encouraging Hispanic men who feel called to serve the church and their community to consider becoming a permanent deacon.
One man answering that call is Gonzalo Palma, a member of St. Peter Parish in Omaha. “I felt I could do a lot more for the church, and of course this is one of the ways to do it,” said Palma, one of five Hispanic men who last fall began their first year of a four-year deacon formation program.
Those five would add to the eight Hispanic deacons serving in the archdiocese, six of whom are involved in Hispanic parish ministries. The archdiocese has 224 deacons involved in active ministry.
“It’s something that I can give back to the church, and it will also help me develop a more personal relationship with God and the community – helping me to be a better me,” Palma said.
“From the universal church, we need universal people – from all kinds of backgrounds,” he said. “In the end, we all share the same faith, but we definitely need more Hispanic people involved.”
Deacon James Keating, director of the archdiocese’s permanent diaconate and director of theological formation at the Institute for Priestly Formation in Omaha, said the archdiocese is making a concerted effort to increase the number of Spanish-speaking deacons who can minister to the growing Latino population, especially to recent immigrants and those who have not learned English.
“I hope that lay people and priests will look for possible candidates who are primarily men of the spirit, and who are creative in their imaginations regarding what Christ may be calling them to,” he said.
To help in the education and formation of Hispanic men for the diaconate, the archdiocese’s deacon formation program last fall added classes and mentoring in Spanish.
Deacon Gregorio Elizalde, manager of the archdiocese’s Latino Ministry Office, said deacons play an important role as examples of faith and leaders in the Hispanic community and culture. “A deacon is a bridge between the church and the people.”
They also can be helpful to pastors by coordinating marriage and baptism preparation classes, Deacon Elizalde said.
“We can better serve our people with Spanish-speaking deacons who can help educate them to be better husbands, wives and parents, and to be of greater service to the church,” he said.
Deacon Elizalde said there is a clear need for more Spanish-speaking deacons. “We would like to have at least one deacon in each parish with a Hispanic ministry who can lead the Hispanic people to be closer to Jesus,” he said.
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