2018 Deacon Congress Celebrates 50 years of Service
By Deacon Doug Bogart,
Diocese of Phoenix, Associate Director of Education and Formation
It was hot and humid in New Orleans when 10 deacons and 8 deacon wives from the Diocese of Phoenix joined another 1800 deacons and 900 wives from around the U.S. and abroad at the 2018 National Diaconate Congress. We were there to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the restoration of the Permanent Diaconate in the United States and so the heat and humidity didn’t dampen the spirits of these desert dwellers. We enjoyed good New Orleans hospitality, heard some encouraging and uplifting talks and met some new friends.
The opening Mass on July 22 was celebrated by His Excellency Archbishop Christophe Pierre, Apostolic Nuncio to the United States, while Archbishop Gregory Aymond, Archbishop of New Orleans, said the homily. Archbishop Aymond reminded us that although we were there to celebrate, we were also there to recommit ourselves to making Christ the Servant known to a world that desperately needs Him.
Over the next few days we heard from Cardinal DiNardo of Galveston/Houston, Bishop Shawn McKnight from Jefferson City, Deacon James Keating, Deacon Greg Kandra and a host of other bishops, priests deacons and lay speakers. At times it felt like we were just drinking from a fire hose. So many good talks and so much good information and encouragement for deacons and for their wives. Every day was full of major addresses from “big name” speakers and in the afternoon we had a rich slate of breakout sessions to choose from.
Dcn. Dennis Raczkowski from Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Glendale says, “I was surprised at the enormity of the room filled with Deacons, wives, priests and bishops. (And) I was thoroughly impressed by the workshops I attended, and the presentations given by our speakers. Lorraine and I truly were blessed to have been able to attend.”
But, we certainly didn’t stay cooped up in the conference hotel the whole time! New Orleans is full of great restaurants and historic sites and we all did our share of sight-seeing and eating. The whole Phoenix group gathered on Wednesday night for meal together at the Creole House, just on the edge of the French Quarter.
Dcn. John Navaretta from Our Lady of the Lake in Lake Havasu sums it all up by saying, “A once in a lifetime experience. An uplift to my call to the Diaconate.“
50 years may seem like a long time, but in the history of the Church it’s just the blink of an eye. In the U.S. alone, we’ve gone from no Permanent Deacons to over 18,000 since 1968. This extraordinary gathering of deacons and wives was a powerful celebration of God’s grace. All Catholics are called to charity and acts of service, but deacons are, according to Pope St. John Paul II, the “Church’s service sacramentalized.” We were reminded in New Orleans that the Deacon’s dismissal at the end of Mass ties together the Eucharist and the mission. His words don’t just end the Mass but mark the beginning of the mission to the world.August 28, 2018