Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Deacons of Bombay Archdiocese

First Ever Married Deacons Join The Holy Orders

Michael Gonsalves

On January 22, 2006, the Archbishop of Bombay, Cardinal Ivan Dias, ordained two candidates to the Permanent Diaconate - a first in the Archdiocese and the country. Michael Gonsalves reviews the historical event

Archbishop of Bombay Archdiocese, Cardinal Ivan Dias seen ordaining two married men as permanent deacons.

It was a historic landmark event in the checquered history of the Roman Catholic Church in India on Sunday at the Holy Name Cathedral in Mumbai when Cardinal Ivan Dias, Archbishop of Bombay, ordained first ever two married men in India as permanent deacons during the solemn Mass in the presence of bishops, the deans, the priests, religious and the faithful congregated for this solemn ceremony.

The sacrament of Holy Orders comprises Bishops, priests and deacons. The candidates ordained on Sunday, Jan. 22 were received into the ministry of the diaconate as a permanent institution. As elucidated by Cardinal Dias, the diaconate is for service (Diakonia, which is derived from Greek, means servant of God). The deacon is commissioned and sent forth to preach the Good News, to teach what he believes, believe what he preaches and practice what he preaches. The three most important aspects associated with the office of the deacon is the breaking of the Word of God, to serve at the Altar and carry out the good works of charity as an official and ordinary minister of the Church in the person and name of Christ.
The diaconate of the sacrament of Holy Orders is open for married as well as bachelors.

At the ceremony, Bishop Bosco Penha, in-charge of the laity, presented the two candidates to the ordaining prelate Archbishop Ivan Cardinal Dias, who after examining them proceeded with the ceremony of ordination, consisting primarily of laying of hands upon the ordinandi, invoking the Holy Spirit upon them and the solemn promising of obedience to the Ordinary of the diocese by the candidates and the pledging of loyalty to the Church by the placing their hands over the Bible.

Soon after their induction as permanent deacons, Mr Lloyd Dias from Sacred Heart Church, Vashi and Mr Elwyn De Souza from St Joseph Church, Juhu assisted the main celebrant Cardinal Dias in the Holy Eucharist along with the other concelebrants Cardinal Simon Pimenta, Auxiliary Bishops Bosco Penha, Percival Fernandez, Agnelo Gracias and Bishop Emeritus Ferdinand Fonseca and several priests from the archdiocese. In the congregation were present, the wives of the deacons, their children, relatives and friends, who participated in the Eucharist and witnessed the extraordinary historic moment.

The institution of the permanent diaconate is a move to give greater participation to the laity in the life and ministry of the Catholic Church, and would go down as a red-letter day in the life of the Bombay Archdiocese for restoring the diaconate to the permanent rank of the Church hierarchy. At the ceremony Cardinal Dias placed the sacrament of the Holy Orders in its true perspective, pointing out a three-fold division. First the Bishop, who acts in the name and person of Christ, is the Shepherd and the Spouse of the Church. This is symbolized by the mitre and the crozier indicating his role as Shepherd, the ring symbolizing him as the Spouse of the Church and his chair, indicating his teaching authority in the Church. The priest acts in the name and person of Christ as sanctifier, symbolized by the paten and the chalice which he uses to offer sacrifice for the forgiveness of sins, thus enabling him to offer sacrifice of the Mass and forgive sins. The deacon, who acts in the name and person of Christ, is ordained to the ministry of service, symbolized specifically by the stole (towel). He therefore is the ordinary minister at the Altar and dispenser of the other works if charity and breaking the Word of God. He ranks next to bishops and priests in the hierarchy of the Catholic Church.

Mr Lloyd, 74, grandfather of three children and Mr Elwyn, 59, father of one son, can perform the following religious duties as ordinary ministers of the Church like administering baptism, assisting and blessing marriages, be custodian and dispenser of the Eucharist, anointing of the sick, read the sacred scripture and preach the word of God, preside over public worship and prayers, administer sacraments and officiate at funeral and burial services. It must be noted that deacons cannot celebrate Mass or hear confessions.

It is a tradition which dates back to the early Church when St Peter, the apostle and his handful of colleagues at the dawn of the Christian era laid their hands on seven men filled with the Holy Spirit, wisdom and repute and established the permanent institute of the diaconate to serve the growing Church. The Church was growing so rapidly and the apostles had so much to do that they had no time to shepherd the faithful flock. So St Peter asked the congregation to chose among them holy men who would assist him in his ministry.

A shortage of priest in the Church in the West due to a drastic fall in vocation to the priesthood was one of the prime reasons to restore the institute of permanent diaconate in order to perform the religious duties and dispense the sacraments to the faithful.

However, in India although the lack of vocation to the priesthood is not that acute, the volume of pastoral needs to administer to the large and growing communities of the faithful has increased phenomenally and necessitated the revival of the permanent diaconate. Thus, the historic decision of the Bombay Archdiocese to ordain the laypersons as deacons and get them incorporated in the Catholic Church hierarchy was to restore a practice that existed in the early Church that had fallen into disuse for some historical reasons. The ordination of the deacons was the fulfillment of one of the path breaking recommendations of the Archdiocesan Synod 2001 to draw the laity into greater and fuller participation in the life and ministry of the Church. The deacons, besides celebrating the holy sacraments permitted by the Church, will preach, counsel and guide people spiritually. The emphasis undoubtedly is on providing pastoral and spiritual care of the flock in the vast archdiocese.

Even though the Catholic Bishops' Conference of India had received permission from Rome to establish the Permanent Diaconate way back in 1983, the candidates themselves and the people had to be prepared for this special ministry. The preparatory phase would comprise a period of reflection on the call of the candidates and to offer them space to go deeper into it and discern its genuineness, be sides a period of formation in theology and bible study. People too had to be prepared for changes that they were not accustomed to and could perhaps make them initially resistant to changes that were not explained to them like receiving communion from the hands of the layperson. With Bombay Archdiocese, the largest diocese in the country, giving a lead in training the laypersons and ordaining two, the other 152 dioceses in the country may follow suit, heralding a new era in the Catholic Church.

Mr Lloyd, father of two sons and a daughter, a former supervisor with a Saudi Arabia-based shipping company for 13 years (1972-85), who worked there in preaching and dispensing the Holy Eucharist, studied Theology at St Pius X Seminary for three years from 1985 to 1987 with the encouragement and support of the Americans who were touched by his commitment and service. He received God's call way back on September 7, 1972, a day before Mother Mary's birthday, when in a tragic road accident he was saved and he made a vow to preach the Word of God. In 1987, he joined Bishop Bosco Penha's team as a member of Formation and Involvement of the Laity in the Mission of the Church and the Small Christian Community. He is also a member of the Biblical Committee and Divine Mercy Programme, promoted by Archdiocese of Bombay.

Mr Elwyn, father of a son and a businessman, is a director of the Citizens Cooperative Bank of which he was earlier its vice chairman. After seven years of Philosophy and Theology studies from 1996-2003 at St Pius X Seminary, he was involved in the weekend ministries at Good Shepherd Church, Andheri. At various times he has been chairman of the parish pastoral council, assistant moderator for the community center, member of Biblical, Liturgical and Family committees. According to his wife Sybil, a home maker, Mr Elwyn, the hiring and firing boss at the travel agency business of which he is the proprietor, has mellowed over the years and is now ideally cut out to bring the faithful closer to God.

With the two laymen joining the rank of the Permanent Diaconate, a new phase of ecclesiastical service in the Catholic Church has truly begun, completing the distinct ranks of the Holy Orders in the hierarchy of the Catholic Church. Some are called early to work in the vineyard but the late comers have indeed shown the way.
-Press release of the Archdiocese of Bombay.

Previous Post: Bombay Archdiocese: First Ordinations to the Permanent Diaconate


No comments: