Published August 4, 2005
We have just about 200 permanent Deacons serving the Archdiocese. They are an exceptionally generous and dedicated group of men, most of whom have equally generous and devoted wives. I have met quite a few at the liturgy, as members of our Archdiocesan staff, on the golf course and the racquetball court, at parish visitations and ceremonies, in prison. I’ve even hitched a ride or two to the airport from a couple of them. They represent a true servant community for this local Church.
One of these fine men died last week, Dick Narey. He was one of our senior deacons and in fact encouraged many of our present deacons to consider enrolling in the diaconate training program. In 1978 when Dick was ordained, we had about six active deacons. Years later, this Sacramental Office is found throughout the Archdiocese of Atlanta. Deacons are not substitute priests, they are not super volunteers, and they are not second-class ministers. They are the Church’s ordained servants of Charity, ministers of word and Sacrament.
The ancient Church had lots of deacons. They were the ones who served as the eyes, ears, and hands of the Bishop in the works of charity. That is why it is most appropriate for the deacon to exercise certain ministries in the Liturgy. The deacon should be, under most circumstances, the ministers who lead the Prayer of the Faithful, because traditionally the deacon was the one who knew the widows, the orphans, the strangers, the immigrants, the sick. The deacon could call the Church’s attention to the needs of those who were in need of prayer. The deacon was the one who announced the Good News to the assembly of believers and reminded us all of how Christ Himself cares for those who are poor and forgotten. Deacons were those who visited the imprisoned, the poor, the neglected and therefore deacons made the Church aware of the needs of all those who looked to the Faithful for assistance and care.
I have been very impressed with the caliber of our deacons. Most of them, like many of us, are not native to Atlanta. They come from many other places, but they have brought with them a deep love for the Church and a desire to attend to the needs of their neighbors in North Georgia. Some are young and others well seasoned, some are professional and many are blue-collar in background, some are outgoing, others are shy and retiring, but they all improve this local Church through their service and dedication. Our growth and progress as an Archdiocese has been richly impacted through the ministry of our deacons, and we all owe them a debt of gratitude.
I never met Dick Narey—his health was frail, and he didn’t get around much in the closing chapter of his life. His enthusiasm for the Church, however, has left a proud heritage, and he is remembered fondly by many folks here in the Archdiocese. His greatest legacy is his family, and they have the fondest and most complete memories of his goodness. His brother deacons remember his influence on their lives and his collaboration in serving the needs of this local Church. As we commend Dick to Christ, we also thank the Lord for calling men to the Diaconate and for sustaining them and their families in this service to the Church.
We have a number of candidates in preparation for the Diaconate and next year, it will be my privilege to ordain another class of deacons. My prayer is that they will continue the legacy of service and dedication to charity that has marked the lives of those deacons who preceded them. May Dick Narey and all of our deceased deacons and their family members rest in peace.