Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta

The sacrifices of deacons

By BISHOP JOHN N. TRAN  | Published February 14, 2024  | En Español

On Feb. 3, I had the honor and privilege of ordaining eight permanent deacons to serve the church in the Archdiocese of Atlanta. The weather outside reflected the celebration inside the Cathedral of Christ the King; it was beautiful. 

Bishop John N. Tran

The celebration was solemn and joyful thanks to the wonderful Cathedral choir and Atlanta Symphony Brass Quintet, lectors, the diaconate class of 2025 and 2026 as servers, the diaconate class of 2027 and 2028 as ushers; masters of ceremonies and hospitality of the cathedral staff. The reception committee prepared the reception for everyone following the ordination. 

Indeed, it was a joyful day for all of us gathered, not only for the candidates, their families and friends, but also for the church in the Archdiocese of Atlanta. Our congratulations to the deacons, their wives and families: Michael (Mary) Heubel, Robert (Mary Ann) Fraundorf, Gerard (Carolyn) LaHatte, Michael (Lori) Martell, Alonso (Edilma) Rigg, William (Diane) Schubring, Phillip (Racheal) Tran and Thang (Thuy) Vu. We give thanks to God for their YES in continuing the mission of Christ. 

Currently we have 244 active permanent deacons serving in our archdiocese, including those newly ordained. We have 60 who are retired. It was in preparing for the ordination that I was reminded of the sacrifices that our permanent deacons, their wives and families make in the service of the church.  It takes six years for the men to complete the formation program; many of the wives also participated regularly in the academic portion of the formation.   

When did we first have deacons? Traditionally, the beginning of the order of deacons traces back to the story in the Acts of the Apostles chapter 6: “So the Twelve called together the community of the disciples and said, ‘It is not right for us to neglect the word of God to serve at table. Brothers, select from among you seven reputable men, filled with the Spirit and wisdom, whom we shall appoint to this task (serving those in need).’ The proposal was acceptable to the whole community, so they chose Stephen, Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas and Nicholas…They presented these men to the apostles who prayed and laid hands on them.”   

A note: they were appointed (ordained) not for priesthood, but for service. Deacons must be like those once chosen by the Apostles for the ministry of charity, to be the servant of all.  

Although deacons have been around since the time of the apostles, about the year 1000, the permanent diaconate faded away. During the Second Vatican Council, Pope Paul VI implemented the council’s decision to re-instate permanent deacons. In 2021, Pope Francis reminded us with these words about the role of the deacons: “Please let us remember that for the disciples of Jesus, to love is to serve and to serve is to reign. Power lies in service, not in anything else. They (deacons) are the guardians of true ‘power’ in the church, so that no one goes beyond the power of service.” (Vatican News 19, June 2021) 

In the Rite of Ordination through the laying on of hands, passed down from the Apostles and the Prayer of Ordination, the gift of the Holy Spirit for the office of the Diaconate is conferred on the candidate and configures him forever to Jesus Christ to serve as his deacon.  

During the homily, the candidate is reminded with these words: “Strengthened by the gift of the Holy Spirit, the Deacon will help the Bishop and his Priests in the ministries of the word, of the altar, and of charity, showing himself to be a servant of all. It will be his duty to exhort believers and unbelievers alike and instruct them in holy doctrine, to preside over public prayer, administer Baptism, assist at and bless Marriages, bring Viaticum to the dying, and conduct funeral rites.” (The Rite of Ordination of Deacon). 

Over the years, I have always been blessed to have at least one permanent deacon serving with me. I always have great admiration for them, their spouses and families. Besides what they do at Mass on weekends, deacons also fulfill other needs of the church parish behind the scenes without much acknowledgment from the pastor or parishioners. They are usually the first to arrive and last to leave church. More often than not, they have to arrange their family celebrations around the church schedule during major liturgical celebrations. They, together with their families, make those sacrifices in serving us.   

As we celebrate the ordination of our new deacons, may we thank all of them, their wives and families for the sacrifices they make in serving our community. Stop by after Mass next time and thank them for their service. At the same time, remind them that they promised to pray for you and the whole world daily. Also, reassure the deacons of your prayers for them that they may “be effective in action, gentle in ministry, and constant in prayer.”