Again and again on social media this weekend, I kept reading deacons who said, “How come I’m only hearing about this now?”
“This” is this:
On October 9, 2022, parishes across the U.S. and Canada will observe the first annual “Deacon Sunday,” a day to inspire vocations to the diaconate and affirm deacons and their families. This new celebration comes thanks to the hard work of Vocation Ministry, an organization dedicated to supporting and increasing vocations in the Catholic Church.
What is Vocation Ministry? Glad you asked:
There are very few resources for parishes and the faithful to support their deacons and promote local vocations. This is what Rhonda Gruenewald, founder of Vocation Ministry, discovered when she began her mission at her local parish. Gruenewald said in a press release:
“When you look up deacon appreciation, there is nothing on the Catholic Vocation Calendar. All that comes up in a basic search on Google is greeting cards. We recognized a need in the Church to affirm our deacons and teach younger generations about the diaconate, so we felt compelled to start something ourselves.”
Gruenewald, a Catholic convert and former English teacher, never intended on founding an organization when she was asked by her parish priest in 2011 to lend a helping hand to grow the parish’s stalled vocations ministry. In those days, with few resources to help guide her, Gruenwald just tried to raise awareness to Catholic vocations in any way she could.
“We prayed and promoted vocations any way we could at our parish, from starting Adoration for Vocations to playing Pin-the-Miter-on-the-Bishop at our parish festival,” remembered Rhonda.
The efforts of Vocation Ministry have culminated with the first annual “Deacon Sunday,” to be held on the second Sunday of October. This annual event will raise awareness of the good works performed by deacons, as well as encouraging new vocations. The latter is especially important, as the diaconate has been dwindling in recent years.
In 2021, 458 new permanent deacons were ordained, while 512 deacons retired from active ministry and 393 deacons died in the United States. This means the church lost 447 more deacons than it gained. With an estimated 19,000 deacons in the U.S., their numbers could be exhausted in just four decades if rates remain the same.
And check out this video:
I heard Bishop Mark Seitz mention Deacon Sunday in his talks to the deacons of El Paso last weekend, but I assumed it was a local El Paso thing. (I assumed wrong.)
Excuse me while I drag out my soap box. (Cough. Deep breath.) I need to say something about this.
At a moment when our country and our world are crying out for more vocations to the priesthood and religious life, shouldn’t this effort be highlighted? And shouldn’t Deacon Sunday be celebrated everywhere?
Shouldn’t the USCCB have a role and a voice in promoting the diaconate — loudly — and drawing attention to the important work of Vocations Ministry?
Shouldn’t local bishops take this opportunity to call attention to the vital ministries that deacons exercise in parishes around their dioceses — and, indeed, around the world?
Shouldn’t the Prayers of the Faithful on this particular Sunday mention prayers of gratitude for the deacons? Deacons, after all, are critically important to the sacramental life of every parish. We baptize countless children, witness marriages, facilitate annulments, teach RCIA and CCD and bear witness to the Gospel to those who are hungry, homeless, imprisoned, lonely, adrift, outcast. We are, in many ways, the hands, feet and arms of the local bishop and his pastors, going where they can’t always be.
Shouldn’t the Prayers of the Faithful every week pray for “an increase to vocations to the priesthood, diaconate and religious life”? (I’ve lost count of how many intercessions I’ve read from the pulpit that have not mentioned that ministry in the middle; I just add it on my own.)
Attention must be paid. I’m grateful that Vocations Ministry is doing that! This is how seeds are planted and vocations grow. We need more of this kind of attention — for priests, sisters, brothers and, yes, deacons.
(Climbs off soap box.)