I’m delighted to see my friends Deacon Ernie Hart and Deacon Harold Burke-Sivers appearing in the pages of Our Sunday Visitor, talking about vocations:
Deacon Ernest F. Hart serves as a deacon assigned to the parish of St. Mary Magdalene in Springfield Gardens in Queens and is additionally a deputy commissioner with the New York City Police Department. For Deacon Hart, his vocational calling to provide help and good counsel happens both in his small parish and in his everyday work. In his parish duties, Deacon Hart provides pre-cana or “post-cana” counselling, preparation for baptism, helps the faithful with legal or family problems, and generally seeks to make the Gospel more meaningful to everyday life through Christian witness. Informally, he carries this ministry to his job.
“In my present secular position, I serve as Deputy Police Commissioner for the New York City Police Department where I am also known as a Catholic deacon,” Deacon Hart said. “Although I do not seek it, I am sought out by people of all faiths for counselling and advice, thereby, exposing the Gospel to all no matter their faith. Also, as modern policing seeks stronger relationships with clergy and community leaders, I am in a unique position to help.”
Priests, religious and deacons offer counsel to the faithful in many ways, often guided by their own gifts and charisms. Deacon Harold Burke-Sivers has served his congregation at Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church in the Archdiocese of Portland, Oregon, for 18 years. But his work extends far beyond the pews at Immaculate Heart through his work as an author and speaker.
“Marriage preparation, vocational discernment, troubled marriages, and crises if faith are all areas where I have provided advice, counsel, and direction,” Deacon Burke-Siver said…
… “My diaconal ministry is never far from my thoughts, no matter the situation,” said Deacon Hart. “If the situation calls for it, I tell people I will pray for them no matter their religious beliefs. I remind people that prayer works. When in ecumenical situations, I am careful to be as inclusive as possible. For example, I often talk of the God of Abraham as the Father of Islam, Judaism and Christianity. While I try not to suggest what actual decisions others should make, I do try to give them the spiritual, theological and moral tools to make good choices, although they may not know the basis for my guidance. In parish life, the sacraments are the primary source of strength and identity of us as Catholic Christians. Through my homilies and other parish activities, I remind the faithful of that as much as possible in word and deed.”