On the weekend when Archbishop Christophe Pierre became Cardinal Christophe Pierre, I thought it would be useful to recall what the nuncio to the United States had to say about deacons back in 2018. He came to the New Orleans congress which brought thousands of deacons together to pray, reflect and celebrate the 50th anniversary of the restoration of the diaconate as a permanent order.

From the vault, here’s the story by Peter Finney from the New Orleans Clarion Herald: 

The core vocational work of permanent deacons is to evangelize and care for others, not to perform office duties, Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States, told more than 1,300 permanent deacons attending the 2018 National Diaconate Congress on July 22.

In his post-Communion remarks at the opening Mass of the five-day gathering, Archbishop Pierre noted that St. John Paul II had declared that the “service of diaconal ministry finds its identity in evangelization.”

“Not doing office work – (in) evangelizing,” Archbishop Pierre said.

The opening Mass was celebrated in a ballroom holding 2,200 seats. Of the 18,500 permanent deacons in the U.S. – who represent more than half the worldwide total – 1,300 permanent deacons are attending the conference, along with their wives and children, for a record total of 2,800 attendees.

“I’m quite amazed to see so many deacons and wives of deacons,” he said, as his message from the altar was displayed to the far reaches of the room on two oversized video screens.

Recalling the 50th anniversary of the restoration of the permanent diaconate by Blessed Pope Paul VI through his 1968 motu proprio “Sacrum Diaconatus Ordinem,” Archbishop Pierre lauded the permanent deacons for their humble service of charity, proclaiming the word and leading the faith community in prayer.

He echoed Pope Francis’ remarks that defined permanent deacons as “pioneers of the new civilization of love.”

“This is Christ’s call, isn’t it?” Archbishop Pierre asked. “Don’t forget, the job is Jesus’. Otherwise, it is your job, your work, right? No. The work is Christ’s. It is one thing to serve at the altar. It is another to be an evangelizing force in the world.

“In my travels throughout the United States, I’ve seen how permanent deacons continue to serve through their hard work and generous service. Deacons have been able coworkers with their bishops, priests and laity in many dimensions of ecclesial life, especially the apostolate works.”

Archbishop Pierre praised the deacons for their work, especially in hospital ministry. He said the church as a whole must do more to prepare couples for marriage and to enrich the marriages of those already married.

“We should invest more in marriage preparation,” he said.

Archbishop Pierre offered the personal greetings of Pope Francis and said the permanent diaconate has “flourished” in the last half-century, “particularly here in the United States, where nearly 18,500 permanent deacons carry out their three-fold diaconal ‘munera’ of word, charity and liturgy.”

He asked the deacons and their wives to reflect on the words of dismissal at Mass, often spoken by the deacon – “Go forth, the Mass is ended”; “Go and announce the Gospel of the Lord”; “Go in peace, glorifying the Lord by your life”; “Go in peace.”

“Share the peace of Christ with all those you meet – your family first – your friends and even your enemies,” Archbishop Pierre said. “Be instruments of the gift of peace. Thank you and thanks be to God for you and your service to the church and for all those who have supported you.”

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