Present: Deacons Donoghue, Bulpett, Crimmins, Guerrini, Hardcastle,
Hickey, Ryan, Shanahan, and Whipple
Absent: Deacons Canova, Delaney, Goldy, Menz, Messina, Morel, Santosuosso, and Wildes
1. Opening Prayer.
The meeting was called to order at 7:05 p.m. and began with a prayer.
2. Draft Statement re: Deacons’ Council.
A draft statement explaining the Deacons’ Council was presented for discussion.
There was brief discussion as to the length of terms of elected Council members and their eligibility for reelection. It was pointed out that the Statement was not intended to serve as the by-laws of the Council but as a description for the information of the diaconal community. Nevertheless it seemed reasonable to add mention of the two ex-officio positions in addition to the Associate Director of the Diaconate Office.
Deacons Crimmins and Hickey arrived at this point.
The question was asked whether appointed or ex-officio members had any responsibility for organizing the regional meetings which the Statement calls for. The answer is that while appointed and ex-officio members may help with the meetings, it is not their responsibility.
Deacon Donoghue said that the Statement makes it clear that this is a Council for deacons.
Deacon Hickey pointed out that the South Region already has an annual meeting, and he asked if that could be considered a meeting of the type called for by the Statement. It was agreed that such a meeting does “count.”
Deacon Ryan will redraft the Statement in the light of this discussion.
3. Election of New Members.
Candidates have been nominated from the South, North, and Merrimack regions; we still need nominees from the Central and West regions.
Deacon Donoghue noted that looking ahead Deacon Messina had counted 36 deacons assigned to parishes “recommended” for closure. This raises the question whether there should be a policy whereby deacons are to go with the people to the welcoming parish. Would exceptions be made if pastors in welcoming parishes did not want a deacon? Or should all reassignments be on a case-by-case basis?
Deacon Shanahan said that our concern should be about the people. Reassignments should be made in the context of an overall vision for parishes. Use the changes as an opportunity for things such as outreach, evangelization, and catechesis – with a vision for what happens after reconfiguration.
Deacon Ryan noted that there were to be regional meetings, which might provide some indications.
Deacon Guerrini noted that we don’t know where the people will actually go. They will not all necessarily join the designated welcoming parishes.
Deacon Hardcastle asked how many parishes are currently requesting deacons. Deacon Donoghue stated that there are about 25. Deacon Hardcastle suggested that the reconfiguration could be used to fill such requests.
Deacon Guerrini said that we should tell the priests that there are deacons available for ministry.
Deacon Whipple felt that it is not necessary to keep deacons with the communities they have been serving.
Deacon Shanahan said that it should start from the top down. The deacons should have a vision.
Deacon Guerrini noted that it will involve a lot of work for the Office.
Deacon Whipple suggested giving the names of the c.25 “requesting” pastors to the deacons in suppressed parishes. Deacon Guerrini suggested letting “welcoming” pastors know that deacons are available. Deacon Shanahan suggested letting all the clergy in a region know of the available deacons in that region. Deacon Guerrini suggested sending a letter with this information from the Office to all pastors. Deacon Ryan suggested sending a copy to all deacons.
Deacon Shanahan felt that consideration of the need for a deacon should be a step in the process which each welcoming parish is to go through during reconfiguration.
Deacon Ryan noted that agreements on the deacons’ ministry should be redone.
Deacon Donoghue requested that we let the Office know if something is happening that deacons should be involved in. For example, the Central Committee for Reconfiguration does not include any deacons. The Office had not made a suggestion to include any, but if it had occurred to someone to suggest it to the Office, they could have done so. There may be similar instances where an alert deacon can help the Office.
Deacon Guerrini noted that there appears to be a mindset, on the part of some people involved, to represbyterize the Cabinet. He suggested that the Office inform the Committee that we are ready to help them in their work if there is any way we can do so.
5. Other Business.
Deacon Bulpett stated that the current crisis over the definition of marriage is even more serious than the problems surrounding reconfiguration.
Deacon Donoghue asked how we could educate the diaconate community about the principles involved in the issue. The consensus was to use e-mail.
Deacon Hardcastle mentioned that some people miss the deacons’ and wives’ retreats here on campus.
Deacon Shanahan said that the numbers attending those retreats had gone down and that some couples go to Miramar and like it there. Deacon Donoghue added that some couples found the situation here not “couple-friendly.”
Formation of Consciences.
Deacon Shanahan raised the issue of formation of conscience. How do we help people to form their consciences, and even to know what it means to have a well-formed conscience.
Deacon Whipple thought that many people do not know that there is a difference between conscience and what they think is desirable, citing an example of a couple who complained about a homily in which he had said a word against in vitro fertilization. They had a child that way, and wrote that although they knew it was not God’s way it was right for them to have done it.
Deacon Guerrini suggested that the work of education needs to start with smaller groups, e.g., Bible study.
Deacon Hickey reported that approximately 600 deacons attended the meeting in Chicago. A major point which emerged is that deacons want to unite in teaching on domestic abuse.
Deacon Hickey also reported that the National Catholic Diaconate Conference, scheduled for July 1-4 in Baltimore is in trouble because of a low number of advance registrations. It would be very unfortunate to lose this Deacons’ Conference held every four years. A mailing will go to all deacons to encourage them to attend if possible.
Disaster Plan” for Deacons.
There was discussion and agreement that it would be good to have guidelines for deacons telling them what to do in situation such as a priest collapsing during a liturgy. Obviously, medical assistance is summoned – 911 – but what about the liturgy in progress and the congregation?
6. Next Meeting Date June 16, 2004.
The meeting adjourned at 9:30.
(Deacon) John E. Whipple, Secretary