Archbishop Miller thanks the 18 men for 'casting nets into uncharted waters' and responding to the Lord
By Nathan Rumohr
"Fishing for people" will be expected of the men studying to become permanent deacons, according to Archbishop J. Michael Miller, CSB.
"I want to thank you for letting out your nets into the deep and uncharted waters," Archbishop Miller said during the diaconate candidacy Mass at Holy Rosary Cathedral Sept 8. "You have responded generously to the gentle but insistent call of the Lord."
Archbishop Miller said the candidates had put themselves in the shoes of Peter by making themselves available as permanent deacons.
He added that it is easy to act as Peter did and profess unworthiness to serve the Lord, and ask if God could have chosen someone else.
"But a trusting response expresses itself in ready adherence, even submission, to the Lord's invitation, as Peter did," Archbishop Miller said. "The truth is Jesus has looked lovingly on each of us, and it is His gaze, not our merits, that give us confidence."
The permanent diaconate program was announced in February 2011. Since that time hundreds of men have attended information meetings, dozens of men have entered a postulant phase, and now only 18 candidates remain.
Candidates for the program may be married or single and must be over 35 by the time of their ordination. Once ordained, deacons can preach the Gospel at Mass, officiate at marriages and funerals outside Mass, but cannot celebrate Mass or the sacraments of reconciliation and anointing the sick.
The archbishop said the diaconal ministry calls men to a life of mission far beyond their expectations and their trust in their own abilities.
"Do not be afraid, because from now on 'you will be catching people.'"
He said during the forthcoming Year of Faith it would be important for the candidates to put their "nets" into deep waters, into "the sea of darkness, and without light."
"We must bring men and women out of the sea who have been salted by so many forms of alienation and onto the sands of light," Archbishop Miller said, quoting Pope Benedict XVI. "The purpose of our lives is to reveal God to men."
The 18 men will study another three years under the direction of Msgr. Gregory Smith. "I think some of them had a tougher time than we did in the seminary," Msgr. Smith joked.
He complimented the 18 men for their hard work and perseverance through the program's first year.
"The group that the archbishop has accepted as candidates is diverse in talents and background, but each of the men has gifts that will be of great value to the local church. I can already see the good that our first group of permanent deacons will do."
Deacons were instrumental in the early Church, but the position became a transitional stage on the way to the priesthood after the fourth century. Pope Paul VI brought the permanent diaconate back as a separate ordained ministry in 1967 after Vatican II.