From The Georgia Bulletin
ANDREW NELSON, Staff Writer
Published: February 7, 2008
ATLANTA—There will soon be more permanent deacons serving Catholics in the Archdiocese of Atlanta than there are priests.
Twenty men will join the ranks of ministers of charity, as deacons are called, on Friday, Feb. 8, at the Cathedral of Christ the King. The ordination Mass begins at 7 p.m.
The increasing number of deacons helps the growing church in the Atlanta Archdiocese that is expanding to new corners of North Georgia as priests are stretched to reach out to the faithful. The new permanent deacons will be serving in at least 18 different parishes and missions.
“There are many areas that a single priest can’t deal with. The deacons are serving a vital role,” said Deacon Loris Sinanian, the director of diaconate formation.
The number of permanent deacons in the archdiocese in the past six years has jumped 30 percent. In 2001, there were 137 deacons serving in parishes and other ministries. In 2007, the number was 181. Next year is expected to be another strong year with 16 men scheduled to be ordained.
In 2007, priests numbered 185, according to the Official Catholic Directory. Eight new priests are scheduled to be ordained in the archdiocese in May.
Men are recognizing there is a serious need for the work that deacons can do so priests can focus on the sacraments of the church, said Deacon Sinanian, a deacon for 18 years. He serves at St. Anthony Church, Blue Ridge.
A deacon is ordained by the archbishop to minister in the Catholic Church. A deacon serves by proclaiming Scripture, preaching and performing charity for others. Deacons also assist at marriages, preside at funerals and burial rites and lead Communion and prayer services.
A deacon is to be “a servant in a servant-Church,” according to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
It takes five years of formation in this archdiocese to become a deacon. The program prepares men with academic, spiritual and pastoral experiences to serve the church. Men are either single or married. If single, they take a vow of celibacy. Most deacons hold full-time jobs in addition to serving the church in ministry. Some become deacons after retiring from the work force.
In 1967, the Catholic Church restored the diaconate as a permanent order of ministry, returning to the practice of the early church. Prior to the order of Pope Paul VI, the diaconate was a transitional stage as men prepared to be priests.
There are more than 14,000 permanent deacons in the United States, according to the bishops’ conference.
Deacon Dennis Dorner, chancellor of the archdiocese, said priests and deacons have complementary gifts. He said the two ordained church ministries do not compete but build on each other’s skills.
Deacon Dorner said the response to a vocational call is more important than numbers.
“They are called to service. We are not there for awards and platitudes,” he said.
The life experiences of a deacon are valuable to Catholics who are comfortable talking with married clergy who face the same issues, he said.
“I do know I get an awful lot of calls from men who want to talk to me about juggling responsibilities as a husband, father and their career,” he said.
Deacon Dorner said the visibility of deacons around the archdiocese could be encouraging more men to consider the vocation.
“People are becoming a bit more serious about their faith, their walk with Christ,” he said.
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