Permanent diaconate candidates attend retreat, receive albs

NEW BEDFORD, Mass. — Deacon Joseph McGinley led the deacon candidate retreat held last week at St. Mary’s Parish, New Bedford, for the nine men who are in formation for the permanent diaconate in the Diocese of Fall River. 

For the nine men in formation, this retreat day was an opportunity to participate in several sessions as they prepare for the institution of the Ministry of Reader. These men had time to reflect on, not only the Word of God and His call to them, but to also spend some time reflecting on the Word of God as contained in the book of Scriptures which these men will soon be called to proclaim in their parish Liturgies and other experiences of prayer. 

Before Vatican II, there were four minor orders: lector, exorcist, acolyte and porter. There was also subdiaconate.  These were required before one could receive the Sacrament of Orders as a deacon or priest. Vatican II called for the revision of Sacraments and Liturgy. The revisions came about because almost no one performed the ministries of porter, exorcist, and indeed, even lector. 

Blessed Pope Paul VI issued the defining document in the Motu Proprio, entitled Ministeria Quaedam.  This eliminated minor orders completely, eliminated tonsure and subdiaconate. He established two “offices” of reader and acolyte, which will include the functions of the subdiaconate. The men, in this formation class, will be instituted as Readers by Bishop Edgar M. da Cunha, S.D.V., at Holy Name of the Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish in New Bedford, on June 6.

Msgr. John J. Oliveira, diocesan director of the Permanent Diaconate Office, explained how the ministry of reader is different than a lector at Mass. Their call is not only a call to proclaim the Word of God as ordinary ministers, but they will have the grace to instruct others in the faith to prepare for the Sacraments and to bring the message of Salvation to those who have not heard it. 

Pope Paul VI stated in the Norms regarding the Holy order of Deacons (1972), “It is especially fitting that the ministries of reader and acolyte should be entrusted to those who, as candidates for Sacred orders, desire to devote themselves to God and to the Church in a special way — both by study and by gradual exercise of the ministry of the Word and of the altar, candidates for Sacred orders should through intimate contact understand and reflect upon the double aspect of the priestly office. In this way, candidates are to approach Holy Orders fully aware of their vocation, fervent in Spirit, serving the Lord, constant in prayer, and aware of the needs of the faithful.” 

Using the Rite of Institution of Reader, Msgr. Oliveira led the group through the significance and meaning of the words and the actions of this beautiful Roman Catholic rite.

Father Robert Oliveira, associate director of the Permanent Diaconate Office, and Deacon Frank Lucca, assistant director of Deacon and Candidate Formation, also participated in the full-day retreat. After an opportunity to formally request of the bishop in writing, their intent to be instituted to the Ministry of Reader, the men enjoyed fellowship and a luncheon prepared by the parish and the Permanent Diaconate Office.

The wives and family members joined their candidates for a Holy Hour and Benediction and then all joined the parish family of St. Mary’s for Liturgy. 

During the Liturgy, Msgr. Oliveira blessed the albs, which the men will wear in their ministry as readers and then called forward each candidate and his wife or family member who then assisted the deacon candidate in robing for the first time.

The nine men who are to be instituted to the ministry of reader on June 6 are Richard Bisson Sr., Keith Caldwell, Gary Donahue, Kevin Gingras, David Harum, George Hults, Antonio Pimental, Paul Spearin, and Matthew Sweeney.  

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