| Deacon ministries have come a long way
in their first half century
Deacon Dick Folger
Deacon David Rezendes
Deacon Matt Dulka
Fifty years ago the call for the Permanent Diaconate in the Diocese of Oakland came on the spirit wings of the Second Vatican Council. Bishop Floyd L. Begin found himself with a large Black community with no Black ministers. His conceptual 1972 document cited, "… almost all the inner-city churches which serve predominantly minority communities are staffed by non-minority clergy. The seminaries do not seem capable of producing any significant numbers of minority young men in the foreseeable future. This lack of ordained minority leaders within the Church structure amounts to a real poverty of leadership."
Bishop Begin and the Priests' Senate implemented the first diaconate program in 1974, answering the call for the institution of the Order of Deacon in the Oakland diocese to fill the need for ministers within the Black Catholic community. In the original proposal, the deacon is presented as being a "voice" for and to the voiceless minority within the diocese. The call to serve the poor and needy, the heart of every diaconal service, is read in every line.
Looking across half a century of diaconal service, and his two decades as Bishop's Representative and Director of Deacon Personnel, Deacon David Rezendes said: "I am so proud of the deacons in the Diocese of Oakland. Originally they were envisioned to be primarily in outreach ministries, but today it has far exceeded that. Deacons can be seen in the countryside, in rural and ranch ministry, in food pantries, providing clothing for the poor, speaking out for the marginalized, serving in veterans hospitals, care homes, prisons and jails and wherever they are needed. An unforeseen bonus is the ministry that the wives of deacons also provide in their own parishes and beyond."
"The Oakland deacon community now includes about 200 members, including the wives. We do believe in the guidance of the Holy Spirit which has led the diaconate in so many different directions. Many parishes have requested deacons but we don't have enough to go around. Even considering those to be ordained in 2013, there still won't be enough," said Deacon Dave.
Deacon Matt Dulka facilitates the deacon formation board. Rev. George Alengadan, SDB, heads deacon formation. Prior to being accepted as candidates, the men went through a process of discernment which included a year-long aspirancy program, which focused on spirituality.
Their first year of candidacy focused on the deacon's ministry of proclamation of the Word. Their second year prepared them to be ministers of charity and justice. The final year focused on their liturgical and sacramental ministry.
Deacons are ordained ministers who fulfill many of the functions of priests. Their faculties include preaching, distributing the Eucharist, witnessing marriages, presiding at funerals, baptizing and assisting at Mass. Deacons can conduct Communion Services outside Mass, preside at Sunday celebration in the absence of a priest and confer blessings and administer Sacramentals. Deacons cannot celebrate Mass or hear confessions.
The first class of 29 deacons was ordained in 1978. Come Nov. 16, eight formation classes will have followed.
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