Deacons are usually seen assisting at Mass, baptisms, weddings and more, but many people may not understand the full extent of their role in the Church.
The First Friday Club of Greater Akron addressed the topic by inviting a panel of three permanent deacons from the Diocese of Cleveland -- Deacons Robin Adair, Bob Herron and John Green -- to speak at the club’s Feb. 1 lunch meeting.
Deacon Adair, who is assigned to St. Augustine Parish in Barberton, gave an overview of the history of the diaconate and background information. He explained the differences in the two types of deacons in the Church, transitional and permanent. A transitional deacon eventually will become a priest, while a permanent deacon remains a deacon until death. A permanent deacon can be married -- but only once -- and he cannot remarry if his spouse dies.
The panel explained that the biggest misconception about permanent deacons has to do with their compensation. A permanent deacon is an unpaid position -- they do not receive any type of pay from their assigned parish or the diocese. As Adair explained, a deacon “comes to serve, not to be served.”
When ordained, deacons take a vow of obedience and respect to the bishop. Their role is to take the church to the poor [mind, body, spirit and the marginalized] and bring the needs of the poor back to the church community. In addition, they can baptize and preside at weddings and funerals. In serving, their focus is on the three-fold ministry of: Liturgy, Word, and works of Charity and Social Justice.
In 2017, there were 37,381 deacons in the world; 18,287 are in the United States. The Diocese of Cleveland has 209 permanent deacons.
Deacon Green, who is assigned to Holy Family Parish in Stow, began his journey in Chicago. He graduated from Wheaton College, which also is the alma mater of evangelist Billy Graham. It was there that Green said he first realized that he wanted to learn more about the Catholic faith as he struggled to defend it at the evangelical Christian college.
After graduation, Green worked in the inner city of Chicago with men who were involved with prostitution. He said he realized that he often was praying and asking for spiritual grace to assist with his work. In 2002, he was ordained a permanent deacon. He moved back to the Cleveland area nine years ago to care for his aging parents who have since died.
Green shared that while his father was not a man of faith, he attended Mass on six occasions: each time his son received a sacrament. Green and his wife own Café O’ Play, an indoor play arena for children 10 and younger.
Deacon Herron was one of four permanent deacons featured in the March/April 2018 issue of Northeast Ohio Catholic magazine. Ordained in 2017, he is assigned to St. Brendan Parish in North Olmsted. Herron shared his faith journey, noting he never thought he would become a deacon. As the oldest of four boys, he admitted he wanted to be a priest until he was in eighth grade.
Herron said his faith was shaken when his parents divorced while he was in high school. He said he became angry and stopped going to church because his prayers weren’t answered. He had been praying that the divorce would not happen. In the midst of this anger, he recalled something his grandfather said to him, “You can be angry with God, but don’t ever lose your faith.” Herron said that had a profound effect on him. He said there were many twists, turns and obstacles in his journey to the diaconate – including a temporary hiatus from formation -- but this call from God eventually was answered.
For more information on the permanent diaconate program, contact Deacon Dave Kushner, director of formation, 440-943-7652 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The First Friday Club of Greater Akron will welcome a student from each of Akron’s four Catholic high schools at its lunchtime meeting on March 1 at Tangier Restaurant, 532 W. Market St., Akron. The students will share their stories of faith. For more information or to reserve a seat, visit firstfridayclubofgreaterakron.org, call 330-535-7668 or email email@example.com for reservations or more information.