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The Deacon's Bench

The following item appeared in my parish bulletin last weekend. It got a lot of reaction, so I thought I’d post it here. Enjoy.

This weekend marks my five-month anniversary as an ordained member of the Catholic clergy.

Time flies when you’re having fun, doesn’t it?

As the parish’s only deacon, and something of a novelty here, I tend to get asked the same questions a lot. So, I thought I’d take a moment and just give you the answers right here.

1. Yes, as a matter of fact, I’m married. This leaves some people feeling like Inspector Raynaud in “Casablanca”: shocked, simply shocked. The fact is, deacons are permitted to be married. We have jobs, houses, mortgages, children, and dogs. But I’m not a priest. Which brings me to answer the second most popular question…

2. No, I don’t live in the rectory. It only seems that way. One parishioner said that she sees me and my wife around the church so much, she thought we’d moved in. (I think she was concerned that my wife was having to cook and clean for the priests…) We have an apartment a few blocks from the church. That’s why you sometimes see me walking to church on weekends – or, more likely, sprinting, because I’m late. Once in a while, a parishioner has stopped me on the way to church to ask me the third most popular question, and I always say…

3. No, I don’t do confession. I’m happy to hear it, but you might as well tell your sins to your doorman. I can’t give absolution. I can perform baptisms, weddings and offer blessings for everything from rosaries to Rolls Royces. I also preside at wakes and at Benediction, and I preach homilies. But that’s about it. Frankly, with my schedule, that’s enough.

4. I appreciate your concern, but the priests really don’t seem to mind sharing the pulpit. I’ve gotten the impression from some parishioners that they think I’m a homily hog. That is: I get up to read the gospel, and then refuse to leave. It doesn’t quite work that way. Like the priests, I’m scheduled for masses, and scheduled to preach homilies at certain times. Depending on the circumstances, I’ll sometimes be asked to do more than one mass on a weekend. But the guy who does the scheduling – Fr. Passenant – usually rotates me around with different priests and different masses. So, just like the priests, when you see me and hear me will vary from week to week.

5. That’s very nice of you, but I’m not “Father.” I’ll answer to anything. Just ask my wife. But “Deacon Greg” seems to have a nice ring to it. Just plain “Deacon” will do, or “Hey, Greg, watch out for that falling piano!” Like I said, I’ll answer to anything. But deacons aren’t called “Father.”

6. Nothing. That would be the answer to the inevitable question about my salary. Deacons aren’t paid, unless they have full time jobs working for the diocese.

7. Five years. This actually answers two questions: 1) how long did you have to take classes before you were ordained?, and 2) how long are you going to be here at Our Lady Queen of Martyrs? My class of deacons is the first to be assigned, like the priests, to serve at particular parishes. Most of us are serving at our home parish (provided it doesn’t already have a deacon). But as more deacons are ordained – a class of about 30 will be joining us in 2009 – we’re going to be spread around, to serve where the bishop needs us. My initial assignment is for five years, but could be lengthened, or shortened, depending on the needs of the diocese and how long it takes before I start to get on the pastor’s nerves.

8. 48. My age. In other words, I’m an old dog, and this is all a very new trick. So far, I haven’t set my vestments on fire during Benediction, or drowned a baby during baptism. With a little luck, and a little grace, I just might get the hang of this deacon thing.

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