The Deacon's Bench

The Deacon's Bench

How about “The Deacon’s Wench”?

posted by jmcgee
In the past, I’ve noted the curious habit in some dioceses of referring to deacons and their wives as “deacon couples”. Now, Deacon Bill Ditewig is tackling that subject — and some others involving spouses, terminology, and what it all means:

Another expression that still has traction is that of “deacon couples”; we often hear this, especially in terms of social or church events: “All deacon couples are invited.” Again, the intent here is clear enough. Deacons and their spouses (for those who are married, of course) are invited. However, the precision of the expression is lacking. Only one of the two is an ordained deacon, and that does not extend to the couple. I made a career in the Navy, and retired as a Commander. We would not be invited to things as a “Commander couple” or even as an “officer couple.” The same precision applies here. So, most places have stopped using that expression in favor of something more precise.

As long as we’re looking at terminology, here’s another. For a long time, it was pretty common to hear about “deacons’ wives”, as in, “There is a deacons’ wives’ group in the diocese.” Now, for a while that didn’t seem to be problematic. However, some of the wives began to get their backs up. They began to realize that their identity was being determined and described by their husband’s role as deacon. “I’m a deacon’s wife” often ignored the fact that this woman has an identity, often an official ministerial identity, quite distinct from her husband’s. One wife told me bluntly: “I have a doctorate in ministry, and have been active in ministry for years before my husband even thought about the diaconate; now people simply think of me and my role as his wife, and disregard or minimize my own professional expertise and experience.” Even more fundamental, of course, is the very sacramental identity we each have, individually, through baptism. My Christian identity and dignity is established through initiation, not through association with someone else. So, another term has emerged as a preferred expression: “the wife of a deacon.” I should point out that this distinction is usually made by the wives themselves as they reflect on their own sacramental identities. Some ladies are perfectly comfortable with “deacon’s wife”; others are not.

He has much more to say, so check it out.

Comments read comments(18)
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posted October 22, 2010 at 4:24 pm

The essay was very interesting. But my comment is in regard to your picture. Love the vestment. I am a great devotee of the Blessed Virgin

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Deacon Greg Kandra

posted October 22, 2010 at 4:41 pm

Thanks, Janet: it was a gift from my wife.
The picture is from my Mass of Thanksgiving, the day after my ordination. My wife was the lector, and we recessed down the aisle together :-)
Dcn. G.

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Mark from PA

posted October 22, 2010 at 5:58 pm

That is a beautiful picture. Thanks for sharing.

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al sowins

posted October 22, 2010 at 6:14 pm

Since the Holy Spirit teaches us, through Apostle Paul, that women may neither teach nor have authority over men in the church, the Diaconate is not available, nor ever will be, to women. But older women are commanded to teach the younger women and, by necessary inference, children.
“Deacon” means, “servant”, or “minister”, and refers to one who serves others. The question is, “Does one serve to be of service”, or to be deferred to as a Christian somehow more spiritual than the deferring party? Rank insignia is not authorized in the Nt, nor are vestments, crucifixes, rosaries, etc., all of which violate the scriptural injubctions against going beyond the Word, acting without the authority of the Word, and adding to or subtracting from the Word, which furnishes the man of God COMPLETELY, for EVERY good work.
Anything more or less than the Word is, ergo, sinful; and a reiteration of the Word is redundant.

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posted October 22, 2010 at 6:24 pm

“Rank insignia is not authorized in the Nt, nor are vestments, crucifixes, rosaries, etc., all of which violate the scriptural injubctions against going beyond the Word, acting without the authority of the Word, and adding to or subtracting from the Word”
What in the world are you talking about? Stop reading into Scripture what isn’t there and focus in on what is.

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Joe Cleary

posted October 22, 2010 at 10:12 pm

I am going to guess that none of us would go wrong referring to the lady in the picture was Mrs. Greg Kandra. A title she obtained ( and you my friend were blessed to have her take ) after recessing down the aisle with her from another sacramental mass a long time ago ….

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posted October 22, 2010 at 10:19 pm

I think that this brings up an issue that people probably want to avoid talking about in public…
Which is that in every parish in America, about 80% of the work is done by women. (Probably true of every parish in the world. Not to mention every congregation, synagogue, temple, mosque…) The Biddy Committee is pretty good at working around clerics when they get in the way, but clerical wives are a whole nother deal. What authority does she have? The Committee works on interpersonal relationships and history — willingness to work hard, reliability, etc. What happens if the deacon’s wife thinks that she should be in charge of the Altar and Rosary Society, or head up religious ed, when she is incompetent, or obnoxious, or promises to do stuff and then doesn’t follow through, or throws temper tantrums when things don’t go her way? Anybody else’s wife can be gently pushed aside, and only given roles which she has the talents and temperament to carry out. How do you do that with the deacon’s wife?

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posted October 22, 2010 at 10:39 pm

Not too long ago, I had a conversation with a “wife of a deacon” on this very topic.
She was very adamant: “I am the wife of a deacon and I recognize my responsibilities here to support him completely as a person and his ministry is a part of that package. But that does not mean I am a ‘Deacon’s Wife.’ I agreed to no such title, nor such position, nor such responsibilities. I want my marriage and my family to be as normal as possible. I do not want my children to be hassled because they are “PK’s” (“preacher’s kids”) and I will not accept any presumptions about being the RC version of a “PW”(preacher’s wife).”
Wasn’t it some time back that a lady named “Monroe Mouse” introduced herself to this blog as a “Deacon’s Kid” and talked about that very topic?
Maybe we ought to get her back to chime in on this topic

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posted October 23, 2010 at 8:08 am

Fiergenholt, that is a good post.
No, the re-creation of the Diaconate in the U.S. in particular hopefully will by-pass the PK and PW problems of Protestant denominations. Deacons I think must be at least 35 to be ordained, so a lot of the probems with the PK’s and hopefully PW’w can be avoided.
Not too many young families.

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posted October 23, 2010 at 8:15 am

Deacon Greg:
The LADY standing next to you appears both too mature and too primly-sturdy to be a wench (as I understand the various definitions).
But then again I do not know her and, like the Lord, I am hesitant to assume to describe anyone as “good”.

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posted October 23, 2010 at 8:25 am

The Spirit is moving me to comment on this one…
My husband is discerning his call to the diaconate. We completed the lengthy and invasive application but have not officially started classes. Our cardinal has put the formation program “on hold” for revision; we really have no idea what is coming next or when. We just wait to hear. My husband and I see this as an opportunity to practice the docility to which we are called. I have been blessed to find this blog (and others like it) as a means of support.
I am fascinated by this post/article. I am overwhelmed by the question it brought to my mind…as a potential “deacon’s wife”…How can anyone who worships the crucified Christ not see the opportunity to “decrease so that He may increase”? To serve Christ, in every soul encountered, and His church AND be thought of less…it’s the perfect opportunity to know Him whom you claim to love. In our diaconate interview process, I was repeatedly asked if I support my husband’s call. My response was that, by virtue of my marriage vow, I support any moral decision he makes. I refused to give my opinion of the diaconate or my husband’s being a deacon. Christ doesn’t want my opinion; He wants me will conformed to His. My vow is to unconditionally love and support Him. MY vocation was chosen at marriage and it is a vocation of service. (I also managed to squeeze in the role of Naval officer, registered nurse, and mother but WIFE is my sacrament) It was an effort to get this point across to my interviewer. (I’m surprised they welcomed us to continue!) Why is that? I recall the words of St. Catherine of Siena (paraphrased): All pain is the result of self-love. I think that includes the pain of having your efforts or accomplishments “minimized”. Women have the gift of being made in the the likeness of Mary, in addition to the likeness of God-how much better can it get for us?
Thanks for mainainting this blog…it really is a great support.
God love ya
[God love YOU, Marie. Thank you for your beautiful words. There’s a homily in there! Good luck and prayerful good wishes to you and your husband. Dcn. G.]

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Monroe Mouse

posted October 23, 2010 at 9:46 am

Well, now, what about the situation in which the deacon is assigned to a different parish in which his family has always attended?
I’ve seen that happen more than once because of staffing needs. The deacon who was recently ordained out of my parish is assigned to another congregation across town. We had the privilege of seeing him on the altar a few times. In fact, the first time he celebrated Easter Vigil prayers his wife was sitting directly behind my family. My husband and I happily assured her “He did great! We know the deacon parts in this liturgy!”
But now, that deacon is at another parish.
@goodguyex The ordination age of 35 does not guarantee that the children will be older, or that a marriage is past the first few years. Couples do marry and start their children at a later age these days. My husband was 35 when we married. My brother also married in his 30s and had the first of his two children at age 39.
@Janet I agree, that Marian vestment is beautiful.

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posted October 23, 2010 at 10:58 am

It means “you’re not really supposed to have a wife anyway, but heck, drag her along, because–nudge, nudge–we all know you have one.”
I think permanent deacons are/were/will always be a bad idea. Most of them don’t really do the kind of work they’re supposed to anyway. They parade around like mini-priests.

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Deacon Norb

posted October 23, 2010 at 11:23 am

You know: we deacons are torn by this impossible dichotomy. Our bishops and priestly mentors insist we are clergy because we have been ordained. But many of us, myself included, do NOT wear a Roman Collar at all. I did buy one once — to use when I went to Rome on a Pilgrimage. I wore it at the Wednesday audience in St. Peter’s Square and have never worn it since.
NOW, it is true that early in the history of the diaconate in this country (say 1968-1975), we went through what I call a “glorified altar boy” phase. That may be what “michigancatholic” can remember and identifies as a “mini-priest” phase.
Not any more in my experience at all!
Besides, “michigancatholic” it is against Deacon Greg’s house-rules to “flame.” Speak of fact, not biased opinion.

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Deacon Greg Kandra

posted October 23, 2010 at 11:39 am

Amen, Norb. I’m not sure what michcath is seeing in his (or her) neck of the woods, but I imagine thousands of deacons (and their wives) would disagree with that assessment.
Dcn. G.

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posted October 23, 2010 at 3:22 pm

Fact. Several deacons in my diocese are still in the throes of glorified altar boy syndrome, and they’ve been deacons for years. And it’s a fact that I don’t like it.

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posted October 23, 2010 at 3:24 pm

I’m sure they would, Dcn G, but I’m not sure what that means exactly.

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Deacon Greg Kandra

posted October 23, 2010 at 3:43 pm

You’ll find “glorified altar boys” in all religious vocations, not just the diaconate. But there are legions of us who strive to approach our ministry with a “servant’s heart.” Talk to deacons who serve in prison ministry, or who work for Catholic Charities, or who direct religious education in their parishes. Talk to the ones who teach in universities, bring communion to the sick and homebound, serve in law firms, run corporations or even (God help us) publish blogs or produce television shows. What you see on the altar is just the tip of a very large iceberg.
And what do you mean by “the kind of work they’re supposed to do”? There is no singular job description for deacons. The pope himself acknowledged as much recently.
Dcn. G.

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