The Deacon's Bench

And the ordinations keep on comin’. These happened last weekend:

Thomas Dewhirst recommitted himself to his Catholic faith in 1998, after years outside the church. About a year later, he felt God was calling him to become a deacon. He initially rejected the idea.

“I thought, ‘No, not me,’ ” Dewhirst recalled. “‘I didn’t go to church for 20 years. This is for the holier-than-thous.’ But the feeling wouldn’t go away.”

On Saturday, Bishop Gerald Barnes of the Diocese of San Bernardino ordained Dewhirst and two other men as deacons during a ceremony at St. Frances Xavier Cabrini Catholic Church in Yucaipa.

In addition to Dewhirst, who is now a deacon at Our Lady of the Rosary Cathedral in San Bernardino, Barnes ordained Michael Cruz, of St. Thomas the Apostle Catholic Church in Riverside, and James Weber, of St. Joseph Catholic Church in Big Bear Lake.

Deacons can carry out many of the functions of a priest, including performing weddings and baptisms, presiding over funerals, delivering homilies and attending to the sick. But they cannot celebrate Mass and they cannot offer confession or the anointing of the sick. Unlike priests, they can marry and have children.

Their role has become especially important in the Inland area, which has one of the largest ratios of parishioners to priests in the country.

“The shortage of priests we have in our diocese is well-documented, yet we see a continued infusion into the diaconate,” said John Andrews, a spokesman for the diocese. “Because they can perform some of the same sacramental work as priests, it’s a real blessing to the diocese to have the participation and growth in the diaconate.”

There are 98 deacons in the diocese, which serves 1.2 million Catholics in Riverside and San Bernardino counties, Andrews said.

Read more about the new deacons here.

And welcome, brothers! Ad multos annos!

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