“As you renew your commitment to serve the People of God as deacons, this Mass offers an annual opportunity to reflect on the Sacrament of Orders that you have received… Christ continues to serve the People of God as he nourishes their souls through your preaching and as you offer the sacraments in your parish communities”
These words of encouragement were given by Archbishop Bernard Longley to the Permanent Deacons of the Archdiocese of Birmingham, during his challenging homily at the annual Mass of Renewal for Deacons, at the Metropolitan Cathedral and Basilica of St Chad, Birmingham, on Saturday, 11 May.
Speaking on the theme of service, the Archbishop of Birmingham, emphasised: “Christ serves the sick as you visit them at home or through your hospital chaplaincy work. He comforts and guides those who have gone astray through your dedicated chaplaincy to those who are in prison. He instructs young people and enables them to flourish through the chaplaincy you offer in our schools. Christ upholds and strengthens the bereaved as you pray with them for the faithful departed in funeral services and at the graveside.”
Archbishop Bernard Longley added: “These are some of the more obvious and visible ways in which you make the risen Lord sacramentally present in and through his Church – and there are other channels for your service for which we give thanks today. You serve the bishops of the diocese in a particular and welcome way, through your contributions to the liturgy and to the Church’s mission to teach and evangelize. You serve the wider diocese in a diverse range of administrative and organisational roles, offering valuable support to the lay faithful in many of the apostolates and associations that enrich the life of the Archdiocese.”
Bishop Philip Pargeter, Emeritus Auxiliary Bishop of Birmingham; Mgr Timothy Menezes, Vicar General; and the Director of Deacons, Fr David Bazen concelebrated the Mass with Archbishop Bernard Longley, assisted by 40 of the 82 Permanent Deacons who serve in parishes throughout the Archdiocese Birmingham. Many of the Permanent Deacons are married, and St Chad’s Cathedral was filled with their wives and members of their families.
After the homily, the Archbishop of Birmingham invited all the Permanent Deacons present to stand for the Renewal of Commitment to Diaconal Service which they had made on the day of their ordination. Among the questions asked by the Archbishop was: “Are you ready to renew your own dedication to serve Christ as deacons in his Church?” They answered in unison as one, “I am.”
Earlier, Archbishop Bernard Longley concluded his homily by speaking about the service of Pope Francis. He said: “In recent weeks the Church and the wider world have been inspired in a new way by the way in which Pope Francis has begun his universal ministry of service. In gestures that speak clearly of Christ as servant the Holy Father has touched people and made them think about the true values and the central meaning of our Christian faith. In a direct way he has been demonstrating the compassion and humility of the Lord whose own gestures illuminated his teaching and enabled people to listen to his words.
“Each succeeding Pope in his own way is the Servant of the Servants of God. Deacons are called and commissioned by the Church to be servants of God after the heart and example of Christ himself.”
After Mass, the Director of Deacons, Fr David Bazen, who lives and works in St Francis of Assisi Parish in Kenilworth, Warwickshire confirmed that there are now 82 Permanent Deacons serving in the Archdiocese of Birmingham.
Fr Bazen said explained: “The Permanent Deaconate is a four-year, part-time course and the next Diaconate Ordinations will be held on Saturday 20 and Sunday 21 July, when ten candidates will be ordained by Archbishop Bernard Longley.”
Fr Bazen added that one of the men to be ordained, Mr Max Ngamsha on 20 July, is from the Cameroon. He said: “There is great interest in his ordination as at present there are no Permanent Deacons in the Republic of the Cameroon in West Africa, and the Archbishop of Bamenda, Cameroon, will also take part in the liturgy.”
Next year, 2014 is the 25th Anniversary of the ordination of the first Permanent Deacons in the Archdiocese of Birmingham, by the late Archbishop Maurice Couve de Murville. A series of special events are being planned to mark this important occasion in the life of the diocese.