We see our deacons up on the altar, but permanent deacons, like Deacon Robert Sanchez, perform a much more extensive ministry unique to God’s plan for each of them as disciples of Jesus.
The etymology of the word “deacon” is of Greek origin; the word means “servant.” Simply put, we live lives of service, in the model of Christ the Servant — “I am among you as one who serves.” (Lk 22:27) A deacon’s ministry is Threefold: word, altar and charity. Although we serve in liturgical and sacramental roles at the altar, we are called to much more than that through evangelization of the word and works of charity. Deacons have been described as the Church visible in the world, and as a bridge between the sacred and the secular. Pope Francis has said that deacons should spend the majority of their time in ministry outside of the walls of the church. For it is “in the marketplace” that we avail ourselves to our brothers and sisters in Christ.
There are many opportunities for deacons in our diocese to live lives of service. For example, I have brother deacons who are hospice chaplains, grief counselors and jail ministers. It is in these roles that deacons make the Church visible in the world.
As for myself, I have been active in youth ministry for many years and have taught and assisted with religious education, from kindergarten to college, in various capacities. Being a VBS “roadie” (setting up and taking down) and “Outdoor Activities Director” (spraying kids with a hose) are among my favorites! I have also taught RCIA classes and I train our altar servers.
In addition to youth ministry and religious education, I also serve as a law enforcement chaplain. Some of my duties as a chaplain include death notifications, counseling, spiritual direction and ceremonial functions. The impacts that a career in law enforcement have on its members can be profound. Crime scenes and the rigors of shift work can take a toll on us. Being able to minister to my brothers and sisters in blue and gold (sworn and civilian) is humbling and an honor.
You may have noticed that I haven’t written much about a deacon’s role in the liturgy and sacraments. It isn’t because that role is unimportant, because we take that ministry very seriously; it is because our ministry goes far beyond a few hours at Mass on the weekend. As members of the working world, as parents and as neighbors, we bridge the secular to the sacred by bringing the light of Christ to our communities and making Holy Mother Church visible in the world.
This is just a quick glimpse into the life of a deacon. If you’d like to learn more, contact your parish deacon or the diocesan Office of Vocations.