The priest is a man of faith and prayer who has responded to God’s call to bring the people to God and God to the people. He is a man rooted in the sacraments, especially the Eucharist, which is the source and summit of our faith. He is an extension of the local bishop; living a life of service, celibacy, and obedience to their bishop. Priests are called to proclaim and celebrate the Good News among God’s people.
Most men ordained for the Diocese of Sioux Falls serve in parishes of the diocese. They are an active and loving presence of Christ among the people, sharing their faith and participating in the struggles of the people they are serving. Some priests serve as teachers and chaplains in schools, while others serve in various diocesan institutions. Wherever they serve, priests work in bringing peace, love and justice to those around them.
Often when a young man is considering the priesthood he thinks about the things he will have to give up or go without. The reality is all vocations ask us to give of ourselves in such a way that sacrifice is part of the gift. Many of the traits that would make for a great husband and father are the same characteristics that make a great priest.
In those days… The Twelve assembled the community of the disciples and said, “It is not right for us to neglect the word of God in order to wait on tables. Look around among your own number, brothers, for seven men acknowledged to be deeply spiritual and prudent, and we shall appoint them to this task. This will permit us to concentrate on prayer and the ministry of the word”… Following this they selected Stephen, a man filled with faith and the Holy Spirit, Philip… They presented these men to the apostles, who first prayed over them and then imposed hands on them. Acts 6, 1-6
Seven men became the first deacons in the early Church, ordained to assist the apostles in ministry. Today, we have both deacons who are studying to become priests and permanent deacons who are not seeking to be priests but to minister as deacons. The sacrament of Orders is the same for both types of deacons, and they are ordained by a bishop. Because those “transitional deacons” who go on to become priests are deacons for only a short time, most people are more familiar with the “permanent deacons” who may minister in their parishes.
A permanent deacon is a man, married or single, 35 years of age or older, who is ordained to the Sacrament of Holy Orders to serve in the ministries of the Sacrament, Word and Service. He serves as an official representative of the Church and, aided by the sacramental grace of Holy Orders, is a witness to all the world of Christ Himself who “came not to be served, but to serve.” The permanent deacon is sensitive to the many needs of men and women of Christ’s Church and boldly faces up to the challenges of meeting those needs. Deacons, for the most part, are married men who support their families by holding regular jobs. They contribute several hours a week to their ministry and usually receive no monetary compensation.
Deacons preach at Mass, baptize, witness marriages, teach, participate in ministry to the sick, aged, youth, imprisoned, minority communities, and many other areas of ministry. Justice and advocacy for the poor are the main purpose of the deacon ministry.
The permanent deacon must be a man of deep faith. He must be willing to commit a considerable amount of time to study in preparation and be willing to spend many hours of his life in service to people who are troubled, lonely and powerless. If he is married, his wife and family must be willing to support his ministry.