Springfield Roman Catholic Diocese appoints new deacon training director

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SPRINGFIELD – Deacon David Picard, a retired business owner from Agawam, has been appointed Director of the Diocese of Springfield Diaconate Office by Bishop William D. Byrne, Bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield.

Picard, who was ordained a permanent diaconate in 2017, will oversee candidates preparing for ordination as deacons in the diocese that covers the four counties of western Massachusetts and currently has 73 active Roman Catholic deacons. The four-year program includes evening classes twice a week at Notre-Dame-des-Ormes College in Chicopee and prepares candidates for ordination to assist priests in their liturgical and administrative duties and serve where they are appointed. deacons by the diocesan bishop.

Picard succeeds deacon Leo Coughlin, who retired from the paid part-time position earlier this month after 18 years as director of the diaconate. In a statement, Byrne congratulated Coughlin, who lives in Hampden with his wife Maureen, for “so many years of tremendous and generous service”, and welcomed Picard as “an excellent deacon to replace him.”

Coughlin, who was ordained a deacon in 2001 and served at St. Michael’s Cathedral, said in an interview in 2017 that he had helped facilitate the ordination of about 11 deacons every 24 months in recent years, and that many give between 12 and 15 hours or more. weekly service.

“We cannot consecrate the Eucharist; we cannot anoint the sick and we cannot absolve your sins, ”said Coughlin, who called him a“ rewarding and wonderful ”deacon in his service to others. “But we can perform weddings, do baptisms, and serve at funerals.”

Deacons “visit hospitals, prisons and those who have lost loved ones,” as well as religious education classes doing “whatever we can do to help our priests,” he said.

Picard called his appointment “a great opportunity to know God and to know the diocese better”. He and his wife Sandra have been married for 47 years and are members of St. John the Evangelist Parish in Agawam. They have two adult sons and three grandchildren.

Vatican Council II restored the permanent diaconate to active ministry as an option for bishops in need of this vocation which is seen as that of their ordained service. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops cited a number of reasons for its authorization, including “the extension of liturgical and charitable services necessary for the faithful in large urban communities and small rural communities.”

The ministry has become increasingly important in dioceses where vocations to the priesthood have sharply declined as well as controversial in terms of what deacons can do and that ordination to ministry remain open only to men when it is believed that deacons in the early Church were both men and women.

Formation programs for permanent deacons in the diocese must adhere to certain guidelines and directives. Applicants must be 35 years of age or older. They can be married but are generally not allowed to remarry if their wife dies after their ordination. A married candidate must also have the support of his wife in seeking ordination, and women are permitted to attend training classes if they wish to learn more about what ordination entails in the ministry.

Although they are not allowed to celebrate the Eucharist or to hear confessions, sacraments reserved for the role of ordained priests, permanent deacons can preach, baptize, attend weddings, and organize vigil and funeral services. This is not a full time position in the Diocese of Springfield and it is unpaid.

Bishop Joseph F. Maguire ordained the first permanent deacons in the diocese on January 15, 1983, and their total number has declined in recent years in the diocese.

Seven members of the 2021 diaconate study class are expected to be ordained this year for the diocese, which has about six dozen parishes and missions, and the 2024 class began its first year of study in January.

The sacrament of Holy Orders, that is to say ordination to the diaconate, the priesthood and the episcopate, is open only to men. The diaconate includes transitional deacons who are men so ordained one year before their ordination to the priesthood, while permanent deacons are permanently ordained for this ministry of service.

There are over 18,000 permanent deacons in the American Catholic Church and over 45,000 worldwide. Some 60 percent of American Catholic women are said to support the ordination of women to the diaconate.

The number of priests in the Diocese of Springfield has declined by more than half since the 1950s, while the number of Catholics per priest in the diocese is estimated at around 1,202 Catholics per priest.

Last year, five men were ordained priests for the diocese. There are currently no seminarians preparing for the priesthood in the diocese.

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