Ten married men were recently appointed as permanent deacons in the Diocese of Witbank. They will administer the sacrament of Baptism, witness marriages and preach on the occasion of liturgical celebrations. They are the face of a Church which is close to people.
The ceremony took place in Maria Trost, at the pastoral centre of the diocese, which is located not far from the town of Mashishing (formerly Lydenburg, Mpumalanga province). Several hundreds of faithful as well as about 30 priests, religious men and women mainly from Witbank, attended. The Comboni Bishop Joseph Sandri presided over the celebration which was an authentic expression of joy. Attendants joined the choir and the mild temperature allowed the ceremony to be held outdoors. In his homily, the Bishop invited priests and ordinands to work and pray together, to share experiences and to carry on the mission of reconciliation and mercy.
The ordinands, who were accompanied by their respective wives and children, had started their preparation for the diaconate long ago, some of them in 1999. Since no new deacons have been appointed over recent years in the diocese, the ordinands’ dream finally came true on that day. At the beginning of the celebration, the ordinands were sitting next to their wives, who followed their husbands when they were invited to come to the altar.
The wives gave their consent to the bishop for the appointment of their husbands in the presence of the assembly, and committed themselves to support their husbands’ ministry.
The ten ordinands at the Witbank diocese came from eight different parishes and their pastors, who attended the ceremony, helped them to wear the liturgical stole.
The ceremony lasted about 4 hours, and was followed by a banquet. Then the newly appointed deacons returned to their respective villages where, apparently, they continued to celebrate with their neighbours.
The Diocese of Witbank, which is located in the northeastern part of South Africa, has 22 parishes, 38 priests, half of whom belong to missionary congregations, while the other half includes local diocesan priests and priests from other countries of the continent.
There are currently fourteen permanent deacons, including the recently appointed ones, in the Witbank diocese, which covers a 57,000 square kilometre area that is home to about 2 and a half million people, about 100,000 of whom are Catholic.
Permanent deacons give great support to pastoral work. They must reconcile their service to the Church with work and family responsibilities. They live among ordinary people and therefore they represent the face of a Church closer to regular people, sharing their struggles and joys. A Church the way Pope Francis wants it.