Deacons, Bishop Burbidge meet for Mass, fellowship

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Marking the 50th anniversary of the reinstitution of the permanent diaconate, Bishop Michael F. Burbidge celebrated Mass for the diocesan permanent deacons at the Cathedral of St. Thomas More Oct. 6. A discussion and luncheon followed in Burke Hall.

“It’s a great day because it allows us deacons to come together as a community to celebrate the gift of service that we are able to give to our parishioners and to the diocese,” said Deacon Gerard-Marie Anthony of St. Timothy Church in Chantilly, who served as lector at the Mass. “Also, we get to be with our bishop and together we can encourage each other.” 

In his homily, Bishop Burbidge praised the consistent willingness of the deacons to help, especially now.

“I am so blessed that a number of you have approached me and asked, ‘What is it that we can do, Bishop, to help you at this time in the life of the church?’” he said.

Addressing the clerical sexual abuse crisis, Bishop Burbidge reminded those gathered of the importance of unity.

“In a time of crisis like this, it’s easy to point fingers, but true leaders don’t do that,” he said. “They acknowledge what has failed and what has gone wrong, and, God willing, avoid it in the future. As bishops, priest and deacons, the best gift we can give is unity.”

After Mass, the deacons, many accompanied by their wives, joined Father Paul Scalia, episcopal vicar for clergy and director of the permanent diaconate, and Bishop Burbidge for a reflection and lunch. Father Scalia assists Bishop Burbidge in caring for the spiritual needs of the permanent deacons, and in an interview before the event, he articulated the roles of the diaconate in the hierarchy of the church.

“The deacon is not a miniature priest or a giant layman; he is one who serves in imitation of Christ the servant,” Father Scalia said. “The three fundamental roles of the diaconate are service to the word in teaching and preaching, assisting the priest at the altar and attention to the poor.”

During the event, Bishop Burbidge and Father Scalia honored several deacons who celebrate special jubilees this year: Deacon John A. Hubbarth, 35 years; Deacon William J. Donovan, 30 years; Deacon W. Vincent Einsmann, 30 years; Deacon Richard T. O'Connell, 30 years; and Deacon Kien Minh Pham, 30 years.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2018