A 41-YEAR-OLD grandfather of three was among six married men given the authority at the weekend to conduct wedding services in the Catholic Church.
Wando Araujo, a bakery manager in Roscommon, now plans to officiate at his older brother Claudio's wedding in a Catholic church in their native Brazil.
His ordination along with five other men to the position of permanent deacons in the diocese of Elphin is part of the Irish Catholic Church's move ending a 1,500-year ban on non-priests officiating at weddings and funerals.
Mr Araujo was accompanied by wife Edilaine and his three children, aged 18 to 24, when he was ordained a permanent deacon at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, Sligo.
He said: "I also have three grandchildren but they are too young to be here."
The new deacons can now "hatch, match and dispatch" – officiate at baptisms, weddings and funerals.
They were ordained in a cathedral packed with relatives and friends on Saturday, all dressed in their finest.
During the ceremony their wives assisted with vesting them in stoles and dalmatics.
Mr Araujo decided to become a deacon after his parish priest announced a decision to restore permanent deacons, a position which fell by the wayside in the Catholic Church in the west around 1,500 years ago.
One deacon will officiate at a baptism next week. David Muldowney (42), who lives in Ballinameen, Co Roscommon, plans to baptise a friend's child.
All the married men ordained by Bishop Christopher Jones of Elphin have full-time day jobs. They insisted their families and jobs are still their priority, but they were also overjoyed to feel closer to God.
Historian William Gacquin said: "For deacons, family comes first and as you have to earn your livelihood, your job comes second. You give the church your free time."