Deacons of hope -- diocese turns to lay staff in crisis
AN under-pressure diocese has responded to a pressing vocations crisis by agreeing to accept two deacons to carry out many of the duties normally reserved for priests.
The two men, both of whom are married, will be assigned to the Diocese of Kerry where three parishes have lost priests this year due to retirements and an almost total collapse in vocations.
Jean-Yves Letanneur, from Sneem, and Conor Bradley, from Milltown, were formally received as candidates for the permanent diaconate by Bishop Bill Murphy at a ceremony in St Mary's Cathedral in Killarney.
It marked the halfway stage in their preparation to serve in their local pastoral areas and both men have just commenced year three of a five-year training programme at St Patrick's College in Thurles, Co Tipperary.
When their studies are complete they will be in a position to officiate at baptisms, weddings and funerals as well as preaching the homily at Mass and leading prayer services.
The Ministry of Permanent Diaconate, which has been approved by the Vatican, is open to married men over 35 years of age who demonstrate devotion to the church. Single men over 25 are required to take a vow of celibacy if they apply.
Deacons played an important part in the life of the Catholic Church for centuries, but the office was gradually absorbed into the priesthood and the ministry fell into disuse.
Meanwhile, the Diocese of Kerry has also appointed a lay person to implement its policies on the safeguarding of children.
Jim Sheehy replaces Fr Padraig Walsh who will now act as his deputy.
A native of Dublin, he has lived in Tralee for several years.