MARRIED deacons were ordained into the Catholic Church last night in a ceremony that was described as historic by the Archbishop of Dublin, Diarmuid Martin.
The men were joined by their wives and families as eight permanent deacons were ordained in a service which lasted close to two hours at Dublin's Pro-Cathedral.
Although permanent deacons minister in other European countries, this was the first group to be ordained to the diaconate in Ireland.
Seven of the men are married and two are retired. All are from Dublin.
Eric Cooney, of Monkstown; Gabriel Corcoran, Dundrum; Gerard Larkin, Templeogue; Gerard Reilly, Donaghmede; Jim Adams, Bonnybrook; Joe Walsh, Lucan South; Noel Ryan, Ballinteer; and Steve Maher, Malahide, were each ordained by Archbishop Martin at the Pro-Cathedral.
Deacons can assist during Mass, bring Holy Communion to the sick, celebrate baptisms and marriages and preside at funerals. However, they cannot say Mass or hear confessions.
Deacon Cooney, who works with a payment services company, told the Irish Independent he hoped the newly ordained deacons could serve as a bridge between lay people and priests.
"Perhaps we'll be more approachable because people know we're married, we have mortgages, we have jobs, we have all the pressures, and that's probably something which we can bring to the ministry," the 56-year-old said.
Deacon Cooney has two children, aged 28 and 23.
Candidates to become deacons may be married or single with the upper age limit set at 60 years.
If married, the wives of the candidates are consulted at each stage of the instruction, which lasts four years.
It involves academic study and spiritual, human and pastoral formation within the parish.
A married man must be at least 35 years of age and a single man at least 25 years of age to be considered as candidates.
A married man must be married for at least five years and live in a "stable and valid marriage" and enjoy the "full support" of his wife.
If single, it is required that the man enjoy a "stable, settled life, a history of healthy relationships and be able and willing to accept celibacy."
In his homily, Archbishop Martin said the ordinations were a call to service.
"You are this evening not being ordained just for yourselves. Being a deacon is not an honour conferred on you like an honorary doctorate recognising your service," Archbishop Martin said.
"The ministry being conferred on you is a deep calling to Diaconia, to service, and that must now become a fundamental dimension of your own personal existence, a dominant characteristic, not just of your ministry, but of your lives."
Deacon Reilly works in the financial services sector and Deacon Corcoran lectures at the Dublin Institute of Technology. Deacon Adams works with the Irish Wheelchair Association.
Deacon Larkin works in the public service.
Deacon Walsh is a retired retailer while Deacon Ryan is a retired ESB employee.
Deacon Maher is semi-retired and a former Aer Lingus worker.
During the service, the men wore white robes until they were officially presented with their vestments by their wives and family members at the foot of the altar.
Prior to this, each had to kneel before Archbishop Martin and promise "respect and obedience" to him and his successors. Mr Walsh, who is not married, also had to take a commitment to celibacy.
Deacon Adams (54) said the evening was very emotional and spiritual.
"It has left me feeling ready to go and fulfil this ministry," he said. He said he was uplifted by the support he had received from people.