Members of the community of deacons in the Diocese gathered earlier this month for two separate occasions aimed at strengthening their bonds.
The Deacon Community Board met on August 17 to seat new members and elect a new chair, as Deacon Thomas Aumen concluded the end of his second three-year term. Deacon Gregory Amarante of Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish in Lewisburg, was elected as the new chair.
“As chair, I am grateful for the votes of confidence and the assurance of shared responsibility from my fellow board members,” Deacon Amarante said. “I look forward to advancing together in prayer, charity, and the good work set before us unto the praise and glory of God and the benefit to all whom we serve.”
“I am pleased that Deacon Amarante has been elected chair because he has 11 years of experience as a deacon and brings that experience, gifts and talents with him. I look forward to seeing his work for the benefit of the deacon community,” said Deacon Aumen.
Newly-elected board members are Deacon Joe Cingle, Pamela Cingle, Deacon Jim Lawson, Helen Lawson, Deacon Carl Freidhoff, Deacon Bryan Salzmann, Deacon Greg Amarante, Ellen Amarante and Deacon Tom Hewitt. Constitutions promulgated in 2015 call for three wives to be included as members of the board.
The Deacon Community Board meets regularly as a supportive body that addresses the many aspects of the 91 permanent deacons currently in the Diocese, including their physical and spiritual health, fraternal support in their ministries, and assistance to support deacons and their spouses who are ill. The board also assists in planning retreats and days of reflection for the deacon community.
“We’re here as a means of assisting our brothers in any way we can,” Deacon Aumen said.
It’s a fraternal brotherhood that extends across several generations and classes of deacons ordained for the Diocese, including those ordained in 1978, 1983, 2010 and 2020.
“Over these past several years, we made an effort to be interconnected between the older deacons and the ones new to ministry, to appreciate the efforts of those who have gone before us, and to look to the future with the newest classes. It’s been very important to develop that bond,” said Deacon Aumen.
Deacon Amarante acknowledged the good work and caring leadership of the former board members. “Their dedication to the edification and well-being of our diaconal community is evident and much appreciated. As chairman, Deacon Aumen was exemplary, and I pray for the grace to continue in the same level of excellence,” he said. “I am pleased to be serving on the board with my wife, Ellen, and the newly ordained deacons and their wives who were elected and appointed. We are humbled by the trust and support we have received from Bishop Gainer, Father Forrey, and our peers in the diocese; we seek to serve them well.”
“The energy of the new board is high as is the sense of collaboration,” he continued. “Worthy of note from our first meeting is an interest in building community among all our deacons and their wives and families, both at the Diocesan and regional levels. I commend Deacon Jim Lawson who proposed the establishment of a Community Building Committee as the first official motion of our new board, which we unanimously approved. Our community has enjoyed new growth under Bishop Gainer, but the pandemic posed an impediment to gathering and welcoming one another. Promoting the fraternal integration of our community is a top priority for us.”
Praying with and for Each Other
Deacons throughout the Diocese furthered their fraternal bond during a Mass celebrated for their community on August 10, the Feat of St. Lawrence. Deacons gathered with their wives at Holy Name of Jesus Church in Harrisburg for the Mass, celebrated by Bishop Ronald Gainer.
Deacon Patrick McCormack of Our Lady of Good Counsel Parish in Marysville was the chairman for planning the Mass, originally scheduled for last year but postponed due to concerns surrounding the pandemic.
“It has been some time since the diaconate community has been able to gather, and we especially appreciate the opportunity to do so with Bishop Gainer,” said Deacon McCormack, who was ordained in September 2020. He hopes the Mass for the deacons will become an annual celebration.
“The principal purpose in gathering from across the Diocese is to pray with and for each other at Holy Mass, but it also provides a chance to renew our fraternal ties and strengthen our ministry,” he said.
During the Mass, a collection was taken up to benefit deacons in need. The deacons also remembered in prayer the deceased members of their community, the new class of permanent deacons embarking on their time of discernment, and the deacons and wives transitioning into or out of their role with the Deacon Community Board.
The Mass also offered opportunity to pause and reflect on the example of St. Lawrence.
“St. Lawrence, deacon and martyr, exemplifies faithful obedience, fearless witness and a commitment to charity,” Deacon McCormack reflected. “He has been widely honored as a patron saint for all deacons. He was one of the seven deacons in Rome under Pope Sixtus II in the third century. Some of the pious traditions associated with his memory reveal that he helped to manage the Church’s property and provide for the poor. According to that tradition, when the Emperor Valerian launched a terrible persecution against the Church, authorities demanded that Lawrence surrender the Church’s treasures. St. Lawrence was given a deadline for delivery, but when the time came he presented the blind, the poor, and the lame as representing the Church’s true spiritual treasures.”
St. Lawrence was martyred by being burned on a gridiron, defying his torturers until he succumbed.
“The name Lawrence appears to have been derived originally from the name for the laurel tree,” Deacon McCormack noted. “In antiquity, a crown of laurel leaves was a symbol of triumph, and this martyr’s death vividly reminds us that God can turn any tragedy into triumph.”
(Mass photos by Chris Heisey, Board photos by Jen Reed, The Catholic Witness.)
By Jen Reed, The Catholic Witness