CATHOLIC women deacons

helping women answer the call...

Lizzie Berne DeGear

New York, NY

"My vocation as a Catholic and as a woman of faith continues to deepen as the years go on. For me, discernment happens in deep prayer and in relationship, held by God and by my parish community -- the Church of St. Francis Xavier in New York City. As the Church responds to this new wave of discernment regarding Catholic Women Deacons, I too am called to respond. I read what the US Conference of Catholic Bishops has to say about the function of Deacons: "As ministers of Word, deacons proclaim the Gospel, preach, and teach in the name of the Church. As ministers of Sacrament,deacons baptize,lead the faithful in prayer, witness marriages, and conduct wake and funeral services. As ministers of Charity, deacons are leaders in identifying the needs of others, then marshaling the Church's resources to meet those needs. Deacons are also dedicated to eliminating the injustices or inequities that cause such needs. But no matter what specific functions a deacon performs, they flow from his sacramental identity. In other words, it is not only WHAT a deacon does,but WHO a deacon is,that is important." I see a reflection of my own vocation -- past, present, and future -- in this description. *I take my function as "minister of the Word" seriously -- my masters in Religion and Religious Education from Fordham University had a focus that was both pastoral and scriptural, and my Masters Thesis was on the Gospel as it is and is not present in the Sunday lectionary. My doctoral studies focused on both depth-psychology-and-religion and on the Hebrew Bible. For fourteen years now I have been leading Bible Studies at my parish, in addition to publishing scholarly articles and book on the Bible. *As "minister of Sacrament" I believe being an ordained deacon might allow me and my parish community to bridge the gap between the gifts and passions God has bestowed upon me and the desire the church as Body of Christ has for me to share these gifts. It is through liturgy and sacrament that my own faith is nourished, and I have been invited by various people of faith to minister and lead. For years now, people have been asking me to baptize their children, lead them in prayer, witness their marriages. How full could my "Yes!" be if the Church was called to ordain me a Deacon? For over a decade I have been leading memorial services in a secular setting, through a non-profit organization called the Center for Urban Community Services; in creating these services I have been blessed to honor deceased men and women who knew homelessness, addiction, and other acute suffering throughout their lives, and each time, as I get to know them through the loved ones who survive them, I discover more about the dignity of humanity and the beauty of God's love and creative work. *The description of Deacons mentions "ministers of charity" -- in my years of work as a hospital chaplain certified by the National Association of Catholic Chaplains, and in my vocation as a wife and mother I have carved out deep spaces in my heart to let a ministry of charity flow. My studies in depth psychology and theology have given me a rich storehouse of knowledge, adding dimension to my capacity for charity. I have honed precise pastoral and clinical skills, allowing me to be truly effective. And my heart grows. *I am impressed by the fact that the description of deacons honors them as "leaders in identifying the needs of others, then marshaling the Church's resources to meet those needs. Deacons are also dedicated to eliminating the injustices or inequities that cause such needs. " My work as participant and now co-leader in the Women's Ministry at my parish has taught me so much in this regard! How the blessings would flow if the Church recognized and empowered our work. I have a great passion for collaborative work, and have been blessed to work alongside beautiful souls in the many, many ministries of our parish. *Finally I am touched by these words about deacons: " no matter what specific functions a deacon performs, they flow from his [or her?] sacramental identity. In other words, it is not only WHAT a deacon does,but WHO a deacon is,that is important." People sometimes have the impression that I do "so much", when I know that others work harder and longer than I do each day. There is an ease to my work most days because it does flow directly from my sacramental identity, from my commitment to Christ, and from my ongoing passionate love affair with the divine. I am already living my vocation in Christ. I am open to a process of mutual discernment -- between my beloved Catholic Church, myself, and our Lord Jesus Christ -- to see if my ordination as Catholic Deacon will be part of this blessed journey."
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