Karen Baker, Contributing Writer
Evangelization on aisle four.
That’s about how Deacon Ray Duplechain describes the ministry of a deacon: To meet people were they are, to share the Good News of Jesus Christ at all times, even if that means “being present to the laity in the grocery store.”
Deacon Duplechain is the director of the permanent diaconate for the Archdiocese of New Orleans as well as director of the National Association of Diaconate Directors. He was the featured speaker at The Catholic Foundation’s annual northshore chapter dinner on April 28 at St. Luke the Evangelist Church in Slidell. The dinner honored the permanent deacons of East St. Tammany.
“To be affirmed is a delight,” Deacon Duplechain said. “Thank you to The Catholic Foundation for affirming what we have done for 43 years in the Archdiocese of New Orleans.”
Ancient ministry restored
The permanent diaconate was restored by the Second Vatican Council in 1968, and the first deacons in the Archdiocese of New Orleans were ordained by Archbishop Philip Hannan in 1974. A conference celebrating the 50th anniversary of the permanent diaconate will be held in New Orleans in July 2018.
Duplechain described the ministry of a deacon as “embracing God’s promise.” He said deacons are called “to be happy, to be at peace, to live a life of holy contentment.”
Deacons, he said, “are not a whole lot different than anyone you know, and that is the beauty of it.” Deacons, that is, can spread the word of God not only from the pulpit but also from the ballpark, the grocery store or the office water cooler. Charity is the hallmark of a deacon, he said, and it is “shown in the way we encounter God’s people in the ordinary circumstances of life.”
With many deacons holding down full-time jobs and caring for families, Deacon Duplechain said, there is only one way they can fit in their ministry to the church: “God adds a 25th hour to the day to minister to God’s people.”
Even when that 25th hour seems hard to come by, Duplechain said, it is important to remember that “the needs always outpace the resources.” He said St. Teresa of Calcutta offers valuable advice: “God did not call us to be successful; he called us to be faithful.”
“That is the greatest gift we have to offer – faith in the Lord.”
Finally, Deacon Duplechain thanked Archbishop Gregory Aymond, who ordains and sends deacons to help build up the kingdom of God. “We humbly do what he asks us to do, for he represents Christ,” he said.
Archbishop Aymond expressed his gratitude for the service of deacons, giving a brief overview of the restoration of the diaconate.
“I want to extend my heartfelt thanks” to deacons and their wives, the archbishop said, noting that deacons “reach out in a way we (priests and bishops) cannot.” There are more than 200 permanent deacons in the archdiocese, Archbishop Aymond said, and they are the “conscience of the church,” serving the poor and needy.
Search out the hurting
Deacon Duplechain noted that the poor, the needy, the people of God are everywhere. “We are ministering to the people in the pews, but also to the people in the grocery store, near the ripe bananas. It is our responsibility to be where God calls us to be.”
The dinner ended with a testimonial by two students from Pope John Paul II High School, Joseph and Christopher Kelly. The young men described how they were helped by The Catholic Foundation’s Champions of Catholic Education fund.
“Catholic schools are very special to our family,” Joseph said, and the Champions fund shows that the “church cares for large families.”
The Champions fund assists Catholic families who cannot afford the total cost of tuition. For information, contact The Catholic Foundation at 596-3045 or visit the website at www.cf.arch-no.org.