Last week I received a phone call, followed by a letter, notifying me that Bishop Sullivan has assigned Deacon Robert Oliver to our parish as a permanent deacon. Deacon Oliver was ordained on May 4, 2013. He has been married to his wife Shirley for 40 years. For the past 39 years the couple and their eight children were parishioners of St. Vincent de Paul Parish in Mays Landing.
The oldest of six children, Deacon Bob grew up in Cologne, NJ. His wife Shirley is the oldest of five children and grew up on a dairy farm in Southern Lancaster County, PA. Deacon Bob worked for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) as an electronics engineer and his wife teaches life skills (Home Ec.) in Galloway Township. They are awaiting the arrival of their fifteenth grandchild.
Both Deacon Bob and Shirley served on St. Vincent’s evangelization ministry and as catechists. Deacon Bob also served as Coordinator of Religious Education for St. Vincent’s from June 2008 to June 2010. Deacon Bob and Shirley serve as mentors for engaged couples who elect to use the Preparing to Live in Love program offered by the diocese. Shirley is a certified catechist, as well as a trained lector and extraordinary minister of the Holy Communion.
In addition to his parish ministry, Deacon Bob will serve with the Diocesan Evangelization Ministry.
The obvious question at this point is what can a permanent deacon do within our parish?
The Catechism of the Catholic Church gives us some insight:
Among other tasks, it is the task of deacons to assist the bishop and priests in the celebration of the divine mysteries, above all the Eucharist, in the distribution of Holy Communion, in assisting at and blessing marriages, in the proclamation of the Gospel and preaching, in presiding over funerals, and in dedicating themselves to the various ministries of charity. (CCC 1570)
A deacon is ordained to be of service to the parish. He can preach during Mass. He can baptize. A deacon can help prepare couples for marriage and assist / witness at marriage ceremonies. He can be the celebrant of liturgical and para-liturgical services such as Christian burials and wake services, benediction and Stations of the Cross. He can bring Holy Communion to the sick and dying. He can teach in religious education classes and with the R.C.I.A. (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults) A deacon can assist with these and various other parish functions as well as serving in some diocesan capacity for the bishop.
We welcome Deacon Bob and his wife Shirley to our parish. I am sure that they will find a home here just as I have, and will grow in love of you, our parishioners—the people that we are called to serve.
Fr. Ed Namiotka