PRINCE ALBERT - Two men have completed their preparation program through the Roman Catholic Diocese of Prince Albert and have been ordained to the Permanent Diaconate in each of their home parishes.
Bishop Albert Thévenot, M. Afr. ordained Ghislain Bellavance on June 24 in his parish of St. André Apôtre in North Battleford and Brad Taylor on June 29 in his home parish of St. Mark in Prince Albert.
The process for aspirants began in January, 2014 as several men were accepted for the process of discernment. The candidates and their wives attended monthly sessions until June 2014. Six men will continue this process.
In a document on the Vatican website entitled, “Basic Norms for the Formation of Permanent Deacons” in 1998, it states that Three reasons initially lay behind the need for permanent deacons; a desire to enrich the Church with the functions of the diaconate, which otherwise, in many regions, could only be exercised with great difficulty; the intention of strengthening with the grace of diaconal ordination to those who already exercised many of the functions of the Diaconate; a concern to provide regions, where there was a shortage of clergy, with sacred ministers.
The word “Deacon” comes from the Greekdiakonos, meaning “service”, the Prince Albert Diocese website explains. In essence, deacons are ordained as servants of the church, which in itself reflects the spirituality of service, which is the spirituality of the whole Church. The Vatican website states, “Only those to be promoted to orders are those who have sound faith, are motivated by the right intention, are endowed with the requisite knowledge,enjoy a good reputation, and have moral probity, proven virtue and the other physicaland psychological qualities appropriate to the order to be received.”
Though all Christians by baptism are called to service, deacons serve as a public sacramental sign of Christ in and at the service of the world. Like a priest, a deacon is a member of the clergy who shares in the ministry of the Bishop. Unlike a priest, he may have a wife, a family, and a secular job. The diaconate is a distinct vocation, or calling, to imitate Christ in His service to all humanity, to bring the world to Christ and Christ to the world.
“The Deacon embodies the self-emptying ministry of Christ symbolized by the foot washing in the upper room,” said Rev. Michael Averyt, Director of Permanent Diaconate Formation. “In our context, such ministry may include assisting the priest at the Eucharist, witnessing marriages, and baptizing children, if given the faculties to do so. They catechize, minister to the sick and poor and embody social justice. A deacon places himself in the service of the Church, at the pleasure of the Bishop, who may assign them to assist in a parish or to some other ministry. Lay people are doing the ministry locally, however a Permanent Deacon places himself at the service of the diocese, under the Bishop, who may assign him to a parish or ministry. Being a deacon is not governance, but service."
Newly appointed Director of Permanent Diaconate, Fr. Jim Kaptein said he feels the ordinations are a proud time for the Prince Albert.
“It is my greatest hope that as people and clergy come to know these two men, they will see that they are not to be feared, but embraced, and that our Church will be more complete with them.
He explained it is the role of all the people of God to encourage young men and women to pursue religious vocations. Kaptein also hopes that when all aspirants have been ordained, others will become interested.
Serving for forty five years in the army, twenty years as paratrooper, Ghislain Bellavance said he’s had a good, adventurous life. He has served in places including the middle and far-east, United States and northern Canada. Gil, as he’s fondly called, is involved in organizations supporting veterans, such as “Last Post Fund” whose mission is to find and repair forgotten graves. He has also helped fundraise to pay for those veterans without the financial means to pay for a funeral.
After fifty five years of marriage, his wife passed away in 2012. Vatican II had always held a fascination for him.
“I read tons on it”, he said, “Anything and everything, especially that about bringing back deacons.”
During most of his life, he explained he felt called to serve as a deacon. His wife was in full support. After she was diagnosed with cancer, he saved the idea for a later time to care for her at that time.
When the program for the permanent diaconate was announced for the Prince Albert Diocese, he wrote Bishop Thévenot to express interest, knowing he was over the age currently considered for candidacy.
“I may not have much time left, but I really got the feeling I was doing the right thing [in applying].”
He is excited to carry out the appointment given to him by Bishop Thévenot after the ordination. His new responsibilities will include serving at the parishes of St. André Apôtre and Notre Dame in North Battleford, and co-coordinate Aboriginal Ministry for the Battlefords and area.
Newly ordained Brad Taylor felt called to outreach and community ministry since his conversion to follow Christ in his early twenties.
Through the Oblates of Mary Immaculate (OMI) youth ministry program at the Emmaus House in Saskatoon, Brad met his future wife, Christine, where they served with a coed mission team under the direction of an Oblate priest.
Brad and Christine were married in 1994 and sought to establish a lay missionary community, Prairie Spirit Community. The group followed the charism of St. Eugene de Mazenod, founder of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate (OMI). In 1995, they were installed as Lay Associates.
He has steadily followed the charism of the OMI religious order, “He sent me to evangelize the poor and most abandoned”. Taylor believes it has led him to his diaconate and outreach ministries in working in prison ministry for most of his adult life.
The couple began Prairie Spirit Community Restorative Justice Prison Ministry in Saskatoon’s provincial men’s jail, that later led him to a position with Saskatoon Community Chaplaincy. In 2006, they moved to Prince Albert for a position as Riverbend Institution Chaplain at the Saskatchewan Penitentiary and in 2009, moved to the Maximum Security Unit.
“St. Eugene de Mazenod and the Oblate Community have been my Catholic mentors and friends in mission and ministry,” Taylor said. “It has been through the Oblates that I met my wife, became Catholic, received a solid formation, education and ministry experience, and discerned a vocation first as an Oblate Associate, then as a prison Chaplain and now as a permanent Deacon.”
Therefore it was no surprise that Brad asked that St. Eugene de Mazenod be added to the Litany of the Saints sung at his ordination.
After the ordination, Bishop Thévenot handed Brad an appointment letter listing his new responsibilities. In addition to his work as chaplain at the Saskatchewan Penitentiary, he will serve at St. Mark Parish, Prince Albert, working with pastor, Fr. Tuan Doan, until August, when Fr. Jim Kaptein will become the pastor of the parish.
During each of the ordinations, Bishop Thévenot spoke of the importance of the order of Permanent Deacons, forgotten for centuries until the period of the Vatican II Council.
“Bringing people to Jesus is our mission, and so is the mission of a Deacon, to proclaim the Good News of the Lord to the people. We priests, we are ordained deacon first, you could say we are like Permanent Deacons. We relive history as we begin to ordain Deacons. Today, we affirm this call to serve. Deacons and priests, we have been ordained.”
He affirmed his support in the journeys of both deacons and their faith as they serve in their new roles.