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Deacon candidates take part in Day of Ministry

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Yvon Dimiyo and Jim Cantella, both candidates in the permanent diaconate, help with the renovations at Holy Cross Parish on Buffalo’s West Side. (Photo courtesy of the permanent diaconate)

A group of deacon candidates had their first experience of hands-on ministry as they spent a day serving the people of Holy Cross Parish on Buffalo’s West Side. The Oct. 16 Day of Ministry involved learning about the Hispanic culture, tending to their needs, and some physical labor as they helped renovate the Holy Cross community center. 

The activity is something Deacon Timothy Chriswell, director of the permanent diaconate, tries to do every year for those thinking of joining the diaconate. 

“We always talk about ministry. We teach about ministry. But I realized we weren’t getting out and doing it together as a community,” Deacon Chriswell said. “So, we take an entire formation weekend and turn it into a day of ministry and just go out to different places throughout the diocese.”

This year they went to Holy Cross Parish, where the candidates had an opportunity to see what it is to have three different communities come together as one. The 107-year-old parish is home to Italians, African American and Hispanic communities.

“It was really great because a lot of our guys in formation are used to just one community, you know, one group of people. And so, they got to work with different people. We had a Hispanic Mass that was both in Spanish and English. We get to listen to their music,” explained Deacon Chriswell.

They broke down into small groups and did home visits, taking bags of fruit as welcome gifts.

“We gave them that and some of the people we visited, they wanted to feed you. They wanted to sit down and talk to you. We were there to minister to them, but they just as much minister to us to. It’s a community that struggles financially, but they have such great faith and they really rely on that to get them through the day, the weeks and even through this past year. And I think it was a great experience for our guys to see what people living their faith is like.”

Deacon candidates and their wives helped with renovation at Holy Cross Church in Buffalo. (Photo courtesy of the permanent diaconate)

In the afternoon, they joined a renovation project at Holy Cross, tearing out carpet and cleaning the floors.

The deacon candidates were impressed with the work Holy Cross does for the neighborhood. The community center has become a Code Blue shelter for homeless people to stay, so they can be looked after, rather than being alone on the streets. Due to the Covid pandemic, the shelter is open all year long. They also lease the center out to the Head Start program, which provides comprehensive early childhood education, health, nutrition and parent involvement services to low-income children and families.

For some of the deacon candidates, this is the first time they’ve actually gone out and ministered to people. Many are in their first year of formation or are inquirers just learning what being a deacon is all about.

“So, by immersing them into this situation, it kind of gives them firsthand what a deacon would be doing,” explained Deacon Chriswell. “A lot do come in thinking that well, OK, I serve at Mass. And, I proclaim the gospel and then I’ll sometimes get to preach, but it’s not just that. It’s more than just that. They enjoy this. They enjoy getting out and then helping other people.”

Do you feel you are called to the Permanent Diaconate? Do you want to know more about it? If you are a male between the ages of 30 and 55 and have asked yourself these questions, please join us on Nov. 17 at 6:30 p.m. to talk, pray and discover more about the permanent diaconate with no commitment. We will gather at St. Rose Retreat Center, 217 Winston Road Buffalo 14214 – Please RSVP to Deacon Howard Morgan at hmorgan@buffalodiocese.org and let him know you are coming. 

God is calling you, will you follow?

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