by Fr. Phillippe Angelo Garcia
One of the memorable experiences I had in my first months as an ordained minister was the pastoral visit of Bishop Pablo Virgilio David, fondly called Bishop Ambo, at my first assignment at the Pitong Gatang Mission Station.
I had prepared everything except I forgot the most important thing: to explain to my community beforehand the meaning of a "bishop" and who Bishop Ambo is.
When Bishop Ambo visited our mission station community, the people, especially the children, were calling me “Father” and they were asking for my hand so that I would bless them or “mano” without recognizing who Bishop Ambo is. I was worried at that time but Bishop Ambo assured me, “It is fine. Don't worry, no problem.”
Pastoral Visit of Bishop Ambo David At Pitong Gatan Mission Station in July 2018
I was worried because despite my many explanations that I am not a priest yet, people kept calling me “Father” in front of my Bishop. I was no longer a seminarian and was already an ordained minister but I was not a priest yet.
People were curious why the stole I used for our liturgical celebrations was not the usual; it was “diagonal.”
This is because I was a deacon and the DIAKONIA SPIRIT should live within me even as a priest.
Ministers of Charity
Today as we celebrate the feast day of St. Lawrence, deacon and martyr, I would like to focus our reflection on the ministry of deacons as ministers of Charity.
CCC 1570 explains:
Deacons share in Christ's mission and grace in a special way. The sacrament of Holy Orders marks them with an imprint (“character") which cannot be removed and which configures them to Christ, who made himself the "deacon" or servant of all. 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.
I remember in one of our parish formations which I had given, I asked a few parishioners what they know about the ministry of deacons.
One answered, “Sila po yung taga-binyag and tinatawag na ‘Rev’.” (They baptize and they are called 'Rev.')
Another answered, “Yun po yung trabaho ni Marvin Agustin sa palabas na Maging Akin Muli." (That's the profession of actor Marvin Agustin in the film Maging Akin Muli.)
A parishioner also answered “Sila po yung taga-basa ng Gospel and tagapagbigay ng Sermon." (They are in-charge of reading the Gospel and giving the homily.)
MINISTER OF BAPTISM: a deacon is an ordinary minister of the sacrament of baptism
All of them were correct but it must be remembered:
Deacons are not just ministers for liturgical celebrations. They are also ordained to be MINISTERS OF CHARITY.
Perhaps that is the point why deacons in our diocese are formed to be ministers at poor communities. For example, I was assigned as chaplain of Pitong Gatang Mission Station to become not just a liturgical minister but also a minister of Charity.
The Acts of the Apostles
In the Acts of the Apostles, the foundation of the Diaconate ministry was explained. It is a ministry to serve the needy, particularly the hungry.
The Acts of the Apostles 6:
Now at this time, as the disciples were increasing in number, a complaint developed on the part of the Hellenistic Jews against the native Hebrews, because their widows were being overlooked in the daily serving of food. So the twelve summoned the congregation of the disciples and said, “It is not desirable for us to neglect the word of God in order to serve tables. Instead, brothers and sisters, select from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may put in charge of this task. But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the Word.”
The Diakonia spirit or the Spirit of Service of Christ should live on in all ordained ministers. Let us not forget that to be a deacon is not just a step towards priesthood.
Bishop Ambo would tell us that to be a DEACON is the foundation of the ordained ministry. This means Diakonia should not be forgotten.
The poor and our help towards them should always be prioritized. That is why liturgical celebrations are not limited to be celebrated in the center or at the parish alone, street masses or BEC masses and liturgical devotions are also celebrated within poor communities. This also includes building poor communities as Christian Communities. If there is a need, we facilitate to help them as our expression of love towards God and neighbors.
MINISTER OF CHARITY: The diakonia spirit lives on in our preferential love for the poor.
Fr. Phillippe together with San Roque Community Pantry Volunteers
St. Lawrence, when faced with the persecutors of the Church pressuring him to release the treasures of the Church, presented the poor to them.
St. Lawrence tells us that the POOR ARE THE TREASURES of the CHURCH. He went further in life, through the power of Christ, embracing the crown of Holy Martyrdom for the poor and the church.
May we all become a TRUE CHURCH OF THE POOR, always rendering our preferential love towards them by way of our concrete acts of service.
Perhaps in the decision making and planning of our ministries, organizations and parish pastoral council, let us remember the reason why Pope Francis chose the name Francis. It was a reminder from a cardinal beside him saying “DON'T FORGET THE POOR!”
May the Diakonia spirit live on. DIAKONIA FOREVER!
St. Lawrence, Deacon and Martyr, pray for us!