Dear Parishioners: Last Saturday, Bishop Tobin ordained twenty-one men as Permanent Deacons for the Diocese of Providence.   These twenty-one men began their formation program in January of 2009, attending classes in Theology, Scripture, Homiletics, Canon Law and Liturgy and participating in weekend retreats as well as practical training for their ministry. The classes were conducted by the Diocese under the guidance  several the priests and deacons of the diocese and in cooperation with the Theology Department at Providence College.

Permanent Deacons are men, usually married, ordained to service in the Catholic Church. They serve deacons1in parishes, hospitals, nursing homes, prisons or other areas of ministry as needed. Additionally, they may lead classes for Baptismal and Marriage preparation, as well as Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults programs.  Permanent Deacons also officiate at Weddings, Baptisms, Wakes, and Burial Rites. They also serve at Mass and are to proclaim the Gospel and preach.  While Transitional Deacons go on to be ordained Priests, Permanent Deacons do not.  I was a Transitional Deacon for several months before I was ordained a Priest in 1995. While I know several priests served here as Transitional Deacons, I am not sure that Our Lady of Mercy has ever been assigned a Permanent Deacon.

Well, this week Bishop Tobin notified me that one of the newly ordained Permanent Deacons, John Dowd, has been assigned to Our Lady of Mercy.  In your name, I offer my congratulations and a warm welcome to him! Deacon John Dowd has been married for thirty-seven years to his wife, Cathleen  He is the Father of three children, ten grandchildren and one great-grandchild.  Two of his daughters, Cristen and Caite, both graduated from OLM School.  He lives with his wife in North Kingstown and  runs his own financial services  business here in East Greenwich.  Some of you may recognize him as he frequently attends Daily Mass here at OLM.  It is a very exciting opportunity for us to have a  Permanent Deacon serving our parish and I am looking forward to Deacon John’s ministry here at OLM.

Over the years Deacon John has been involved in many ministries in his home parish of St. Francis in Wakefield.  In the coming weeks you will have chance to welcome him personally as he begins his Diaconal Ministry here at OLM.  In the meantime, please keep Deacon John, his wife and family in your prayers.

The forty days of Lent begin this Wednesday with the arrival of Ash Wednesday.  ALent_40days block complete schedule of Masses and Lenten Devotions is in the bulletin.  This season of prayer and penance calls us to refocus our lives on Christ and renew our Catholic Faith.  In his annual   Lenten Message, this year Pope Benedict tells us:  The celebration of Lent, in the context of the Year of Faith, offers us a valuable opportunity to meditate on the relationship between faith and charity:   between believing in God – the God of Jesus Christ – and love, which is the fruit of the Holy Spirit and which guides us on the path of devotion to God and others.”                                                               

Lent is all about the Three Ps! Prayer, Penance and the Poor!  We are called to a more intense prayer life, take up penitential practices and server the poor.   Perhaps we might come to Daily Mass, Weekly Stations of the Cross, read the Scriptures daily, or pray the Rosary daily.  Perhaps we might give something up, take on some penitential practice or go to Confession more often.  Perhaps we might make sure we put our extra change in the Rice Bowls, sacrifice some luxury in our life and give the cost of it to the OLM Outreach efforts or simply volunteer to help at a soup kitchen or homeless shelter.

Lent calls us to recommit to Christ and His Church and bear witness to our faith.  “Remember you are dust and to dust you will return.” Lent will soon be here, what are you doing about it? God Bless. Welcome, Deacon John!