2011 Retreat and Blessing of Albs 

Permanent Diaconate Candidates Attend Retreat and Receive Albs
“You are being called, not asked, to the ministry of Reader,” Father Andrew Johnson stated as he began the morning session of the Diaconate candidate retreat held last week at St Mary’s Parish, New Bedford, for the sixteen men who are in formation for the Permanent Diaconate in the Diocese of Fall River.“ This is personal call and you must make that personal individual response to the call,” he continued, “This vocational call is one that goes back to the Apostles.”
For the sixteen men in formation, this retreat day was an opportunity to participate in several sessions as they prepare for the institution of the ministry of Reader. These men had time to reflect on, not only the Word of God (Jesus Christ) and his call to them, but to also spend some time reflecting on the word of God as contained in the book of scriptures which these men will soon be called to proclaim in their parish liturgies and other experiences of prayer.
Fr. Johnson explained the history and the significance of what once known as the Minor Orders. Before Vatican II, there were four minor orders; lector, exorcist,  acolyte and porter. There was also subdiaconate.   These were required before one could receive the Sacrament of Orders as a deacon or priest.   Vatican II called for the revision of sacraments and liturgy.  The revisions came about because almost no one performed the ministries of porter, exorcist, and indeed, even lector.  Pope Paul VI issued the defining document in the Motu Proprio, entitled Ministeria Quaedam.   This eliminated minor orders completely, eliminated tonsure and subdiaconate. He established two “offices” of reader and acolyte, which will include the functions of the subdiaconate. The men, in this formation class, will be instituted as Readers by Bishop George Coleman at St Mary’s parish in New Bedford, on June 8, 2011.
When asked how the ministry of reader is different than a lector at Mass, Fr. Johnson took some time to explain that their call is not only a call to proclaim the word of God as ordinary ministers, but the grace to instruct others in the faith to prepare for the sacraments and to bring the message of salvation to those that have not heard it. Pope Paul VI stated in the Norms regarding the Holy order of Deacons  (1972), “It is especially fitting that the ministries of reader and acolyte should be entrusted to those who, as candidates for sacred orders, desire to devote themselves to God and to the Church in a special way.  …Both by study and by gradual exercise of the ministry of the word and of the altar, candidates for sacred orders should through intimate contact understand and reflect upon the double aspect of the priestly office…  In this way, candidates are to approach holy orders fully aware of their vocation, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord, constant in prayer, and aware of the needs of the faithful.” Using the Rite of Institution of Reader, Fr. Johnson, led the group through the significance and meaning of the words and the actions of this beautiful Roman Catholic rite.
He continued the retreat phase with a review of Pope Benedict XVI’s exhortation entitled Verbum Domini (The Word of the Lord) and concluded with a prayerful challenge for each of the men to cherish the scriptures, to proclaim them, to internalize them, to live them and to pass that gift of faith on. 
Monsignor John Oliveira, Diocesan Director of the Permanent Diaconate, and Deacon Frank Fantasia, Assistant Director of Deacon Formation also participated in the full day retreat. After an opportunity to formally request of the Bishop in writing, their intent to be instituted to the ministry of Reader, the men enjoyed fellowship and a luncheon prepared by the parish and the Office of the Permanent Diaconate.
The wives joined their husbands for a Holy Hour and Benediction and then all joined the parish family of St Mary’s for liturgy. 
During the liturgy, Monsignor Oliveira noted the relevance of the day’s first reading which coincidently was the passage from Acts 6:1-7 which spoke of the institution of the diaconate by the Apostles. Following the homily, Monsignor blessed the albs, which the men will wear in their ministry as readers and then called forward each candidate and his wife. Deacon Fantasia presented their wife the alb and she then assisted her husband in robing for the first time.
Deacon candidate, Paul Levesque of St Bernard’s in Assonet, felt that, “Fr. Andrew provided great insight into the Ministry of Reader and the meaning of the words that will be used by the Bishop and the candidates at our installation. Monsignor Oliveira's blessing of the albs was a beautiful ceremony.  It was great having our wives attend and having the albs presented to them and then having them assist us with robing as our wives are a source of great support to our ministry.”
The sixteen men who are to be instituted to the ministry of reader on June 8, 2011 are Bruce John Baxter, Eduardo Moniz Borges, Brendan William Brides
Robert MacLeod Craig, Timothy Edward Flaherty, Ralph Joseph Guerra, Paul Joseph Harney, Dennis James Hickey, Gary Michael John, Paul Raymond Levesque, Frank Ralph Lucca,  Thomas John McMahon, David Charles Murphy, Gary Alan Porter,  Lawrence David St. Pierre, Wilfred Ricky Varieur.

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