By Eric L. Steckel
Most of us are familiar with the Catholic Deacons. If you came of age in the ‘70’s, you know the Steely Dan song “Deacon Blues.” If you are an NCAA basketball fan, you know the Wake Forest “Demon Deacons.” A little known fact: The song “Deacon Blues” is a reference to the Wake Forest basketball team, but I digress. What is interesting is that many of us probably don’t actually know the important role Deacons play in the modern church.
This is probably another little known fact: the origin of the Deacons comes from Acts 6. When complaints were made to the twelve disciples that the widows were being neglected, they met together. From the growing group of disciples and followers, seven were selected and “laid hands upon” (ordained) to provide ministry and service to those in need. Over time, those ordained to the Deaconate have dedicated themselves to providing for the ministry of charities.
What better group for Catholic Charities of the East Bay to align with as we provide services to those in need? This past weekend, Stephen Mullin and Christopher Martinez presented our workshop, “Immigration Initiative: Helping Our Neighbor,” to the Annual Deacons Assembly. The purpose of the parish workshops is to engage Catholics who want to make a difference by helping immigrants in their community.
“This is an important conversation to have, because so many people are living in the shadows, and it’s not just ‘Latinos’” said Deacon David Young of Saint Joan of Arc Parish. “I asked some of my fellow Deacons, ‘Do you know any undocumented immigrants?’ and their answer was, ‘No,’ which was my answer to the question four years ago!” Deacon David went on to explain that undocumented immigrants are in every parish, sitting in our pews. “But until they know us and trust us, they won’t share that with us, and we won’t be able to help.”
Another little known fact: There are over 100,000 undocumented immigrants in the East Bay. It is estimated that over 50% of them are our Catholic brothers and sisters. Catholic Charities and the Deacons in the Diocese of Oakland are eager to work together to serve this community living in the shadows. One of the outcomes of Saturday’s presentation is the support that the Deacons will be in promoting a Diocesan Free Citizenship Workshop on October 17th at the Cathedral of Christ the Light. The Deacons are also committed to helping arrange for volunteers at this event, which promises to be the largest citizenship workshop the agency has ever hosted.
“The idea of the Deacons partnering with Catholic Charities is just a perfect match,” said Mr. Mullin. “This supports Bishop Barber’s desire to collaborate and move forward together. To make good on Pope Francis’ agenda to be the Church helping the immigrant.”
“I am impressed with the recent efforts Catholic Charities has made to be relevant and responsive in the parishes,” concluded Deacon David. “There is a lot of work to be done, but together, we can make an impact on lives.”
Ultimately, that is the mission of Catholic Charities, as well as the 2,000 year-old mission of the Deacons. Our goal is to make sure that’s no longer a “little known fact.”