Deacons reflect on 1-year milestone
In the year since their ordination, the 43 members of the permanent diaconate Class of 2011 have already left their mark on the local church. They work in virtually every area of church life and help foster Bishop David Zubik’s vision of “The Church Alive.”
Deacon William Palamara of St. Athanasius in West View serves in a ministry of charity and justice at a couple of nursing homes, including Manor Care in Ross Township. He is also one of the five new masters of ceremony for Bishop Zubik.
He enjoys all facets of his ministry and is thankful that it has allowed him to meet the faithful in a way that he had never experienced before.
“One of the most profound things that has come out of the journey has been the ability to reinforce the faith that already exists within the parish,” he said. “It inspires confidence in the faithful when they see fellow lay people invest their lives to service in this way. It reinforces the notion that their own investment in their faith is well founded.”
Deacon Palamara noted that time will tell if more men will be inspired to pursue the permanent diaconate — beyond the 23 who are set for ordination next year — but he said we can be sure that vocations are guided by the Holy Spirit.
He advised men considering a similar vocation to examine their own path ahead.
“If that path is not as inspiring, doesn’t appear to be laced with fulfillment or, most importantly, you feel a prompting by the Holy Spirit to share your faith in a deeper way, start asking some questions,” he said. “Seek out a deacon or do some investigative work on your own.”
Deacon James Weiland serves in a ministry of word and sacrament at Our Lady of Peace in Conway. He also works in bereavement ministry at five parishes — Good Samaritan in Ambridge, St. John in Baden, Our Lady of Peace, St. Felix in Freedom and St. Cecilia in Rochester.
The most enjoyable aspect of his ministry, however, is having the opportunity to baptize babies. It’s all part of a ministry that has been much more than he expected.
“So many people are searching for meaning in their lives,” he said. “Knowing that every person is in a different place in their faith journey I try to help them understand how much God loves them and wants them to feel his love and peace.”
He added that his ministry has helped him to grow in his prayer life, which has given him the strength to serve the church in his role as a deacon.
Deacon Gary Comer is also assigned to parish ministry at St. Athanasius. In addition, he ministers in service and charity to residents at three assisted-living facilities. He makes visits with his dog, Nellie, who has become a favorite with residents.
"I encourage everyone to visit and get to know these good people who have so much to share and give," he said. "I enjoy getting to know them, little by little, and I am often delighted and humbled by the stories and experiences they share."
He pointed to the support of his wife, Diane, his son, Steve, and his pastor, Father Robert Norton.
Deacon Comer was recently asked join Deacon Palamara as part of the masters of ceremony team for Bishop Zubik.
The Diocese of Pittsburgh currently has 79 permanent deacons active in ministry.