New deacons to play larger role in bishop’s plan to draw Hispanic Catholics deeper into parish life


Bishop W. Shawn McKnight intends to make full use of the nine Spanish-speaking deacons he ordained last year to minister better to the growing communities of Hispanic Catholics in this diocese.

Specifically, he will allow properly trained, Spanish-speaking deacons to preside at canonically sanctioned Sunday Celebrations in the Absence of a Priest in Spanish in our parishes when needed.

Such services, intended for extreme circumstances that hopefully will be mitigated as more priests learn Spanish, include readings, prayers, preaching, hymns and the distribution of Holy Communion.

“These deacons will soon be receiving the proper training to use the ritual approved by the Holy See for this pastoral need,” the bishop wrote to priests, pastoral ministers and parish life coordinators of the diocese Dec. 4.

Hispanic deacons will lead a Sunday Celebration in the Absence of a Priest on weekends whenever a Mass in Spanish cannot be provided in parishes with large Hispanic populations.

The bishop said that ideally, Mass in Spanish should take place at least once a month in parishes where there are sufficient numbers of Hispanics, with a Hispanic permanent deacon leading worship on the remaining weekends of the month.

These deacons will also work on identifying further avenues of outreach and respond to other needs of Hispanic communities, including sacramental and general catechetical formation, pastoral counseling and material assistance.

The Hispanic deacons will also assist with communications among the pastor, parish life collaborator, people of the Hispanic communities, and other parishioners.

“This pastoral strategy will provide support, consistency and continuity to our pastoral service to the Hispanic communities in our parishes,” stated Deacon Enrique Castro, diocesan director of Intercultural and Marriage Ministries.

This collaborative ministry effort is part of a diocesan ministry project for Hispanic Permanent Deacons called Evangelizando Juntas (“Evangelizing Together”), aimed at supporting the ministry of parishes to Hispanic communities.

It is also in keeping with Bishop McKnight’s often-stated vision for deacons serving as intermediaries within the Church and society, like the first deacons in the Book of Acts.

The plan emerged from discussions among the bishop; Monsignor Robert A. Kurwicki, diocesan vicar general; Deacon Castro, who is one of the nine Hispanic deacons; and Father Patrick Dolan, who provides volunteer sacramental ministry for St. Mary parish in Milan and the St. Mary mission in Unionville and has helped with Hispanic ministry in northeastern Missouri.

They concluded that a more consistent Spanish-language worship schedule would be necessary to foster stable participation among Hispanic Catholics in the parishes.

Deacon Castro will coordinate this ministry on the bishop’s behalf.

Bishop McKnight said it will take some time to see the benefit of a consistent schedule of services in Spanish in the parishes, “but it will be worth the effort and patience needed.”

“Serving the Hispanic community in our midst brings with it an opportunity to be co-responsible and serve God’s people together,” he stated.