18 June 1967. I had just graduated from high school seminary at Salvatorian Seminary, St. Nazianz, Wisconsin. I would soon be leaving to start college seminary. So, I have to admit, I wasn’t paying much attention to what was coming out of the Holy See on 18 June, 1967.
But Pope Paul VI did something that day which was to change the lives of so many of us! He issued, as the result of a decision reached three years earlier by the bishops assembled at the Second Vatican Council, Sacrum Diaconatus Ordinem (“The Sacred Order of the Diaconate”): read it here. He restored a diaconate which was to be permanently exercised to the Latin Church.
Consider it this way. On that June day in 1967 there were no “permanent” deacons in the Latin Church: all Latin deacons were destined for eventual ordination as presbyters (priests). Shortly after the Pope’s action, deacons would be ordained in Germany and Africa, with more men in formation in Europe and other parts of the world. Today there are more than 40,000 deacons around the world, with thousands more candidates in formation.
The Council of Trent in the 16th Century had stated a desire to have a kind of “permanent” diaconate again, but no pope ever acted upon that desire. Without Pope Paul VI, we wouldn’t be here today, so thank you, Your Holiness!
Happy anniversary to ALL deacons, East and West! Ad multos annos! May God grant us all many years in his service.