“Do the will of God generously,” were the words of exhortation on the 30 August 2023 when the Catholic the Archdiocese of Johannesburg welcomed two new deacons to the order of diaconate through the hands of Archbishop Buti Tlhagale, the Archbishop of Johannesburg. It was actually an ordination of two types of deacons that are found at least in the Latin Rite of the Catholic Church, a permanent deacon and a transitional deacon.
Benedict Chikunya, a Zimbabwean native, was ordained to the permanent diaconate and Lwazi Masina, a former Lutheran minister, was ordained a transitional deacon.
Deacon Masina’s case was always going to be a curious one, and may remain so for some time until the faithful of the local Catholic Church get used to the idea of this possibility of a Lutheran Minister joining the Catholic Church to become a priest. Most locals of the Archdiocese of Johannesburg would have heard of such cases in far away lands. In his homily, jokingly addressing that curiosity, Archbishop Tlhagale said Masina was not stolen from the Lutheran Church but he wanted to join the Catholic Priesthood out of his own volition. “We are sorry for your loss,” said the Archbishop speaking to the members of the Lutheran Church who had come to support the soon to be a Catholic deacon Masina.
Before talking to the two men in the homily the Archbishop addressed first all present saying “Consider carefully the ministry to which they are to be promoted. They will draw new strength from the gift of the Holy Spirit. They will help the bishop and his body of priests as ministers of the word, of the altar, and of charity and compassion. They will make themselves servants to all. As ministers of the altar they will proclaim the Gospel, prepare the sacrifice, and give the Lord’s body and blood to the community of believers.
It will also be their duty, at the bishop’s discretion, to bring God’s word to believer and unbeliever alike, to preside over public prayer, to baptize, to assist at marriages and bless them, to give viaticum to the dying, and to lead the rites of burial. Once they are consecrated by the laying on of hands that comes to us from the apostles and are bound more closely to the altar, they will perform works of charity in the name of the bishop or the pastor. From the way they go about these duties, may you recognize them as disciples of Jesus, who came to serve, not to be served.”
After this the attention of the homily was turned to the two to be ordained where there the Archbishop said, “My children, you are being raised to the order of deacons. The Lord has set an example for you to follow. As deacons you will serve Jesus Christ, who was known among his disciples as the one who served others. Do the will of God generously. Serve God and humankind in love and joy. Look upon all unchastity and avarice as worship of false gods; for no human being can serve two masters.
Like the people the apostles chose for works of charity, you should be human beings of good reputation, filled with wisdom and the Holy Spirit. Show before God and humankind that you are above every suspicion of blame, true ministers of Christ and God’s mysteries, humans firmly rooted in faith. Never turn away from the hope which the Gospel offers; now you must not only listen to God’s word but also preach it. Hold the mystery of faith with a clear conscience. Express in action what you proclaim by word of mouth. Then the people of Christ, brought to life by the Spirit, will be an offering God accepts. Finally, on the last day, when you go to meet the Lord, you will hear him say: “Well done, good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of your Lord.”
In his thanksgiving speech for both deacons, Deacon Chikunya expressed his sincere gratitude to God for having made the day of their ordination. The deacon acknowledged the challenges they met along the way but thankful that in the end God’s divine plan has been fulfilled with the arrival of the day of ordination. He thanked the Archbishop for ordaining them and allowing them to serve in his diocese, praying that by God’s grace they may remain faithful to their promises. Deacon Chikunya thanked all the priests, deacons, religious and laity who were involved in helping them on their journey. And of course being a married man, a special mention went to his dear beautiful wife who brought him into the church in a subtle and certain way. He did not forget to thank his children for their love and support. The deacon thanked the family and all who came to support Deacon Masina, especially from the Lutheran Church.
Here are the basic requirements to become a permanent deacon in the Catholic Church, though these can be altered by a local diocese.
- A man at least 35 years old.
- A practicing Catholic, and a baptized member for at least 5 years.
- Can be married, but must be valid or annulled and cannot remarry after ordination.
- Wife must be interviewed and consent to ordination. Married men cannot be ordained without wife’s approval.
- In good physical health.
- Have a stable mode of income.
- Pass all psychological exams and background checks.