I stood waiting patiently in front of the nurse at the desk as she looked at me and said “I’m sorry, COVID regulations state that patients are only allowed to have three visitors and you aren’t one of the names on the list.” I had been told by the family before coming that this rule did not apply to clergy who were visiting patients, but the nurse was confused. “I will try calling upstairs to see if they will give permission for you to visit the floor” she finally said. After a brief wait the rule was clarified and I was issued a special badge to be displayed at all times and allowed to go upstairs to visit the young man who had just had major surgery. My visit was short as his family had to wait until I was finished before they could go upstairs themselves. Only one visitor at a time! Still, I was able to spend time with him, to read from Scripture and to pray with him, and finally, to give him a blessing.
I was ordained a deacon for the Diocese of Worcester this past June 20th, two weeks later than planned because of the pandemic. It would be easy to focus on the challenges and difficulties of being ordained and serving as a deacon during this time but that would be misleading because, despite the challenges, it has been a time of great joy. In Matthew’s Gospel Christ tells his disciples “I came not to be served but to serve” and so it is fitting that this last year of seminary formation, which is spent learning to conform ourselves ever more closely to Christ, should be spent as one who is ordained to serve others in charity.
The Gospel call to charity applies to the entire body of Christ whatever their status in life, whether it be as an ordained deacon or priest or as lay faithful. It is a call to serve Christ himself, whether that be in the person of the sick, the poor, or the homeless. The deacon strives to live his life in charity to the people of God also, whether that be by proclaiming the Gospel and preaching, by serving at the altar, or by caring for the sick and the suffering. One of the great joys of my time as a deacon thus far has been the opportunity, though limited because of the pandemic, to minister to those who are sick and suffering or to those who have lost loved ones. May the words of St. Vincent de Paul whose feast we recently celebrated and who wrote “Let us love God, but let it be with the strength of our arms and with the sweat of our brows” inspire all of us to live a life of charity and service to others.
Dcn. John Larochelle is a Seminarian studying for the Diocese of Worcester and was ordained a Transitional Deacon on June 20, 2020