Albany deacons and wives attend annual retreat led by Deacon Greg Kandra in Windham. (Photo provided)
Albany deacons and wives attend annual retreat led by Deacon Greg Kandra in Windham. (Photo provided)

Over the weekend of Sept. 20-22, 70 deacons and their wives  participated in the 32nd annual Diaconate Retreat at the Thompson House in Windham. The theme of this year’s retreat was “Deacons as Bridge Builders.” Deacon Greg Kandra from the Diocese of Brooklyn facilitated the retreat. He serves as the multimedia editor for the Catholic Near East Welfare Association and created the popular blog, “The Deacon’s Bench.”

“The Deacon has one foot in the sanctuary and one foot on the sidewalk,” reflected Deacon Kandra as he explored the unique role deacons play in the life of the Church. Deacons receive the sacrament of Holy Orders and so are clergy but also may be married, have families and hold full time jobs. They have the difficult job of balancing the demands and responsibilities of family life with those of ministry.

In a world increasingly divided and separated along economic, social, racial, political and religious lines, deacons are challenged to build bridges among people, to be connectors, to reach out across barriers, sharing God’s love for every human being and for all of creation.  Deacon Kandra suggested that the work of building bridges needs to take place in at least three different environments: at home, in the parish and in the community. 

Deacons are challenged to be witnesses of God’s love and faithfulness in their homes. As they are called to proclaim the good news of the Gospel on Sunday, they are first called to proclaim that good news by the love they have for their wives and their families. 

In their parishes, deacons are called to listen attentively to the needs of parishioners, to their struggles, worries, sadnesses and joys. The ministry of the deacon is one of presence, to be companions on the journey with those who are in need.

Deacons are also ordained to bring the Gospel to the marketplace, to their places of work, to every corner of their community, with a special concern for the poor, the marginalized and those who have no voice or power. 

Deacon Kandra stressed that deacons should not be defined by what they can do (baptize, preach, celebrate the sacrament of marriage), but by who they strive to be —men who have said YES to God’s call to serve God’s people  and who struggle to live their faith and proclaim God’s unconditional love in their families, parishes, and communities. 

On my way home to Saratoga after the retreat, my wife and I crossed a numbers of bridges.  Some of them passed over raging waters; others crossed small creeks. I thought about those bridges in a new way. They carried us safely to the other side. Maybe that is a good way to see the role of deacons in our Church: they offer a bridge of God’s love that can carry us safely to the other side.