Religious Deacons

"``We need adults like this, a Church like this ... and as a young man I might even think that the diaconate is made for me as well ...`` (Don Ottorino Zanon)"

How Don Ottorino dreamed of diaconate and delineated it
in the Pious Society of San Gaetano

The religious of the early days testify that, since the beginning of the Institution  Don Ottorino had  dreamed of diaconate, as ministry associated with  priesthood. The image of this kind of  ministry gradually emerged in him, as the Congregation grew in spirituality and missionary pastoral purpose.

He often spoke  with great enthusiasm of the ministry of diaconate, to which his religious non-priests should have access, and declared it a special grace of God for the Congregation and for the Church. In fact, he believed it to be a constituent part  of the identity of the religious Family, since, on the apostolic level, it was an essential component together with priesthood, of the response that the Congregation was called to constitute “to a spiritual necessity of today’s people”. He often remembered the moment when he had had the inspiration of the new and indispensable profile of two figures of ministers in the Church, the priest and the deacon united in the same mission.

Don Ottorino’s vision was born from the perception of what the apostolate, the pastoral service of the deacon would be in the modern world: he had to enter the different environments of human life, also favoured by the fact that he was “not wearing an ecclesiastical habit” (today it would be said “Without a religious prejudice sign”), had to “break through” any social barrier and  live close to people. The deacon was to be a minister of God and a servant of his people, he  would act “outside the temple”, that is, within social reality as an agent of first evangelization, favouring the  meeting with modern man and his institutions, and as  a missionary.

Thus the deacon had to become the animator and the trainer of the laity for the “Christianization” of their living environments and therefore he had to have his own cultural and professional training, be inflamed with Christian love for all the people and with a special spirit of service for the last. He therefore outlined the deacon as having a peculiar aptitude for industriousness, a sense of responsibility and practical skills to give concrete answers to human needs and sensitivities, so as to be able to come closer to souls  in any context. The deacon  should have rooted spirituality, and be  endowed with humility and spirit of initiative.

Mai don Ottorino pensò al diaconato come un ministero isolato e a sé stante. Il binomio prete-diacono era per lui un soggetto unitario e originale dell’apostolato della Pia Società San Gaetano

Preti e diaconi, costituenti una comunità pastorale missionaria, secondo la sua visione carismatica potevano lavorare soltanto insieme, come nella raffigurazione esemplificativa che fece dipingere in un quadro rappresentante “due pescatori” che collaborano nella pesca con funzioni diverse.

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