An­swer­ing God’s call

Be­com­ing a dea­con in­volves long process which ends with or­di­na­tion

Cape Breton Post - - CAPE BRETON - Shawn Bigley Shawn Bigley is a mem­ber of St. Anne Parish, Glace Bay. He is an ac­com­plished mu­si­cian and a can­di­date for the per­ma­nent dea­conate pro­gram for the Dio­cese of Antigo­nish. The Dioce­san Voices is writ­ten by var­i­ous mem­bers of the Dio­cese of An

When one re­ceives a call from God, one must try and de­ter­mine whether it is truly God’s call­ing.

Ask some­one to de­scribe a call­ing from God and chances are words will be few, for God com­mu­ni­cates in a way that sur­passes hu­man un­der­stand­ing. Ask how they knew it was a call­ing from God and the an­swer may be much briefer, some­times just one word — dis­cern­ment.

Dis­cern­ment is the process by which men and women in the Catholic Church rec­og­nize their call­ing.

I am a cra­dle Catholic, born and raised in a faith­ful Catholic home where both my fa­ther and mother prac­tised their faith regularly. Both were very ac­tive in our church. As I grew and moved away, I re­mained an ac­tive mem­ber of the church. Be­ing a mem­ber of the Armed Forces meant we moved of­ten, but al­ways found a home in the church.

Be­ing ac­tive was a way for my wife and I to meet peo­ple and be­come part of the com­mu­nity and be­ing a mu­si­cian, I played in choirs and be­came in­volved in other min­istries. To think that I would be called by God to serve as a dea­con wasn’t some­thing that had en­tered my mind. I was happy be­ing a “good” Catholic.

That changed a few years ago when I felt God’s call in my heart to be­come a dea­con. It set­tled with a thud. I had only met one dea­con and re­ally had no idea what it was he did. At the time, our parish had never had a dea­con so how could I think this is what God had in mind for me?

When I told my wife she asked me, “What are you go­ing to do about it?” and I replied with one word, “pray.”

I prayed, but my prayer was that God would take this away from me be­cause I was quite happy be­ing the type of Catholic I was. For a num­ber of years that’s where the call stayed, in my heart, while I was pray­ing it would leave or I sim­ply ig­nored it.

But I learned that God is more pa­tient than I am stub­born. I started to learn more about what it meant to be a dea­con. There was now a fine dea­con in our parish and this sense of be­ing called started to seem like it was some­thing I might, and I stress might, want to do. This time I prayed with a more open mind, en­ter­tain­ing the pos­si­bil­ity that this truly was a call­ing from God.

Soon, I was asked by my parish priest if I would be in­ter­ested in be­com­ing a dea­con, I told him I would con­sider it. The next week our dea­con also asked me. He wasn’t aware that my pas­tor had asked me the week be­fore. Some­times God is sub­tle and some­times He is not.

So af­ter think­ing and pray­ing for some time, I de­cided I would be­gin the process of truly dis­cern­ing whether this was God’s will for me.

The first part of the of­fi­cial dis­cern­ment process is the ap­pli­ca­tion phase and this takes place over six months and con­sists of sev­eral dif­fer­ent el­e­ments. The pa­per­work, crim­i­nal record check, proof of sacra­ments and var­i­ous other house­keep­ing items are first.

Also in this for­mal phase is ed­u­ca­tion. What ex­actly is a dea­con? What traits do dea­cons re­quire? What roles do dea­cons fill in the church? To dis­cern God’s will we must un­der­stand as much as pos­si­ble what it is He may be call­ing us to do.

In the fall I will be start­ing the fi­nal part of the dis­cern­ment process with 12 fel­low dea­conate can­di­dates. The for­mal four-year pro­gram will hope­fully end in or­di­na­tion to the role of dea­con in the Catholic Church. This pe­riod of dis­cern­ment con­sists of class­work in var­i­ous ar­eas of study and talk­ing to God in prayer,

Dis­cern­ment is not an easy task, nor should it be taken lightly. It will, in most cases, be life chang­ing. We will not only learn about God’s will for us but also learn much about our­selves. It may be a dif­fi­cult and un­set­tling process but the out­come is worth­while.

Dis­cern­ment is dif­fer­ent for ev­ery­one. The time frame can vary greatly. For priests and dea­cons, it can be quite long and leads to or­di­na­tion. For other roles, how­ever, it may be much shorter. Also, some as- pects may change depend­ing on the na­ture of the call­ing, but re­gard­less of the call­ing, an open mind, heart and prayer are nec­es­sary.

God has great plans for us, so the chal­lenge for all of us is to lis­ten to God’s voice and dis­cern what it is He is call­ing us to be. Grace and Peace.

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