Deacon Joe Donohoe’s talk at Deacon Day 2016  …. by Deacon Joe Donohoe

“Is the fire of the Holy Spirit still descending on us deacons and priests and bishops?”…


AUGUST 10, 2016

“Archbishop Aquila, Vicars, brother Priests and Deacons, our dear wives of Deacons, my brother and sisters in Christ:

I would like to begin my talk by showing a video produced by Mr. Andrew Wright in an interview with Deacon Christ Byrnes who was ordained a year and a half ago by Archbishop Aquila.


Deacon Chris did a great job with the interview, didn’t he? Also, thanks to Andrew Wright from the communications Office at the Archdiocese for piecing the interview together.  The video can be found on the Denver Catholic Website (click on “What is a Deacon?”), as well as the Resource page of I encourage you to watch it again and share it in your parishes and ministries with those who might be interested in discerning a diaconal vocation.

What struck me about the video was the passion, the zeal that Deacon Chris has for his ministry… even as he deals in these desperate areas in Boulder like the jail and the homeless shelter which is where he works full time. He continues to have that zeal! And the truth is that that zeal and that passion is the same zeal and passion that we received when we were ordained.  It’s the same Holy Spirit, it’s the same fire that we experienced in our hearts when we committed to promises before God.  But I wonder sometimes if we remember that.  And I wonder sometimes if we don’t think about all the men that have prostrated themselves before the tabernacle at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, contemplating whether they’re worthy or not, whether they can really fulfill the will of God as they receive the graces of the Holy Spirit in their souls.  Did we understand the meaning of the responsibilities we were undertaking when we took that vow, made that commitment as we listened to the Litany of the Saints during the ordination Liturgy?

And I think the answer to the question “Is the fire of the Holy Spirit still descending on us deacons and priests and bishops?” is an emphatic and strong, resounding “yes”! Because I can tell you from the perspective of the deacon that we have done many things that only the Holy Spirit and the Wisdom of the Holy Spirit could allow us to do.

The Marriage Committee led by Deacon Chuck Lamar worked on ways to talk to couples in Marriage Preparation about the four hardest things, and then compiled them into a document that makes sense. Why? Because the Holy Spirit was there.

The Holy Spirit is there when Archbishop assigns deacons to service ministries outside of their parochial ministry so we can go into hospitals and we can go into homeless shelters and we can go into elderly care assistance centers… So that we can fulfill the obligation of looking beyond just the parish and finding the lost sheep of the people of God and bringing them back to the Church…I think about those things as I think about the many commitments we made as we lay prostrate on the floor of the Cathedral.

And I think about how we have integrated Catholic Charities into our ministries. We’re in the Samaritan House, we’re in the Ed Judy House, we’re in the elderly assistance centers, we’re in Regina Caeli, helping out in those service ministries where people are in need and they are in want. We’re fulfilling those needs by our presence.

I think about Deacon Greg Frank and his wife Lori who have done so much work for post-abortive women to help them regain their confidence and love, not just for themselves but to be able to walk into the front doors of the Church.

I think of the Deacon doctors: Deacon Volk, Deacon Plevak, Deacon Baez and Deacon Rastrelli who just suffered a tragedy – and how they have done so much for the dying and for the grieving families, bringing them to God and recognizing that God is in the tragedy of these individual’s lives.

And there is Deacon Steve Vallero who has done so much to get deacons into most of the prisons around the diocese. They are helping with men and women who are struggling to get their lives back in order so they can come back to the Church, to Jesus, and to the commitment of being a human person made in the image of God.

And even within the diocese itself, I think of Deacon Don St. Louis who has taken over the post-ordination formation and has included an extensive study on homiletics and on liturgy so that we can do a better job in both areas… and we have!

And Deacon Rob Rinne who takes care of all the elderly clergy and walks with them on their journey of illness, ageing and death…

And I think of the widowers and divorcees. We just recently organized a focus group led by Deacon Don St. Louis who put some of these deacons together to help us figure out how we as a community can help them in their walk and journey of life. They’ve suffered so much…

Combined with the efforts of our priests and lay ministries of this diocese, if you really think about it, it’s phenomenal. It’s beyond anything we can imagine, what we as a Church have been able to do – not by ourselves – but by the grace of God and by our working together as a community.

But I can tell you there is much left to do; we still have a lot of work, and we need people to step up.  Think about the single mothers and their children who are the “orphans and widows” of today.  When we encounter orphans and widows in the Bible, we think of the poor.  Today it’s the single mothers and their children who are in poverty and are without hope.

I have to think about the issues of abortion and euthanasia and how they’ve become a political dice game, and that we have taken what is natural law and turned it over and made it complicated.

And I think of young adults and children of this day who are completely engrossed in the culture of relativism and the culture of selfishness.

I also think about the homeless and the hopelessness of the homeless that permeates our cities in this diocese. What can we do about it?

And then finally I think about the so-called women’s rights where really we are talking about allowing liberties for men who want to be promiscuous and how it is totally about selfishness.

And in all of this, I remember and reflect on each of the ordinations and the many gifts that we were given …

I think back on the Convocation we had this past year and Archbishop’s words, telling us to be bold in doing the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. And I think about his emphasis on our need to go out and find those lost sheep and to bring them back with the mercy of God – with our love, with our care.  And bring them back to the fold so that they can be a part of this community of the faithful and gather their prayers in unity with us, so that we can lift them up to God.

The only way we can do this, as we know, is to rely on the Holy Spirit, and that’s why it’s so important to remember the fire of our ordination, the zeal we had that we see reflected in Deacon Chris in this video… This is what we set ourselves out to do when we lay prostrate on the floor of the Cathedral, when the bishop put his hands over us and invoked the Holy Spirit upon us.

As clergy, we have a profound impact on the people we encounter every day of our lives…in our parishes, in the public square and even within our own families. But we have a lot of work to do.  And we can’t forget about that fire, that Holy Spirit, that power that comes from God.  And it’s our job to make sure that passion and zeal for Jesus Christ is never diminished, rather that it’s placed in the heart of each person we encounter, so they may recognize that Jesus is our Redeemer and our Creator.

So let us develop a renewed energy, a strengthening of energy and the zeal of our vocation and let us be faithful servants and leaders for Jesus Christ so that we may be radically available to people. For whomever serves our Lord must follow Him.  And where He is, there His Deacon will also be.”




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