PRINCE ALBERT — Two men have completed their preparation program through the Roman Catholic Diocese of Prince Albert and have been ordained to the permanent diaconate.
Bishop Albert Thévenot, M. Afr., ordained Ghislain Bellavance on June 24 in his parish of St. André Apôtre in North Battleford and Brad Taylor on June 29 in his home parish of St. Mark in Prince Albert.
The word “deacon” comes from the Greek diakonos, meaning “service.” Deacons are ordained as servants of the church. Though all Christians by baptism are called to service, deacons serve as a public sacramental sign of Christ in and at the service of the world. Like a priest, a deacon is a member of the clergy who shares in the ministry of the bishop. Unlike a priest, he may have a wife, a family and a secular job.
“The deacon embodies the self-emptying ministry of Christ symbolized by the foot-washing in the upper room,” said Rev. Michael Averyt, director of Permanent Diaconate Formation. “In our context, such ministry may include assisting the priest at the eucharist, witnessing marriages, and baptizing children. They catechize, minister to the sick and poor and embody social justice. A deacon places himself in the service of the church, at the pleasure of the bishop, who may assign them to assist in a parish or to some other ministry.”
Serving for 45 years in the army, Bellavance said he’s had a good, adventurous life. He has served in places including the Middle and Far-East, the United States and northern Canada.
After 55 years of marriage, his wife passed away in 2012. During most of his life, he explained, he felt called to serve as a deacon. His wife was in full support. After she was diagnosed with cancer, he saved the idea for a later time to care for her.
When the program for the permanent diaconate was announced for the Prince Albert diocese, he wrote Thévenot to express interest, knowing he was over the age currently considered for candidacy.
“I may not have much time left, but I really got the feeling I was doing the right thing.”
Taylor has felt called to outreach and community ministry since his conversion to follow Christ in his early 20s.
Through the Oblates of Mary Immaculate youth ministry program at Emmaus House in Saskatoon, Taylor met his future wife, Christine, where they served with a co-ed mission team under the direction of an Oblate priest.
They were married in 1994 and sought to establish a lay missionary community. The group followed the charism of St. Eugene de Mazenod, founder of the Oblates: “He sent me to evangelize the poor and most abandoned.” In 1995, they were installed as lay associates.
The couple began Prairie Spirit Community Restorative Justice Prison Ministry in Saskatoon’s provincial men’s jail; that led Brad to a position with Saskatoon Community Chaplaincy. In 2006, they moved to Prince Albert for a position as Riverbend Institution chaplain at the Saskatchewan Penitentiary.
“St. Eugene de Mazenod and the Oblate Community have been my mentors and friends in mission and ministry,” Taylor said. “It has been through the Oblates that I met my wife, became Catholic, received a solid formation, education and ministry experience, and discerned a vocation first as an Oblate associate, then as a prison chaplain and now as a permanent deacon.”
During each of the ordinations, Thévenot spoke of the importance of the order of permanent deacons, forgotten for centuries until the period of Vatican II.
“Bringing people to Jesus is our mission, and so is the mission of a deacon, to proclaim the Good News of the Lord to the people. We priests are ordained deacon first; you could say we are like permanent deacons. We relive history as we begin to ordain deacons. Today, we affirm this call to serve.”
He affirmed his support in the journeys of both deacons as they serve in their new roles.