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By Lou Baldwin
Special to The CS&T

As is their custom, permanent deacons from the Philadelphia Class of 1986 came together on Saturday, May 21, to celebrate the anniversary of their diaconal ordination.

This celebration, with a Mass at St. Colman Church in Ardmore, was special: It was the 25th anniversary. While permanent deacons were ordained for Hispanic ministry and African-American ministry in 1981 and 1982, this was the first class for universal ministry. {{more}}

“Twenty-two of us were ordained,” said Deacon David Schaffer. Five have since died, a number are still in active ministry, and 13 were able to come to the anniversary celebration, he said.

Deacon Schaffer was in the food service and consulting business and a member of St. Denis Parish in Havertown. He recalls his pastor asked him to take the two-year Church ministry program at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary so he could assist with parish programs. When the diaconate program opened up it was suggested he enter that too. At the time it was a three-year program with the Church ministry program as a prerequisite.

“I looked at it as receiving a call for service from the Lord and the community,” he said. “The deacon’s primary role is to serve the community and most of us are in parish ministry.” At age 41 when he was ordained, he was the second youngest in his class with the eldest in his early 60s.

Deacon Schaffer served 17 years at St. Denis and for the most recent eight years he’s been assigned to St. Colman. He is also a former administrator for evangelization for the Archdiocese.

Most deacons are in part-time ministry in a parish and hold various positions in the secular world. The class of 1986 shows this variety.

For example, Robert Stewart is a school psychologist, and for 20 years was in ministry at St. Ignatius of Antioch in Yardley, and for the past five at Assumption B.V.M. in Feasterville.

“I would say it has been a joyous 25 years,” he said. “I’ve especially enjoyed the relationships with the parishioners.”

Deacon Clement McGovern, now retired, is a former Common Pleas Court Judge in Delaware County.

Before the program opened up, he asked why it wasn’t being done. When it happened, he answered the call. “I would guess the Holy Spirit moved me,” he said. “I loved the classes and looked forward to being with the other men. The formation period was a great experience.”

He was assigned to St. Cornelius Parish in Chadds Ford for 15 years and has been at St. Agnes, West Chester, since then. “It’s a big parish with great people,” he said. “I’ve enjoyed the ministry and have met so many amazing people, the priests, the parishioners and the people in court. They are my silent heroes. I can’t believe it’s been 25 years.”

Deacon Daniel DeLucca had an illustrious career in academia as a professor at St. Joseph’s University and president of both Spring Garden College and Alvernia College. He was actively involved in ministry at St. Andrew Parish in Drexel Hill and when the diaconate program opened up, he applied for it.

“I thought the training was very well done,” he said. “Our group has stayed together, and we have annual reunions.”

His entire ministry has been spent at St. Andrew’s, and for him a special joy is teaching in the RCIA program. Preaching is also part of his duties, and as a matter of fact for the past 12 years he has been teaching homiletics in the deacon program and for the past eight years to the seminarians.

A real thrill has been as a deacon witnessing the marriages of his four sons and performing the baptisms of his nine grandchildren.

The deacon Class of 1986 has certainly made its mark, and their story is still going on.

Lou Baldwin is a member of St. Leo Parish and a freelance writer.