Diaconate celebrates 40 years in archdiocese

By Dcn. John & Patrice Winkel

Special to The Witness

On Sunday, Oct. 28, something very special took place at St. Gabriel Church, Reinbeck. After more than a year of planning, it was time to celebrate 40 years of service provided by permanent deacons in the Archdiocese of Dubuque.

Our Deacon Council, under the leadership of our director, Deacon Tom Lang, began the planning process by setting up guidelines for what was to be a very interactive year of celebration throughout the archdiocese. To accomplish this, eight subcommittees were assigned various goals and tasks that would help identify the roles of deacons and their wives, and how these roles have progressed over the past 40 years. Then came a proclamation by Archbishop Michael Jackels stating that throughout 2018 the permanent deacons’ service to the archdiocese would be highlighted. The goal was to spread the news of the positive ways deacons have and continue to serve our churches, hospitals, nonprofits, prisons and community needs in the greater Archdiocese of Dubuque and beyond.

There were many members of our eight subcommittees who helped identify the goals and develop activities, which may become ongoing projects for the future.  Some committees focused on the history of the permanent diaconate and its continued strength today. Deacons, deacons’  wives and widows wrote articles for The Witness, made posters and created informational articles for church bulletins. The focus was to spread the good news of the past, present and future of the permanent diaconate in the Archdiocese of Dubuque.

One of the committees focused on parishes that currently do not have a deacon, by offering opportunities for one of our deacons to preach at their parish, and perhaps invite those who may be considering the vocation to be able to answer any questions as they discern their own call. Priests who have deacons in their parish gave formal blessings to their deacon and wife. This helped provide that special relationship between the priest and deacon as they serve together to build up their community of faith.

A logo for the 40th year celebration was created depicting how, as permanent deacons, we serve others through liturgy, word and charity. The 40th anniversary color, ruby red, was chosen for the predominant theme on our logo and other items to commemorate this occasion. Leather binders, tumblers, mugs and even a customized stole was designed for this blessed event.

There are many people to thank who served on these committees. We know we could not have achieved our goals without their efforts and natural gifts to serve others. To capture this 40th celebration, there will be a 40th anniversary deacon directory available after the first of the year, which will contain photos of deacons and wives who served our archdiocese throughout the past 40 years as well as many special memorable events. We thank Deacon Jim Pfaffly for sharing his gift of photography and expertise in documenting these wonderful moments of history.

The actual celebration weekend began with our deacon community’s annual retreat held in Waterloo Saturday morning through Sunday noon, Oct. 27-28. Following the retreat, deacons, their wives and more than 40 priests gathered as community at St Gabriel Church, Rein­beck, to celebrate Mass with Archbishop Jackels and Bishop Thomas Zinkula, bishop of Davenport. A social hour followed the Mass, giving ample time for conversation and good cheer. A Thanksgiving-style turkey dinner, with all the trimmings, was then enjoyed by all. This set the tone for our grand banquet with Bishop Zinkula as the keynote speaker. One highlight of the banquet was the gift presentation of a beautiful chalice to Covenant Medical Center, Waterloo, as a “thank you” from our deacon community that has used the hospital’s chapel and classrooms for more than 40 years for diaconal formation classes.

This special event was a huge success. The colorful and tasteful decorations were divine, the food was delicious, formation Classes XVIII and XIX performed the servant role flawlessly all weekend, along with other volunteers, which created an atmosphere fitting for a banquet. Yet, as perfect as the details in preparing such a fine feast were, it was the interaction and glow of the 270-plus men and women who filled the room, which made this such a beautiful event. The Holy Spirit was alive among us, and it was evident that the unconditional love was in the hearts of all those present.

As we return to our respective parishes, may we continue to serve with joy. Let us thank God for the opportunity to humbly give back the gifts, talents and treasures we should never take for granted.

“It’s not how much we give, but how much love we put in the giving”

– Saint Mother Teresa

Deacon Winkel and his wife are the co-chairs of the 40th anniversary celebration.


Deacon John Winkel and his wife, Patrice, speak at the celebration marking the 40th anniversary of the permanent diaconate in the Archdiocese of Dubuque, which took place Oct. 28 at St. Gabriel Church in Reinbeck. (Photo by Deacon Jim Pfaffly)