Bishop Dónal McKeown open to role for married deacons and Consecrated Virgins in life of the Derry Diocese

Married deacons and Consecrated Virgins could play a major role in Catholic ministry in the Derry Diocese in future, it’s emerged.
Bishop Dónal McKeown.Bishop Dónal McKeown.
Bishop Dónal McKeown.

The Bishop of Derry, the Most Reverend Dr. Dónal McKeown, said he is open to discussions around the possibility of deacons as well as members of the Ordo Virginum playing an enhanced part in the life of the church in the diocese.

Dr. McKeown has called for a conversation among Catholics about allowing ordained men - sometimes married - to serve in local parishes .

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Writing in the Diocesan publication ‘The NET’, he has also suggested a greater role in the church for Consecrated Virgins - women who do not feel called to join a religious congregation but who instead go about their daily lives and live as ‘brides of Christ.’

The Bishop issued the call after Pope Francis urged Catholics around the world to pray for the Permanent Diaconate - a ministry within the church that includes ordained men, often married.

“There is clearly a growing need to find support for priests in the many tasks that they have to take on.

“Clearly, deacons might well be ‘useful’. But Diaconate is a ministry in its own right, not just a part-time help for priests.

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“Pope Francis is clearly indicating that Deacons would have a symbolic and sacramental value in the Church – and not just be extra ‘man-power’.

“Men would be asked to discern a specific call to Diaconate and not just to fill gaps in a particular model of Church,” stated Dr. McKeown.

He said dioceses in Ireland already have ordained men serving in their parishes who after four years of study can proclaim the Gospel and celebrate Baptisms and Weddings.

Dr. McKeown, writing in the same article in the May edition of ‘The Net’, said there could also be a greater role for members of Ordo Virginum, or the Order of Virgins, in the local church.

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“Over this past year, I have met a few women in the Diocese who have expressed an interest in becoming Consecrated Virgins.

“We have three Consecrated Virgins in the Diocese already.

“These are not women who feel called to join a religious congregation.

“Rather, members of the OrdoVirginum live as ‘brides of Christ’ but go about their daily lives.

“They are specifically mentioned in the early Church and in modern Canon Law,” he states.

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Bishop McKeown argues that following the establishment by Pope Francis of a Commission to consider whether women might be ordained deacons that perhaps now is the time for a major debate on the subject in the Derry Diocese.

“As Pope Francis asks us to pray for Deacons, their work and what they symbolise, perhaps this is a time for a conversation about whether God is calling the Derry Diocese to introduce both the Permanent Diaconate and the Order of Virgins at the same time.

“Can we make that another topic for our prayer at this time of challenge and change?” asked the Most Reverend Dr. McKeown.

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