Put Church’s Needs First, South African Bishop to Permanent Deacon at Ordination

Screengrab of Bishop Victor Phalana during the Diaconate ordination of Mr. Mitchum Ruthman at St. Joseph’s Catholic Hall of the Diocese of Klerksdorp. Credit: Courtesy Photo

The Catholic Bishop of South Africa’s Klerksdorp Diocese has urged the Diocese’s newly ordained Deacon to prioritize the needs of the Church through “the sign of faithful love and also ministerial service”.

In his Thursday, December 16 homily during the Diaconate ordination of Mr. Mitchum Ruthman at St. Joseph’s Catholic Hall of the Diocese of Klerksdorp, Bishop Victor Phalana urged the Deacon to embrace simplicity, chastity and obedience, which he said Christ himself embraced when he showed total commitment to His Father’s will.

“We have different vocations and it is the vocation of Mr. Ruthman and his wife to be among us, the sign of faithful love and also ministerial service, putting the needs of the Church first, living the life of simplicity among us” Bishop Phalana said.

The newly ordained Deacon, Bishop Phalana said, would also embrace a life of openness to God’s will.

Addressing the faithful who attended the ordination ceremony, Bishop Phalana said that there is need for the new permanent Deacon to be looked at beyond his human qualities.


“I would like you to look at him not only at the level of his human qualities, not with the eyes of friends and relatives; I want you to look at him with eyes of faith,” the South African Bishop said, and added in reference to the new Deacon, “He is a sign of God’s mystery among us.”

He also called upon members of the Clergy to detach themselves from the world and to focus on the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

In the Catholic Church, the Diaconate is one of the three degrees of Holy Orders. The word "deacon" means "he who serves." The mission of the Deacon is to help the Bishop and his Priests in liturgical celebrations, with preaching the Gospel, and performing works of charity.

For permanent Deacons, the minimum age is 35, and the upper limit is determined by the Local Ordinary, usually around 60 years of age. 

Unlike the transitional Diaconate, in which men are preparing for the Priesthood, the permanent Diaconate allows married men. However, they must be married for at least five years and have their wife's consent. If they are later widowed, they may not marry again.

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In his homily during the Diaconate ordination of Ruthman, the Local Ordinary of South Africa’s Klerksdorp Diocese said that Priests should live in the world and not to belong to it.

“Religious Priests are called to live in the world but not to belong to the world, to be witnesses and examples of the truth of the Gospel of Christ in a celibate state,” Bishop Phalana said December 16.

He added that members of the Clergy are “called to be living signs of the love of Christ through the selfless way of the Word and Sacrament.”

The South African Bishop underscored the focus on service in the ministry of the Clergy saying, “Whether they (Clergy) are being accepted or not accepted, loved or not loved, they are there to serve.”

Addressing those in marriage, the Local Ordinary of Klerksdorp said that there's need for husbands and wives to uphold love and fidelity.


“Husbands and wives are called to be living signs to each other… the love and fidelity which Christ has for his church. Husbands and wives living their commitments remind us of the commitment of Christ to us and his willingness even to die on the cross for us,” Bishop Phalana said in his homily.

The Bishop who has been at the helm of Klerksdorp Diocese since his Episcopal Ordination in January 2015 further said that children fail to understand the sacrificial love that they are given by their parents at a young age.

“As parents, there is something that I admire about you. Parents are people who have learned to forget themselves in loving others, to forget themselves in serving others, to forget their own needs and put the needs of their own children before them,” the South African Bishop said.

He added, “Sometimes the kids in their childhood do not understand that sacrificial love of their parents, but we always pray that they grow and mature…then they begin to appreciate that sacrificial love of the parent who is able to deny himself, herself and put the children ahead of their own needs.”