Deacons Serve Big Role in Chalice Catholic Child Sponsorship Programs
"It's our job at Chalice, to advocate for the poor," Father Patrick Cosgrove, President of Chalice, said addressing a group of deacon speakers. "We're here to help children living in poverty. We do that one child, one mother, one family at a time. Preaching in support of sponsorship is preaching the Gospel, the word of God." Since 1996 Chalice has been serving children and elderly in need at 56 Catholic mission sites in Haiti, South America, Africa, Ukraine, Philippines, Bangladesh and India. For over 20 years deacons have been going to parishes across Canada preaching the homilies on the weekends and telling the stories of the people whom Chalice supports. The Deacon Speaker Ministry has been going on at Chalice pretty much from its start according to Deacon Dan MacDonald, Chalice’s School and Parish Administrator, and “[It] has really helped build Chalice into what it is, built a strong base to where we’re at almost 50,000 sponsored children.”
“It’s such a strong match as far as the ministry of a deacon and reaching out to the poor wherever they might be, reaching out in charity and love, it fits the ministry really well. Our deacons express that every weekend preaching about sponsorship. It’s such a strong match,” Deacon Danny said.
Chalice supports its deacon speakers recognizing the important role they play. Besides providing a speaker’s manual, Chalice holds mentoring weekends – an interested deacon will go to a parish and work with an experienced deacon who will instruct him in the process. “Before they come on and preach their first time for Chalice, we ask them to send their homily to us and we look over it,” Deacon Danny said.
“We have a newsletter that we send out every month. Not every deacon can go or has been to our sites. So, we try to give them stories they can use in their homily; speaking tips, things to remember logistically with the processing of the folders [of available children for sponsorship].”
“I always make sure to be in regular contact with the deacons; make sure that they know that we’re here to support them. They’re part of this gigantic family and this community of faith that we have here,” Deacon Danny added.
Chalice does believe it is important for deacons to visit sponsor sites. Of the 22 current deacon speakers, at least half of them have traveled to a sponsor site on one of Chalice’s three to four yearly trips.
“One of our longtime deacons often talks about his trip to an orphanage and how the children we’re wanting to be held, like any baby would, and them reaching out to him. Some of them were sleeping on the floor and their hands were reaching out to his feet, and it really moved him. That was more than ten years ago, and he never forgot that, he was so moved by that. That’s part of his why, you know, why do you go out every weekend and do this?” Deacon Danny shared.
Another important event for Chalice’s deacon speakers is a biannual conference. Deacon Danny says they try to get as many deacons together as they can. This past May they met at a retreat center in Ontario along with their wives.
“We’ve always thought it was important to have the wives involved, but what I really noticed at our last conference is how really involved the wives are at the parish engagements; helping the process with folders, encouraging the parishioners to sponsor, even just traveling [to the parish]. At the conference you can tell they’re so involved even just by their questions, what they wanted to know. What jumped out at me a lot is that it’s really a couples’ ministry. It’s not just one particular deacon going out, it’s actually a couples’ ministry. It’s wonderful,” Deacon Danny elaborated.
The deacon sees Chalice as a ministry that truly helps Catholics in Canada enliven their faith, “We’re called to act in charity, and with Chalice, sponsoring a child is a way for a parishioner to do that. It expresses the gospel as far as I’m concerned as far as reaching out to those in need, it helps you express that in a real tangible way. I can see that when I go to parishes, Chalice has real relationships with our parishioners, and we have real relationships with the families at our sites. I see the whole circle, I see the whole community of faith.”
This October, with the goal of growing the Chalice mission across the United States, Fr. Pat named Fr. Rich LoBianco the National Director of Chalice US. Fr. Rich hopes to build a Deacon Speaker Ministry for Chalice US as well. Deacons who accept this important ministry will receive training and support and enjoy collaboration with their Canadian brother deacons. It is hoped that the wives of American deacons will be a part of this ministry as well.
Deacons are asked to commit to a minimum of three weekends per year but are certainly welcome to take on more. Expenses are paid and a stipend per parish engagement is provided.
Deacons interested in the Deacon Speaker Ministry for Chalice US may contact Fr. Rich LoBianco.
— Beatrice Maynor, Web Content Editor, Chalice US