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Jesus the Christ, on the night he was betrayed, established the sacramental and communal Church with the first celebration of the Most Holy Eucharist. In the first generation of the Church, the Holy Spirit led the apostles to select seven men who would free the bishops of their more secular and temporal duties. Historical testimonies of the generations that followed show that the deacon at all times had a special link with the bishop, and the diaconate quickly became a recognized and important office in the Church.
As the Church continued to grow under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, the work of the deacon evolved into three major areas – word, liturgy and charity. Within these three major areas the deacon fulfilled such roles as proclaiming the Gospel at Mass and exhorting the faithful, directing the Prayers of the Faithful, assisting the celebrant at the altar, ministering the Chalice, and giving instructions to prospective converts for initiation into the Christian community. In regard to charity, the work of the deacon consisted of reporting the needs of the community to the bishop and bringing his response and assistance to those in need and want.
Over the centuries, the diaconate was displaced by seminarians in their final year of preparation for the priesthood. These men are called transitional deacons. In 1959 in Rome, Caritas International requested that the permanent diaconate be restored. From October 4-16, 1963, the subject was discussed during the Second Vatican Council deliberations. On September 29, 1964, in five separate votes, the council fathers approved the restoration of the diaconate as a permanent order, in its own right, a full part of the three-fold hierarchy of Holy Orders -- bishop, priest, and deacon. On June 18, 1967, Pope Paul VI issued Sacrum Diaconatus Ordinem, a document that reestablished the permanent diaconate for the Latin Church. In May 1968, the Catholic bishops of the United States of America petitioned the Holy See for permission to restore the diaconate in the U.S. On August 30, 1968, the apostolic delegate informed the bishops that Pope Paul VI had approved their request.
The permanent diaconate in the Diocese of Honolulu had its beginnings in 1978 when the late Bishop John J. Scanlan, apostolic administrator of the diocese, gave permission to begin a class of formation in September 1978. Under the direction of Sulpician Father Ed Hogan, the first deacon formation class began a three-year formation process.
After six months a new director, Father Bartholomew O’Leary, was appointed to head the program. Shortly after his appointment he recruited Sister Jeanne Anne Colis, CSJ, to be the associate director. The two held the positions for the next ten-plus years. Sister Jeanne Anne left her position in 1988 to assume responsibilities with her order, and Father Bartholomew retired in 1989 due to health reasons, after guiding three classes through the formation process and ordination.
In 1988 Deacon Wallace “Wally” Mitsui and his wife Gwen Mitsui were appointed co-directors for the fourth formation class. To assist them on the weekends, they organized a core team of five deacons and their wives, a priest, and the widow of a deacon. After the ordination of this class, Deacon Wally and Gwen resigned the co-directorship to assume other parish and diocesan ministries.
In 1992 Deacon Bill McPeek and his wife Flo McPeek were appointed co-directors and held the positions until after the ordination of the sixth class. They also had a core team to assist them on the weekends.
In 2008 Deacon John Coughlin and his wife Kathleen Coughlin were appointed co-directors to head the seventh formation class for the diocese. The classes began on January 2010 with 22 men accepted into the Aspirancy Year.
Above is an excerpt from the Permanent Deacon Handbook, June 2010
Class one had eight men ordained on December 5, 1981 by Bishop John J. Scanlan.
Class two had ten men ordained in December 1984 by Bishop Joseph A. Ferrario.
Class three had thirteen men ordained in June 1987 by Bishop Joseph A. Ferrario.
Class four had eight men ordained in July 1995 by Bishop Francis X. DiLorenzo.
Class five had eighteen men ordained in June/July 2001 by Bishop Francis X. DiLorenzo.
Class six had seventeen men ordained in January/February 2007 by Bishop Larry Silva.