By Andrew Morgan
The six men ordained to the diaconate Saturday, June 4, are not the first deacons to serve in the Diocese of Jackson. This diocese was one of the first in the nation to ordain deacons. There are currently three permanent deacons serving here.
Monday, May 23, Deacon Henry Babin celebrated his 40th anniversary of ordination. He was ordained for the Archdiocese of New Orleans, but later served in Houma-Thibodaux until his relocation to Mississippi in 1992, where he has remained since. He is currently serving at Olive Branch Queen of Peace Parish.
Prior to his ordination, Babin worked as a school administrator in Houma, and in the DeSoto County school system as a counselor. Deacon Babin felt called to the priesthood in his youth and entered seminary in the 10th grade, but soon felt this was not the path for him. When the office of permanent deacon was restored during Vatican II, he knew that was the right ministry for him. He was ordained into the second class of permanent deacons for New Orleans after a two year formation process consisting of biweekly meetings and lessons.
Deacon Babin’s primary responsibilities have included pastoral counseling, baptism and marriage preparation, RCIA instruction, preaching, conducting wake and funeral services, performing Communion services and visiting the sick. Additionally, he has preached for diocesan mission appeals, and on the national level he has served as the executive director for the National Diaconate Institute for Continuing Education (NDICE), an organization he joined in 1979.
“The most pleasing part of serving the church,” he explained, “is making people feel that they are the church. I enjoy all the ministries I am involved in, but I love meeting people and making them feel welcome the most.”
He offered this advice to those discerning the diaconate and the newly ordained: “My advice to everyone is to be yourself. Realize that you are not a mini-priest and remember that you are in a servant ministry. Sometimes you have to say ‘no,’ and be aware of spreading yourselves too thin and treat all as equals.”
Deacon Theodore Klingen was born and raised in St. Louis, Mo. He ministers at Oxford St. John Parish.
After receiving both a bachelor and master degrees from St. Louis University, he served in the Air force, eventually earning a Ph.D. in chemistry from Florida State University. In 1964, he came to the University of Mississippi as a professor of chemistry and remained on the faculty until 2012. He was ordained as a deacon at St. John in July of 1982 by Bishop William Houck.
In addition to his duties of performing marriages, funerals and preaching at Sunday Masses, he has worked also on marriage and baptism preparation, assisted with more than 40 annulment cases and instructed RCIA classes. Currently he works as a chaplain for Baptist Hospital, North Mississippi, the Oxford Police Department and the local Council of the Knights of Columbus. He has been married since Sept. 1958 to Maura Downey Klingen. They have a daughter and a son.
Deacon Klingen said the most rewarding thing about his 34 years of service as a deacon is realizing the difference one can really make in a person’s life, a realization which is especially true in annulment cases.
Brother Senan Gallagher, ST, a New York City native, has been a brother for the Missionary Servants of the Most Holy Trinity for 60 years. For 16 of those he has ministered as a deacon. He is currently stationed at Canton Holy Child Parish and he helps at Batesville St. Mary Parish and at Sardis St. John the Baptist Mission.
The witness of the Marist brothers and sisters at his childhood school cultivated his call to religious life. He felt specifically called to the diaconate as part of his desire to work in parishes with people, leading to his formation and ordination in New Orleans and later assignments in Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi. Brother Senan said he is especially grateful for having been assigned to the South. He regards it as a blessing, because he gets to serve with so many dedicated lay people.
He thanks God for his vocation, as well as the vocations of the men just ordained. An even greater blessing he said is the restoration of the permanent diaconate itself. He looked forward to seeing the candidates, many of whom he knows through Cursillo retreats. Brother Senan also described the diaconate as “two for the price of one” since wives take part in formation and are an important part of ministry. “Not only ought we all be grateful for new, dedicated deacons, but also for the couple dynamic between husband and wife. The blessings abound.”
(Andrew Morgan is a rising sophomore at The Catholic University of America and a graduate of Madison St. Joseph School.)
By Andrew Morgan