History was made in St Peter’s Church in Lurgan on Sunday when two local men were the first to be made Permanent Deacons in the Diocese of Dromore.
It was a proud day for the families and friends of Gerry Heaney and Kevin Devine.
The ordination of both of them to the Diaconate was before a packed congregation which enjoyed a beautiful and moving ceremony.
Principal Celebrant Bishop John McAreavey said: “As a result of the decision of the Second Vatican Council, 50 years ago, to restore the Permanent Diaconate and to open it to married men, the Church can now invite into its ministry men with the experience and grace of married life and their experience as parents.
“Kevin Devine and Gerry Heaney have been blessed in their married lives. With their wives they have been blessed with children and through the impact of their own lives they have handed on their faith to their children. Both Kevin and Gerry have enriched the communities where they have lived and worked by their professional lives. They have also been deeply involved in their parish communities and have enriched those communities with their generous service and goodness.”
Gerry, originally from Lurgan, now lives in Lakelands, Craigavon, and has been married to Phyllis for 37 years.
They have two children, Geraldine and David, and two grandchildren, Hannah and Ryan.
A school teacher Gerry is well known at Clann Eireann where he worked as a youth leader and in the sporting field playing Gaelic football for the Clanns and soccer for Oxford United.
He is looking forward to his ministry as Deacon in his home parish of Moyraverty.
“I was very aware it was a historic first for the Diocese of Dromore,” he said. “I feel very privileged being called by God to serve the Church in my own pastoral area.
“I have been overwhelmed by the support I received, not only from the people in my own parish but from those in the whole Diocese.
“My wife Phyllis had to give her permission and I realise the importance of that and my admiration of her for giving a part of me to the church and the support I received from my family.”
Originally a native of Portadown Kevin now lives outside Lurgan in the townland of Kilmore.
He has been married to Moya for 30 years and they have five children Catherine, Paschal, Kevin, David and Niamh.
Kevin was a school teacher in St Patrick’s High School, Keady, for 33 years before retiring.
A keen soccer player he was a goalkeeper with several Mid-Ulster League teams as well as playing at Portadown, Glenavon and Larne.
Kevin has been assigned in particular to the parishes of St Peter and St Paul.
“The ceremony was absolutely beautiful,” said Kevin. “A lot of people commented how moving it was.”
He is also looking forward to his duties and has already assisted at Mass in St Peter’s and St Paul’s.
“I have been appointed to both parishes and i wanted to make an appearance,” he said.
He too was quick to highlight the part his family played during the four years of studying.
“They were very supportive of what I was doing,” he went on. “We talked about and I asked them how they felt because it was going to impact on their lives but they were happy for me to go on.
“My wife had to give her written permission for me to continue and there was a big family input into the process.”
Priests of the diocese were in attendance as well as those involved in delivering the theological programme to the Deacons.