Friday, March 27, 2009

A deacon on fire with the Lord

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The Archdiocese of Baltimore has a new deacon -- and he probably has one of the more unusual resumes in the chancery:
Fire Chief James Clack aims to keep us out of blazes - in Baltimore and in the hereafter.

The city fire chief just became a deacon in the Archdiocese of Baltimore, so he can save people in more ways than one. He'll be introduced during Mass at Sacred Heart of Jesus in Highlandtown on Saturday.

What sounds like an odd resume combo is old hat to Clack, who was ordained as a deacon in St. Cloud, Minn., in 2003, when he was with the Minneapolis Fire Department. "They are different, but ... both are vocations where your main focus is helping others," Clack said.

Clack worked in a small parish in Zimmerman, Minn., until he left to take over Baltimore's department last April.

"When you move across the country, you don't automatically get to continue being a deacon," he said. "The bishop of the province has to agree and give you - it's called faculties."

Clack spent the past three or four months getting those faculties - submitting to a criminal background check and interviews with church officials.

The archdiocese seems happy to have him.

"We think it's great," said Sean Caine, a spokesman for the Archdiocese of Baltimore. "His profile as chief of the Baltimore Fire Department lends visibility to what is sometimes an underappreciated aspect of church life that our deacons serve with great faith and great devotion to the church."

A Mormon who converted to Catholicism, Clack already attends Mass at Sacred Heart. As a deacon, he will set the table for the Eucharist, read the Gospel and, about once a month, preach the homily. He will also do some sort of community ministry, possibly in a prison, nursing home or food pantry.

"The role of the deacon is to have one foot in the work world and one foot in the [church]," he said. "A lot of times I preach about the everyday world, family life." Deacon's Bench
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