A local permanent deacon spoke to his peers at a Vatican conference last month about how the deacon is an image of mercy for promoting the New Evangelization in the family.

Deacon Harold Burke-Sivers of Immaculate Heart Parish in North Portland was chosen to give an address May 27 at a Jubilee Year of Mercy event for deacons held at St. Giovanni dei Fiorentini Basilica in Rome. About 2,000 deacons from around the world attended during a hot humid Roman week.

“The deacon is the head of the domestic church precisely because he is the principal servant of his family,” Burke-Sivers said. “A deacon’s role as husband and father necessarily means that he must sacrifice everything: his body, his desire and will, his hopes and dreams—everything he has and everything he is for the sake of his wife, children, the Church, and the culture.”

He told his fellow deacons who significant forgiveness is in families and that forgiveness has cosmic implications.

Burke-Sivers spoke Spanish to Pope Francis briefly as he gave the pontiff a copy of his new Ignatius Press book on male spirituality, “Behold the Man: A Catholic Vision of Male Spirituality.” There is also a 13-week DVD program based on the book.

In his homily to deacons, Pope Francis urged the men not to be limited by the church schedule. “It pains my heart when I see a schedule in the parishes — 'from this time to that time' — and then, the door is closed,” the pope said. “There is no priest, no deacon, no layperson to welcome the people. This is wrong. Have the courage to ignore the schedule.”

Pope Francis has called for a commission to explore the possibility of women deacons.  

Burke-Sivers and other deacons prayed before the tomb of St. Peter and heard talks from Vatican officials and each other.   

Burke-Sivers, who appears on EWTN and writes about spirituality, grew up in New Jersey, the son of immigrants from Barbados. He earned a degree at the University of Notre Dame and has lived in Portland for two decades. He was ordained in 2002. A father of four, he served as security chief for the University of Portland before deciding on a life as full-time evangelizer explaining the treasures of Catholicism.

“Catholic men need to serve, protect, and defend our wives and children,” Burke-Sivers told Catholic Digest this spring. “We can’t just relax our standards and get swept away by the problems of the culture; we have to confront the problems head-on and transform our culture with the truth of Christ. That is when the natural law is respected, and there is room for the Gospel to be accepted.”