A married man baptizing a child in a Catholic church? A chaplain who offers meditation in prison? The Archdiocese of Cologne celebrates the 50th anniversary of the permanent diaconate. Winfried Reers is one of them.
Winfried Reers talks to little Till as if the boy could already understand every word he says. "I sign you with the cross," he tells the baby, drawing a cross on his forehead with his thumb. The 69-year-old wears alb and stole – garments in the Catholic Church. This is how he baptizes Till in St. Mary Magdalene in Rheinbreitbach. "After me, your parents, your godparents and my wife Monika, representing the parish, will also make this symbol of Jesus on your forehead," he continues.
Deacon in the Catholic pastoral care area of Unkel
Winfried Reers has been married for 47 years and has worked as a permanent deacon in the Catholic pastoral area of Unkel for 33 years. Since then, he baptizes children, buries the deceased and marries couples. He is allowed to perform these tasks and more because he was ordained as a permanent deacon. What he is not allowed to do, however, is to hear confessions or to change bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ during a mass. In the Catholic Church, these tasks are reserved for ordained priests, such as the parish priest or the chaplain in the parishes.
"At the time, my wife said yes to Cardinal Hoffner," Reers says, referring to his wife's approval of his career choice. Because: If a married man wants to become a permanent deacon, the okay of his wife is a mandatory prerequisite. "She supported me every day, took on sexton duties, was a catechist, and, and, and," he emphasized. "Being a deacon without my family, and in the first place without my wife, I would never have experienced and gone through like this."
Sunday afternoon, Rheinbreitbach, a quiet residential area. The son and daughter of Monika and Winfried Reers have come with their families for coffee, the grandchildren romp around their grandfather. The presses two foam balls into the hand of little Lilly. He himself takes a ball and closes his fist together. "Blow," he says to his granddaughter Marie, who is standing next to it. "And 'Simsalabim' say." "Simsalabim", says Marie and blows on her grandpa's fist. Reers opens his hand, the ball has disappeared, but Lilli now has three balls instead. The girls jump up and down enthusiastically. "Great!", applaud the parents.
Reers also uses tricks like this to make public appearances. The "Magic Deacon" – he has had the name protected – can be booked for parish celebrations or family parties, for example. Reers has trained as a magician and ventriloquist. He is a member of the "Magic Circle," an association of magicians, and once even levitated former Wurzburg bishop Friedhelm Hofmann during a show.
But it doesn't have to be that prominent for the permanent deacon. "I have experienced so many reactions," he recounts. "An elderly lady once told me after a performance that she hadn't laughed in seven years. And today she laughed again for the first time after the hard times of the past."
He also wants to convey joy as a permanent deacon. In St. Mary Magdalene is allowed to joke during the baptismal service, Reers makes winking remarks at the appropriate places. Till's parents seem relaxed as he pours consecrated water over their son's head. He can well empathize with her feelings, because Reers has already baptized his granddaughter Lilly in this church. And here he has led his daughter to the altar and married her afterwards. "That already went to the substance," he says. "That was something very special for me as a deacon."
Messengers of a new age
The ministry of the deacon is divided into caritas, liturgy and proclamation. In 1968, the Archdiocese of Cologne was the first diocese in the world to introduce the profession of permanent deacon: At that time, on 28. April consecrated the first five married men in Cologne Cathedral. They have so far been followed by more than 400 others in the Archdiocese of Cologne alone.
This Wednesday, the Archdiocese of Cologne celebrates the 50th anniversary with a pontifical mass in Cologne Cathedral followed by a ceremony and an accompanying exhibition in Maternushaus.