For the first time in 1,500 years, laymen in County Sligo have been ordained as deacons, with permission to preside over funerals, celebrate baptisms, and officiate over weddings in the Catholic Church.

The six men, all married and in permanent employment, were ordained at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, in Sligo, by Bishop of Elphin, Christopher Jones.

Jones told that it was a “joyous” and historic occasion. He said this was the first time in almost 1,500 years, “almost back to the time of St Patrick himself”, since an ordination of this type took place in the diocese.

Director of the permanent diaconate in the diocese, Father Michael Duignan, told the press the shortage of priests was not the primary reason for the revival of the permanent diaconate.

According to William Gacquin (57), a Spanish, Irish and religion teacher, at the Christian Brother’s School in Roscommon, was among those ordained. He said the last reference to a deacon in the diocese records was when one baptized St Ciaran in the parish of Fuerty, Co Roscommon, in the 6th century.

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He told the Irish Independent, “For deacons, family comes first and as you have to earn your livelihood, your job comes second. You give the church your free time.”

Another of the ordained deacons, Wando Araujo (41), is a grandfather, originally from Brazil. He runs a bakery in Roscommon.

“I regard the diaconacy as a vocation,” he said.

He also said his brother, Claudio, has already invited him to officiate over his wedding in Brazil next summer.

Another of the deacons ordained, Frank McGuinness (42), is the father of two sons, James (5) and John (10). He said his wife Louise was far from surprised, “Faith is a big part of both our lives.”

The six men were among those ordained on Saturday. Their wives assisted in their vesting in stoles and dalmatics.

One of the deacons will officiate at a baptism next week.