By Alison Bradish

Over the past two years in the Archdiocese of Regina, two groups of deacons have become one.

Those most recently ordained in 2018 are affectionately referred to as “the group of nine.”

Then there are the permanent deacons who were the pioneers, or as the Deacons joke among themselves, “the Original Series.” Deacon Joe Lang falls into this category.

Lang was ordained September 3rd, 1999, by Archbishop Peter Mallon. Today he serves Resurrection Parish and is also the Catholic Connections Consultant for Regina Catholic Schools.

But at the time of his ordination, the permanent Diaconate program was relatively new in Western Canada. Lang, who is originally from Indian Head, was always involved in the life of his parish and continued this when his family moved to Regina.

At one point, he worked closely with Fr. Joe Balzer, who challenged Lang to go for a Master of Divinity. Lang, a high school teacher at the time, laughed and shot back, “sure if you pay for it.”   A few weeks later, Fr. Balzer called him saying funding had been secured, and Lang found himself completing the program.  

Lang was helping at Holy Child parish during the time Fr. Balzer died. As parish staff started to deal with the unfinished tasks in the wake of Fr. Balzer’s death, Lang found himself calling the bishop many times a day, asking for permissions or guidance to complete some of the work. In one conversation, the bishop suggested Lang might have a call to the permanent diaconate.

“I guess 90 percent of the time I look for God calling me, and this seemed to be a loud call from my Church, through Bishop Peter,” says Lang.

After talking it over with his wife Rae-Lynn, they decided to explore the option of him becoming a permanent deacon. At the time, they were raising three young children. Their youngest child was born after he was ordained.

Much of Lang’s time is spent in the school or parish setting. What he finds extremism most challenging in his ministry; some people are extreme in holding onto traditions, and others are extreme in throwing them away.

“I guess for me, one of the bigger struggles is our inconsistencies in the eyes of the people.   Where parishes are not on the same page and people in the parishes are giving seemingly conflicting responses to questions none the least which is everything from transgender to LGBT to the current political state of the world, to conspiracy theories, to the factions against Pope Francis and all that kind of stuff out there,” says Lang.

He says there is too much judging going on in the world right now.

“I find a lot of kids, especially the high school kids when we talk about what Church really is about according to our doctrines, and our Catechism and they compare it to what they’ve been told the Church is about, it doesn’t often line up for many of them.   It hasn’t been their experience of Church,” says Lang.

But Lang sees the challenges of the times as exciting opportunities to reach out.

“For me the excitement is always, number one, helping people see Christ already alive and working in their lives and number two, helping people not be afraid to go out and just be themselves, because I think when you are yourself, using your gifts that is being holy,” says Lang.

Lang is eager to jump into the school year and journey with people as they rediscover their faith, and for his part, he says he is always looking for new ways to pray and listen to others.

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