During the Covid-19 pandemic, deacons of the Diocese of Burlington are listening.

“Many of us have been connecting by phone with parishioners, as have priests and some parish leaders. In speaking with people, I have been convinced that we need to do a lot more. People feel isolated,” said Deacon Pete Gummere, director of the Permanent Diaconate for the

Diocese of Burlington.

That’s why he and at least nine other deacons are participating in the new Spiritual Listening Ministry. “We will listen, answer questions, offer support and pray with people,” he said.

Modeled after a similar program in the Diocese of San Bernardino, California, the program has been approved by Burlington Bishop Christopher Coyne.

“We [deacons] have been theologically trained and trained in pastoral ministry,” Deacon Gummere said. “Most of us get questions as deacons on any given day. And we respond. That is exactly what we are doing now.”

Persons who seek to speak with a deacon are matched with one usually based on geographic location. Conversations will be mostly by phone “since that is a little more natural and personal,” Deacon Gummere said. “I think that most people would prefer phone to online.”

There is no fee to talk with one of the deacons.

If necessary, the deacons may make referrals. “We know that we cannot go beyond our own qualifications,” Deacon Gummere said. “For example, the person might need to connect with a priest for the Sacrament of Reconciliation, or otherwise. It always takes a mix of humility and honesty to know when to refer to a priest or even a professional counselor.”

No decision has been made about continuing the Spiritual Listening Ministry after the pandemic.

To connect with a deacon in the Spiritual Listening Ministry, email Deacon Gummere at pgummere@vermontcatholic.org.