PERMANENT DEACONS’ 10TH ANNIVERSARY: Deacons guide parishioners through all stages of life with a caring and sympathetic approach
From tending to the sick and those seeking refuge, to co-ordinating religious education and adult formation programs, and celebrating the sacraments of marriage and baptism, Albert Atkinson and Paul Stacy have been kept busy this past decade. Photo: Jamie O’Brien
By Rachel Curry
In 2006, 14 men were ordained to the Permanent Diaconate for the Archdiocese of Perth.
A decade on, the Deacons talk to The eRecord about how their work as deacons has inspired them.
From tending to the sick and those seeking refuge, to co-ordinating religious education and adult formation programs, and celebrating the sacraments of marriage and baptism, Albert Atkinson and Paul Stacy have been kept busy this past decade.
The pair were ordained as Permanent Deacons on 29 June 2006, along with 12 of their brothers, and today remain as passionate as ever about their ministries.
Permanent Deacons are men – married or single – who are called to be ordained ministers of the Church, undertaking a spiritual role in the Archdiocese at a specific parish or location. Deacons can preach, celebrate baptisms, marriages, conduct Communion Services and other liturgical celebrations such as funeral services but are unable to celebrate Mass, anoint the sick or give absolution.
Deacon Atkinson’s journey as a Permanent Deacon began in the Belmont/Redcliffe Parish.
However, after the parish was amalgamated with the Cloverdale Parish he was appointed as Chaplain of Royal Perth Hospital.
“This was a very challenging time for me, but also a very rewarding time,” he told The eRecord.
“Perhaps an interesting experience for me was when a Muslim lady asked me to visit her husband who was in Intensive Care. I had the opportunity of praying with him and gave him a blessing. He died the next day.”
Deacon Atkinson served as Chaplain of Royal Perth Hospital for five years, before taking on a new role at Notre Dame Cloverdale Parish, where he continues to serve today.
As part of his role at Notre Dame, he brings Communion to those who cannot attend Mass, such as people in aged care homes, the housebound and the detainees at Perth Immigration Detention Centre.
Deacon Atkinson said he often left the detention centre feeling sad about the refugees’ plight, but was comforted by the knowledge that he was serving the Lord.
“One day while talking to my parish priest about my visiting the detention centre, he quoted Matthew 25:36 to me, ‘When I was sick you visited me...When I was in prison, you came to see me’,” he recalled.
“My hope is that God will give me good health to continue serving him through the work that I am doing at this time, for I must always remember that a deacon is a servant.”
Unlike Deacon Atkinson, Deacon Stacy has spent the entirety of the last decade at one parish – North Beach.
It is a fitting role for Deacon Stacy, who has been involved with North Beach for 35 years, first as a parishioner and later as Chair of the Parish Council and an acolyte.
The former parish priest, Father Ken Keating, was also the person who encouraged him to apply to become a Permanent Deacon.
Deacon Stacy said he had experienced “a very full life as a Deacon” since being ordained, including being involved in weekend and daily Masses, Liturgies of the Word, and Stations of the Cross and Benediction during Lent.
“I also conduct most of the baptisms. This also involves a prior meeting with the parents to prepare them for this sacrament,” he said.
“I have celebrated a number of marriages but the priests usually prefer to do this themselves. Mostly I celebrate marriages for people who know me personally.”
Deacon Stacy also brings Communion to the sick and aged and co-ordinates the Parish Religious Education Program for children attending non-Catholic schools.
He shares the role of leading the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults and is a member of the Parish Council and the Finance Committee.
Outside his parish, Deacon Stacy has served as a chaplain on cruise ships, which he described as “an interesting and rewarding experience”.
However, he said celebrating the sacraments and developing relationships with local families brought him the most satisfaction.
“On one occasion, I baptised a young girl and discovering that her parents were married outside the Church, I arranged a validation of their marriage,” he said.
“I then went on to assist the mother to be received into the Church and because she subsequently died from cancer, I arranged her funeral. I felt very honoured to have had this close association with the family.”
Deacon Stacy revealed that at one point he had considered becoming a priest, but was now concentrating on continuing to serve the North Beach Parish for “as long as possible”.