PERMANENT DEACONS’ 10TH ANNIVERSARY: Deacons describe a rewarding ministry that reaches out to the disenfranchised
Bringing people back to the Church and helping them recommit to God has brought great joy to Permanent Deacons John Kiely and Bruce Talbot over the 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 has inspired them.
Bringing people back to the Church and helping them recommit to God has brought great joy to Permanent Deacons John Kiely and Bruce Talbot over the past decade.
Passing on the faith to others, particularly those who had become estranged from the Church, was named by both men, as a highlight of their ministry so far.
The pair were ordained as Permanent Deacons on 29 June 2006 and have each spent the past 10 years serving in one parish – Myaree for Deacon Kiely and Bateman for Deacon Talbot.
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 and marriages, and conduct Communion services and other liturgical celebrations such as funeral services, but are unable to celebrate Mass, anoint the sick or give absolution.
Deacon Kiely said in addition to carrying out the above tasks at Myaree, he had developed a close relationship with the parish school, Mel Maria.
“I have worked closely with two principals, a number of assistant principals and teachers, often visiting classrooms and speaking to the children at the request of the class teacher,” he said.
“Over the past 10 years, my role has grown considerably and I now use many of the administrative skills gained in the secular work place to assist in parish ministry.
“I have also ministered to many people outside the parish community, conducting many funeral services for the families of non-practising Catholics.”
While Deacon Kiely has been busy serving others this past decade, he also described going through “an enormous faith journey and learning curve” of his own.
His time as a Permanent Deacon had been both challenging and satisfying, he said.
“I have been humbled to have so many people share their faith and their doubts with me. It has been very rewarding to see these people return to the Church after many years of separation,” he said.
“I see the next 10 years as much of the same; with so many priests in the Archdiocese approaching retirement age and many coming from other countries where English is not their first language, the demand for Deacons to assist priests in their pastoral and administrative work will only increase.”
For Deacon Talbot, becoming a Permanent Deacon was the culmination of a lifelong call to ministry.
As a young man, he was a youth leader at Applecross Parish, where he met his wife Deborah, and also served on the Parish Council and became involved in a young families group.
The couple later became an active part of the Bateman Parish community, before Deacon Talbot took on his current role – one that he is relishing.
“Working in a parish has been very rewarding. Some of my favourite experiences have been in running the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults for a number of years,” he said.
“The dialogue with catechumens and candidates really challenges your faith knowledge; it is such an invaluable experience. Visitation to the parish school also brings great joy.”
More recently, Deacon Talbot said he felt that God had led him to minister to the bereaved, particularly to the families of people who had become separated from their parishes after moving houses or moving into a nursing home.
“When they die, family want a Catholic funeral, but with no ties to parish life, they feel lost. In a small way, being available can lead them back to the Church,” he said.
“Another ministry I enjoy is preparing couples for marriage. Special memories include being celebrant for my son's and daughter's marriages.”
Deacon Talbot added that he had been privileged to attend two World Youth Days, including in Sydney in 2008, where he was selected to distribute Communion at the final Mass celebrated by Pope Benedict XVI.
Looking ahead, he said he hoped to see more men ordained to the Permanent Diaconate.
“This is a very special ministry, whose focus is on spreading the Gospel of Christ and ministry to those on the fringes,” he said.
“As such, I see the ministry as one of reaching out to the disenfranchised, to bring healing and encouragement in Christ.”