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PERMANENT DEACONS’ 10TH ANNIVERSARY: A decade on, diaconal role continues to inspire in different settings
Fourteen men were ordained to the Permanent Diaconate for the Archdiocese of Perth in 2006. Photo: Jamie O’Brien
By Caroline Smith
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.
Ten years on from their ordination, Permanent Deacons Patrick Moore and Paul Reid say they continue to learn and grow in these positions, despite taking on quite different roles in the Archdiocese.
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.
For Deacon Moore – who is a chaplain to seafarers at Fremantle’s Stella Maris Centre and a member of the Apostleship of the Sea (AOS) – becoming ordained meant taking on more than just a new role and new responsibilities.
“Ordination means the taking on of a new identity, an identity which takes some time to ‘fit’,” he said.
“Like a new pair of jeans, very uncomfortable at first, the identity has to be lived in and then washed in prayer and reflection.”
Renewal was also a theme at the Stella Maris Centre itself, which had been closed down for almost two years when Deacon Moore was sent there in 2006.
“The Centre did not really start functioning properly for another nine months,” he said.
“During that time, I tried to learn as much as possible about the work of the Apostleship of the Sea and about the daily operations of the Port.
“It was very difficult visiting ships and trying to encourage crew to come to the Centre which they regularly told me ‘is closed, Sir’. But slowly coming to understand the difficulties faced by seafarers gave me a feeling of being needed and wanted by them.”
Because of the dangerous work that many men encounter at sea, helping them on a personal level is often part of Deacon Moore’s chaplain role, as in one instance when a Filipino seafarer was badly injured in a fall in late 2006.
“I visited him in the ICU where he remained unconscious for almost two weeks, and was able to visit him every day to pray for and with him and witness his slow recovery over the next four months,” he said.
“The episode was very important in my own formation as a chaplain to the seafarers.
“I learned of the great importance many of them put on their relationship with God even if their prayer life tended to be spasmodic: separated from family and friends for very long periods, many seafarers suffer from loneliness and depression.
“Finding a welcome in Stella Maris centres round the world is of enormous importance to these men.”
He added that, in taking on this role, people at Stella Maris were following Jesus’ exhortation to ‘welcome the stranger’.
As part of his chaplaincy work, Deacon Moore has been called upon to bless ships and to conduct on-board Communion services. In his role as Parish Deacon at Armadale, he has conducted baptisms, marriages and funerals and preached the Sunday homily on a regular basis. He has always received great support and encouragement from the parishioners and from his family.
Deacon Reid – who is based at his home parish of Sacred Heart in Mundaring – said that the diaconal ministry for him was about striving to be a faithful servant who brings the Good News to all in his parish appointment.
“Pope Francis, in a recent homily to deacons in Rome, reminded us that, as a first step, they are asked to be available,” he said.
“Being available to all is an imperative. To be a married deacon who serves, availability is about that balance of family and ministry.”
He added that he had received much support from priests and parishioners. However, it was the loving support of his wife, Charmianne, and family, that had helped balance his role in the parish with outside work and family life.
“In the first couple of years, parishioners were naturally curious to know what this role of permanent deacon was all about. Sometimes there was scepticism. For example, there were (and still are) instances where people want a priest, not a deacon, as the celebrant for a Baptism. Patient tolerance and a gentle explanation or reminder of the diaconal ministry usually overcomes this,” Deacon Reid said.
“In the first eight years, my secular employment restricted my time in parish ministry to mainly weekends.
“However, there were many opportunities to minister in the workplace and share with fellow employees our joys and sorrows, our successes and frustrations.
“In the weeks leading up to my ordination, I was drawn to the poem, The Pillar of the Cloud (also referred to as Lead Kindly Light) by Blessed John Henry Newman, that captures this (diaconal) journey,” he said.
“I used this in my ordination prayer card and its words never fail to remind me of this journey of life and our total dependence on Him who is our Light.”
He added that the next ten years of his diaconal ministry would undoubtedly bring challenges and ‘surprises’. Pope Francis reminds us that
“My hope is that the journey will also bring the strength to trust in Him, that Kindly Light, with this plea – lead Thou me on!” Deacon Reid said.