Recently, the deacons of the Archdiocese of Perth met with Archbishop Timothy Costelloe. The meeting was an opportunity for the deacons to make some contact with him, talk to him about their current ministry and then for him to talk to the deacons about some issues. He brought up two issues that were of interest to the deacons in the room. The first was to make very clear that deacons are the bishop's men. The second was to help us understand that the deacon is the sacramental sign of Jesus as servant.
Both of these statements had a profound effect on the deacons who were present and it was something that I felt that was worth sharing. We all understood from our formation that deacons were, in fact, the bishop's men however, to hear it straight from the mouth of our Archbishop was extremely affirming. It helped to give us a sense of worth and an understanding that our role within the Church was recognised and appreciated. He went on to add that the ministerial presence of Church was through Bishop, Priest and Deacon and where this wasn't the case, the Church in that particular region was somehow not quite whole.
The second statement that he made was that deacons are the sacramental sign of Jesus as servant was a watershed moment for all of us, me in particular. Again, the service ministry of deacon had been something that was relayed to us in our formation however, to remind us that we were an outward sign to the people of God as Jesus the servant was a thought provoking statement. This is not to downplay the liturgical aspect of deacon however; the biggest difference we can make to our community is through our service to all. Reaching out to those who have lost contact with the Church, baptising young children of parents who have not seen a church since the day they were married and maybe not even then or being asked to celebrate a funeral for someone who had been distanced from the Church amongst many others is where our work could lie. It is an awesome responsibility to realise that people will get an experience of Jesus the servant through what we do for them.
Anyone ordained as a permanent deacon understands that there is still a lot of work to do to help people understand this particular ministry in the Church and sometimes I wonder if deacons also need to be prompted to do the same. I have often reminded people in myhomilies, which serves as a constant reminder to me, that it is very easy to be Christian within our safe parish communities. It is a far greater risk to do the same outside the safety of our Church walls. I write these few words as maybe an opportunity for deacons to reflect on the work they do and for priests to reflect on the work deacons carry out in their parishes. Each of bishop, priest and deacon have important roles to play in furthering the work of Jesus in the world but it is work that must be done in partnership if it is to be effective.
On August 17th/18th, the Executive will be meeting in Melbourne in their annual Face to Face meeting for 2014. I look forward to reporting to you all the outcome of this meeting.