I qualified as a social worker and progressed along that career path, got married, had a son and became involved in my parish community. It was a vocations homily that made me think about the diaconate. ‘If not you, then who?’ was the kind of question that came to mind and demanded an answer. I had enjoyed being a Catholic who was involved but I sat on the edge, with just my feet in the water and sometimes over ready to criticise the Church’s failures.
I had developed quite a good habit of saying the daily prayer of the Church and became more diligent. Eventually I was moved to offer myself for diaconate formation and after a couple of years of thought and a rigorous selection process, I began. I was busy, working away from home and my Bishop wondered how sensible a decision this was. But the joy for both sides is that this is ‘formation’ (not training) during which you can stop and through it all, submit to the will and work of the Holy Spirit.
If I was wanted for this purpose in my life, God would provide the means by which I would get there. One of the hesitancies many people talk about is worthiness or lack of it. I felt that too but was struck by the range and mix of men I found myself with from their 30’s to their late 50’s, postman to doctor, shop worker to army officer, factory director to nurse – married, single and widowed.
What was striking was how little we talked about our day to day life for a lot of the time, focusing on what brought us together – our Lord, for his service. After ordination, I could not have imagined how it was going to play out. Deacons are found in a wide range of roles in the church but I have been privileged to be a parish deacon. This means I keep my day job and undertake my diaconal duties alongside that. It’s a constant challenge to live my often hidden life as a deacon every day in secular situations.
At Sunday Mass, I assist the priest as herald of the Gospel and minister of communion; this is the source and summit of my life and work as a deacon. In my ministry, I have celebrated many sacraments. I enjoy celebrating Baptism as a sacrament of hope and happiness, the preparation for which is almost as important as the event itself. I have had the immense pleasure of preparing a young couple for marriage and officiating at their wedding service. Death is a part of life and commending the soul of a person who has died to God is vital work which I have undertaken readily. It is often at times of great stress that people re-discover their love of God or perhaps, more importantly, His love for them. In addition to these sacramental roles, I help in parish catechesis groups as well as leading prayer groups, holy hours and other liturgies.
Every day, this gift of the diaconate is precious, a profound privilege. To get here, all I had to do was to submit to His grace and let Him guide my steps.