Solemn Pontifical Mass and Rite of Ordination to the Diaconate of Charles Abela, David Dowling, Jerome D’Rozrio, Batsirai Maringehosi and Alan Skofic at St Patrick’s Cathedral, Parramatta.
Readings: Numbers 3:5-9; Psalm 83:3-6,8, 11; 1 Timothy 3:8-10, 12-13; John 19:31-37
It is with great joy that we commend these men: Alan Skofic, Batsirai Maringehosi, Charles Abela, David Dowling and Jerome D’Rozario to serve the Diocese of Parramatta as permanent deacons, with the consent and support of their wives Jaclyn, Charity, Alicja, Deirdre and Therese respectively.
The decision to restore the ancient Order of the Diaconate was one of the major achievements of the Second Vatican Council. The Council Fathers envisaged the need for deacons to perform sacramental and liturgical functions as well as to exercise the administration of the Church’s temporal goods. They spoke of the many charisms, distinct from the priesthood, which were established to provide direct assistance to the bishop in the care of the poor and the nurturing of the community. The diaconate was no longer under the shadow of the priesthood, but became its own permanent state of life.
Fast forward 60 years and Parramatta is now home to one of the most diverse and dynamic groups of permanent deacons in Australia. They are not just “flower pots” on the sanctuary but active ministers who serve in a variety of pastoral contexts across our growing diocese. A few weeks ago, we hosted the Biennial National Deacons Conference and showed the rest of the country how this ministry could transform individuals, communities and the Church as a whole. We need the ministry of diaconate that is modelled on Christ the humble servant. As Pope Paul VI declared, the diaconate is the driving force for the Church’s own diakonia. I would add also that the diaconate, with its characteristic embodiment of the Church in its fundamental expressions of service, mutuality and immersion in secularity has a potential to reset the ordained ministry towards a better future.
The readings today speak about the call to serve and to act as agents of the Kingdom. The first reading tells us about the establishment of the Levitical priesthood in ancient Israel. Moses is instructed by the Lord to delegate the sons of Levi to undertake sacred duties in service of the tabernacle. The Church has always seen this divine provision as a shadow of the ministerial orders in the new temple. Just as Israel learned to be the living temple, especially after the destruction of their precious physical temple, we are to become witnesses of God’s enduring love. Deacons, in particular, model for others the God who accompanies and cares for his people.
In the Gospel, Jesus warns his disciples not to lose sight of their identity and mission as agents of change in the world. They are meant to be salt of the earth and light of the world. He speaks of tasteless salt which is “good for nothing and can only be thrown out to be trampled underfoot by others”. Reading these compelling words in the context of the sexual abuse crisis, we cannot help but admit our being treated like tasteless salt.
So much of what has gone wrong in the Church stems from the travesty of Christian leadership and service. We see this not only in the sexual abuse crisis but also in the distortion of what it means to be a Christian leader. It happens when privilege, power and elitism are more evident than love, humility and servanthood. Pope Francis has challenged us to reclaim the radical vision of the Gospel in terms of moving out of our comfort zone, labouring at the coalface and the periphery. It is to have the smell of the sheep, to walk with people, identifying with them in their struggles, their questions and their uncertainties. Until we have reclaimed diakonia, the Church will be less than what Christ intends it to be.
We must set ourselves to the task of rebuilding our diminished credibility. We must reclaim what Christ stands for, or we will forfeit our mission of being the light of the world. Throughout Christendom and for the most part of history, we have tried to be great, powerful and dominant. All of the metaphors and all of the dispositions of Jesus, however, point to a humble church: a little salt, a little yeast and a little light. They summon us to a life of witness and a prophetic community that shines a light on the darkness of the world around us.
Dear Alan, Batsirai, Charles, David and Jerome,
Your ordination today brings joy, hope and renewal to us. The Church, here and beyond, is rejuvenated by your energy, reinvigorated by your commitment and enriched by your gifts. Your fellow clergy and God’s people are strengthened by your companionship. The journey of synodality might be uncertain but it will be less daunting when walked together knowing that Christ’s love for us is never-ending. He alone is our map and our road.
“The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve and give his life for many”. Let these words, be your motto of life especially as a deacon. Let it guide your ministry and form you as the minister of the Gospel. May you not be afraid to make up all that has still to be undergone by Christ for the sake of his body the Church. May Mary accompany you with her maternal love, her intercession and her example of faithful and humble discipleship.
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