The Permanent Diaconate community in the Diocese of Parramatta has welcomed five new aspirants and their wives into their journey of formation towards ordination.
The aspirants were welcomed during a diaconate formation weekend, held at St Joseph’s Retreat Centre, Baulkham Hills, on the last weekend of February.
We gathered on the Friday evening, where we shared a meal together, before beginning with the evening prayer of the Church. Present through the weekend was the National Association of Deacons’ Conference Cross, a statement that we are a national community of deacons who look forward to welcoming our visitors in 2021 for the biennial National Association of Deacons Conference in Parramatta. This was followed by introductions, including our names, our parish and our favourite holiday destinations to add a fun dimension to the introductions.
Our formal formation sessions began on Saturday morning, as our original guest presenter was unable to join us. Our sessions started with a focus on a video series, taking us on a biblical walk through Christ’s passion. These videos were meditative, informative and enriched our understanding of the passion of Jesus as he journeyed from the agony in the garden to His crucifixion and death on the cross.
We were then joined by Deacon Josh Clayton from the Diocese of Bathurst, who led us through leadership qualities needed for ministry, based on his attendance at an international Leadership Conference in London. Deacon Josh inspired us with his message that leadership is not primarily about self, but about the team and the mission inspiring and guiding the team – as deacons are ordained as heralds of the Gospel, this was a timely reminder that the deacon is not ordained for himself, but for the ministry of the bishop in a diocese.
The evening concluded with a movie sharing the story behind the Christian song ‘I can only imagine’ by Bart Marshall Millard. This was truly an inspiring story, based on the lived experience of the songwriter, and his struggle to forgive his father for a difficult childhood. The participants on the weekend then had an opportunity to process the key learnings from the movie, and apply these learnings to our leadership roles in ministry.
On the Sunday, Bishop Vincent Long OFM Conv, Bishop of Parramatta, joined us for a session before celebrating Mass with us. It was good to meet the bishop and to be with him to celebrate the Eucharist together on the first Sunday of Lent, which was an appropriate way to conclude our formation weekend.
Dr Michael Tan is a retired GP in formation for the Permanent Diaconate in the Diocese of Parramatta. He has just been appointed to the Executive of the Catholic Medical Association in NSW
View images from the Diaconate Formation Weekend here or below.