A DEACON'S PERSONAL EXPERIENCE
Brin works for the diocese and kindly allowed us to ask him a few questions about him becoming a Deacon. He was ordained as a Deacon in July 2013.
How did you know you were called to be a deacon?
Just a sense of wanting to give back more to God and the Church for blessings received, and that this would be best done by offering myself for the ordained state (not as a priest, since I was already married). Promptings from one or two people, and my wife independently thinking the same way, followed up with huge support and encouragement from her. Vindication and backing from those in the Church charged with aiding discernment. The call is different for everyone. A friend of mine on the course experienced a definite "voice of God" vocation.
How did you respond to this call?
Speaking to Fr Francis Higgins, the Diocesan Director for the Permanent Diaconate, and subsequently my parish priest.
What preparation is involved in becoming a deacon?
A "propaedeutic" or preparatory period (most of a year now) when one attends meetings with the Formation Team, and three Saturday sessions at the seminary: then three years academic and formational work, based on monthly days at the St Johns seminary near Guildford, and a couple of study weekends. Virtually the equivalent of an Open University degree. Monthly meetings with a spiritual director - in my case, a religious Sister from Turvey Abbey. At least one weekend's silent retreat a year, at a monastery, and the opportunity of further Quiet Days at Turvey.
What does it mean to be a deacon?
Primarily, you become clergy - an ordained minister, a "Reverend" with a dog-collar ! Deacons have a distinct role and spirituality that means they are not just "Father's assistant", though it can look like it if they are only ever seen on the sanctuary on Sundays. Deacons have a threefold charism of Liturgy (assisting at the altar, including various liturgical acts that servers and lay people cannot do) Word (reading the Gospel, catechesis, and occasionally preaching) and Service (all kinds of ministries of charity, which may include chaplaincy work, and the outworking of Catholic Social Teaching).
A deacon may be married, but cannot remarry if his wife dies, and if he is unmarried when ordained, he is subject to the same celibacy requirements as priests. (We must remember that all priests have been deacons for a while on their path to full priesthood, but what we are talking about are "Permanent Deacons", those who are not just passing through a transitory state on the way to something else).
What are you most looking forward to about becoming a deacon?
Preaching and teaching - which is probably my vanity.
What have you enjoyed most about the process?
The academic learning - the requirement to study, and read widely, especially about the Scriptures and church history, which I might never have got around to – and the profound camaraderie of the formation community.