Six new permanent deacons show value of lay people

The ordination of six men as permanent deacons in the parish of Cloyne, in Co Cork, is a great example of the potential for lay people to get involved in ministry.

Father of two Brian Williams, aged 42, of Lissarda, Co Cork, said the diaconate was a natural progression for him, having been employed in addiction and homeless services.

Brian said a supportive spouse was vital to the role. It will be a juggling act meeting the needs of his wife Sharon, two daughters, and the wider community.

“It is my thing and she is happy for me to do it,” he said. “If your wife wasn’t
on board, this life would be impossible. Because, prior to this, you have years of study and then you have pastoral placement.”

The Catholic Church is considering allowing women to serve as deacons, signalling an openness to ending the practice of all-male clergy. Mr Williams says he supports the idea of a female diaconate. When asked why, his answer was: “Why not?”

Brian is the director of Cloyne Diocesan Youth and Community services. He he is looking forward to expanding his role in the community and is comfortable with doing “a lot of listening and advocacy”.

Meanwhile, Londis employee Peter Gurbal, aged 44, originally from Bratislava, Slovakia, was also among the lay people ordained at St Colman’s Cathedral yesterday.

Mr Gurbal, who is based in Cobh, Co Cork, said that he had spent “a long time moving in the areas of faith” and wanted to offer his best to the people of his community.

He also paid tribute to his wife, Lenka. As a father of five children, ranging in age from 13 to one, he couldn’t have considered the move without her backing.

“I was training for the few years and it was a lot of essays,” said Peter. “Lenka is
a full supporter of it. I am looking forward to the ordination, but then, after that, the real service that I have worked for up to now starts.”

Peter says the ceremony will be taped for his elderly parents at home in Slovakia.

Bishop William Crean said he was greatly heartened by the ordination of the first permanent deacons in the diocese.

“It is encouraging,” said Bishop Crean. “Although this takes place in the context of falling numbers of priests, it would not be correct to see the diaconate simply as a replacement for the priesthood.

“Deacons hold a special ministry within our Church, which is to complement, but not to replace, the contribution of our priests, or that of the ministry of lay people who serve the community of the Church in an increasing number of ways.”

For 50 years, permanent deacons have served the Church throughout the world. The first deacons were ordained for the archdiocese of Dublin and the diocese of Elphin, in 2012. The diocese of Cloyne first accepted aspirants for the diaconate in 2013.

On ordination, following three years of preparation, a permanent deacon can perform all the functions of a priest, except celebrate the Eucharist. A deacon can conduct the liturgy of the word at masses, read the gospels, deliver the homily, and preside at funerals, marriages, and baptisms.

The other newly ordained deacons are HSE worker Garrett Cody, aged 52, from Glasheen, Cork; accountant Damian McCabe, aged 40, from Buncrana, Co Donegal; cabinet maker Edward Mulhare, aged 50, of Castlemartyr, Co Cork, and social care worker John Nestor, aged 47, from Douglas, Cork.

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