Cuppa with a Deacon: Deacon Roderick Pirotta – Sacred Heart Parish, Mt Druitt South

By Mary Brazell, 3 April 2024
Deacon Roderick (Rod) Pirotta with his wife Kathryn Fitzgibbon at Sacred Heart Parish, Mt Druitt South. Image: Mary Brazell/Diocese of Parramatta


Deacon Roderick (Rod) Pirotta has just celebrated his fifth anniversary of ordination to the permanent diaconate and shows no signs of slowing down.

Growing up in Malta as the fourth of six children, Deacon Rod entered religious life with the Jesuits in his hometown of Naxxar at aged 21 with the intention of becoming a Jesuit brother, rather than a Jesuit priest.

Leaving the Jesuits and his beloved homeland behind, Deacon Rod began his next vocational calling to nursing. He studied for four years in Dublin, Ireland, and lived and worked in England before arriving in Australia in 1991, where he specialised in mental health and dementia care for the elderly for 35 years.

When his mother passed away in 2012, Deacon Rod had a “mid-life crisis” (at aged 50) where the spark of vocation returned, and it led him to the permanent diaconate.

“As a religious brother, I felt that I was called to a vocation that was ‘behind the scenes’, not being ‘front of stage’, and as a deacon, I feel comfortable in this supportive role to the priest and community,” he said.

“I feel that priests have a vocation of taking us to Heaven, but as a deacon, I have a role of bringing Heaven to Earth and experiencing Heaven on Earth in what we do, through our devotions and how we express our love for Christ.”

In February 2019, alongside three other men, Deacon Rod was ordained to the diaconate at St Patrick’s Cathedral, Parramatta.

‘Bringing Heaven to Earth’ in Mt Druitt South

He has been Pastoral Director at Sacred Heart Parish, Mount Druitt South, for close to two-and-a-half years.

“I have brought all of my life’s skills, gifts and talents that God has given me into this role – 35 years of nursing, 30 years of marriage, 20 years of supervision of nurses, many years of counselling and teaching, eight years of religious community life – and I use them every single day in how to run the parish,” he said.

Deacon Rod is honest in his sharing of some of the challenges he faced of coming into the parish whose parish priest – the late Fr Carl Ashton – had just retired after 43 years in ministry.

But as he settles in, he can see a shift in people’s perspectives and sees a new vibrancy emerging.

“In a way, I feel that I am returning the parish to the people. One parish priest told me, ‘it’s not your parish, it’s their parish’.

“Being pastoral director is an all-in-one role and I love all of it. I get great encouragement when people say, ‘you’re doing a great job, Deacon Rod. Keep going’.

“I thank God for a core group of people in the parish that whatever you ask of them, they’ll go and do it, and those parishioners who contribute financially to the parish. I’m also grateful for the Samoan Catholic Community, the Legion of Mary, the Neocatechumenal Way, the Handmaids of the Lord and the Young Adult Faith Formation group who are a huge gift to the parish.

“I like preparing liturgies and preparing the environment of the Church for the liturgies. I’ve introduced things like the singing of the Divine Mercy chaplet every month, and on Holy Saturday, I introduced the Liturgy of the Hours, which parishioners hadn’t experienced before.

“We’ve established a beautiful relationship with the Sacred Heart primary school and now the students come every week for Mass or when they have a religion lesson, they come to the church to learn. The kids know us very well now.

“We’ve also seen the resurgence of young families coming to Mass and asking for the sacraments for their children. The Church is getting fuller and fuller.”

Honouring his partner in ministry

As much as Deacon Rod does in his ministry, he couldn’t have done it without the loving support of his wife, Kathryn Fitzgibbon. Together they celebrate their 30th wedding anniversary in November.

“One of the beautiful joys of the ministry as a couple is the witness that we give to the parishioners,” he said.

“We share the decision-making, the experiences, the successes and the disappointments in the ministry, and she often spends a few hours a week helping me at the parish as well.”

Contemplation in action

When asked about where he felt called in his ministry in 2024, Deacon Rod hoped that the parish continues to strive to be welcoming, not just in words, but in action.

“As we approach Easter, we need to remember not to separate the Passion from the Resurrection of Christ because there’s no joy without that sacrifice.

“If we don’t put our faith and devotions into our daily lives in loving our neighbour or serving our communities, we’re not bringing Heaven to Earth.

“If the mark of my time at the parish is encouraging people to live contemplation in action, as the Jesuits describe, and people’s faith pushes them to go out and do something, then I’d be very happy.”

This article was originally published in the 2024 Easter | Autumn edition of the Catholic Outlook Magazine. You can read the digital version here or pick up a copy in your local parish.


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