Western Sydney’s newest deacons reflect on their first year in ministry
On 22 February 2019, the Catholic Church in Western Sydney and the Blue Mountains was blessed with the ordination of four new permanent deacons.
Deacon John Cinya, Deacon Roque Dias, Deacon Thong Nguyen and Deacon Roderick Pirotta were ordained to the permanent diaconate for the Diocese of Parramatta by Bishop Vincent Long OFM Conv, Bishop of Parramatta, on the Feast of the Chair of St Peter.
One year on from their ordination, Catholic Outlook spoke to the new deacons about what they have learnt and enjoyed in their first year in ministry.
Deacon Roderick (Rod) Pirotta, St Patrick’s Cathedral Parish, Parramatta
Catholic Outlook: What has been a highlight of your first year as a permanent deacon?
Deacon Roderick Pirotta: There have been many highlights. What comes to mind is the joy and peace that I feel when proclaiming the Word of God and then, to break open the Word in the homily. This is, of course, one of the main pillars on which the vocation and the role of the deacon is built. The words of Bishop Vincent Long OFM Conv, Bishop of Parramatta, on the day of ordination, echo daily in my ears: “Receive the Gospel of Christ, whose herald you have become. Believe what you read, teach what you believe and practice what you teach.” I take this promise that I have made very seriously, and I shall try keep that fervour until I die.
Baptisms have been another vehicle for evangelisation. Practically every Sunday, I baptise two to four babies or children. It has been a great privilege to be an instrument of God’s grace through the Sacrament of Baptism. During baptisms, you meet all sorts of people. I believe that through the Liturgy of Baptism, many people have been reenergised in their own faith. Many people may have not been in contact with the Church for some time and for others their faith may have faded away. The Liturgy of Baptism, if it is done well, is one of the ways I am evangelising and am bringing back people into the life of the Church.
On 8 September last year, I was invited by the Maltese Community and the Knights of Malta to do the homily for their yearly Mass at St Mary’s Cathedral in Sydney. This day is one of the national days of the Maltese people, celebrating the Great Siege of Malta and their victory against the Ottoman empire in 1556. It was certainly a memorable event that I will treasure all my life.
Last Christmas, my wife and I went back to Malta for the first time as an ordained deacon. It was a special time, especially since my father was not present in my ordination at St Patrick’s Cathedral. I assisted in the Christmas Midnight Mass in my Parish in Naxxar, dedicated to the Nativity of Our Lady, and I also did the homily in Maltese on that day. I blessed my dad’s house, which he had just moved into and celebrated his 86th birthday. I was so happy to have the opportunity to go back to my village where my vocation as a deacon began.
Other highlights include: every Mass that I assist Bishop Vincent, since this reminds me of the outwards sign of our mutual bond; the Red Mass for the legal fraternity and the visit of the relics of St Thérèse of Lisieux and her parents at the [St Patrick’s] Cathedral. Very recently, I have attended the National Biennial Liturgy Conference, which was a great inspiration and uplifting experience.
CO: How has your parish placement been?
RP: Every beginning is difficult. I was assigned to minister in the Cathedral last April after a few years in St Nicholas of Myra Parish, Penrith. The Cathedral is a special and unique place that has its own parish and Diocesan functions. Therefore, it is a very busy place with many solemn liturgies and ceremonies. As a deacon, there are some parts in the Liturgy that need to be sung and this creates its challenges sometimes, even though I have been singing for many years.
Fr Bob [Bossini] and Fr Chris [del Rosario] have been great sources of support for me, as well as all the parishioners who speak to me and give me feedback. Above all, I feel that the Rite of Christian Initiation (RCIA) team has been very accommodating and adaptive to getting used to me. Every member of the team brings a different spirituality which I cherish and has been a source of growth for me and the whole team.
CO: What has been something that you have learnt about yourself over your first year in ministry?
RP: The word “obedience” comes to my mind – not in the sense that I am more likely to do what I am told to do! Obedience means literally, “to listen under.” Obedience is the outward expression of a heart that has turned to God (Hebrews 11:8). As I grow up, I have more of a sense of understanding others and responding to them accordingly. Therefore, I am perhaps less spontaneous, and I turn to God when I need to.
CO: How has your wife and family supported you through this first year of ministry?
RP: What can I say! My wife, Kathryn, has always been a person of few words and a woman who shows her love with her actions. We have adapted and changed some of our routine to accommodate the busy weekends ministering in the Cathedral. Each week, we sit down, discuss all the meetings I have and work around them. We make sure that every week, we have some quality time together, doing things that we both like. I am blessed to have a wife who lets me do what I love to do without any fuss.
CO: In an interview with Catholic Outlook ahead of your ordination, you explained that your work in nursing allowed you to see “the Eucharist in everyday life and to see Christ in an incarnate way.” Have you been able to continue to see the Eucharist in everyday life through your ministry?
RP: The answer is yes. I will always see Christ in an incarnate way in those who I meet in everyday life. The nature of my job as a nurse is changing dramatically as well, and nursing is only one channel to achieve this goal. In the future, there may be other ways of how I will do this.
CO: What do you hope your second year of being a deacon will bring?
RP: Bring it on, as they say. I do believe in the “God of Surprises,” so although I like being secure in what I am doing, I am open to whatever God is calling me to do through the Bishop for the Diocese of Parramatta. I am very excited about being part of the organisation committee for the Biennial Conference for Deacons in 2021. We have the Plenary Council 2020 reports and implementation to work on; many more baptisms, marriages and funerals. The RCIA remains one of my ‘expert’ fields that perhaps God is calling me to do more. Be assured that with God, one can never be unemployed or bored!
Catholic Outlook’s interview with Deacon John Cinya will be published tomorrow.
To read Catholic Outlook’s interview with Deacon Thong Nguyen, click here.
For more information about the permanent diaconate in the Diocese of Parramatta, please visit: www.parracatholic.org/permanent-diaconate