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 Thong Nguyen, Our Lady Queen of Peace Parish, Greystanes
Catholic Outlook: What has been a highlight of your first year as a permanent deacon? How has your parish placement been?
Deacon Thong Nguyen: My diaconate placement started at St Andrew the Apostle Parish, Marayong, from 1 July 2017. After being ordained as a deacon on 22 February 2019, I continued to serve my ministry at Marayong until 16 February 2020.
Serving St Andrew’s in two different roles (as part of my diaconate placement and serving as a deacon upon my ordination), I was confronted with some significant challenges. Sometimes, I was confronted with struggles in my new role and the new expectation from the priests and local parishioners. At the same time, I had been asked to continuously serve in the same areas of ministry as an Acolyte as well as serving as deacon, being a part of the Sacramental programs (baptism preparation, penance, Eucharist, and confirmation) and other tasks such as being a catechist at a public school and visiting the elderly at home and at a nursing home, my involvement in Parish Pastoral Council meetings and RCIA [Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults] workshops.
These tasks have built up my patience, my humble attitude and deep knowledge in serving God and His people. I keep telling myself the ministry can be the big things and the simple things too. I have built up my relationships with people around me (even through the greeting and handing out of the bulletins to parishioners). Fortunately, I had great teams to work with at St Andrew’s. I must say thank you for their support and their recognition.
CO: What has been something that you have learnt about yourself over your first year in ministry?
TN: I have learned new cultural practices from these local parishioners, as each parish serves God in different ways of practice and leadership. Therefore, I have learned a new way how to adapt to new parishes. This assists me:
- To build stronger relationships with the priests and the parishioners;
- To improve my pastoral care skills while visiting the elderly at home;
- To build up my relationship with other facilitators in the ministry tasks such as the baptism rite, baptism preparation, sacramental programs (penance, Eucharist, confirmation)
CO: How has your wife and family supported you through this first year of ministry?
TN: My children are all grown up and live far away from home with their own families. But they always show their support and respect my role.
My wife is always present with me during the whole year of my placement to support and to share her comments on my ministry performance. I don’t feel alone. And I don’t want her to be alone as well.
If I don’t have my wife’s support, her full understanding and her tolerance, I am not sure if I would have survived and continued in my ministry so far.
CO: In an interview with Catholic Outlook ahead of your ordination, you explained that “serving people is my passion, and every day I do whatever I can to live and serve people.” Do you find that this passion has strengthened over the past year in your ministry? What has been one standout memory of your service to someone in your community in your role as deacon?
TN: I must admit that my first year as an ordained at the same parish had challenged me and tested my patience, my attitude and my behaviour toward others. I thought that the aim of my ministry can be big or small, important or unimportant, as long as I am able to serve God and people with different tasks. This humble attitude helps me to continue my service in peace and carry my passion under God’s guidance. At the end I must remember my ministry shall work toward God’s Glory only.
Therefore, my life journey becomes my learning journey. I need to accept this challenge if I wish to continue carrying the cross. My journey also means continuing my services, not only for my first year but also for the rest of my life as the needs of the community continue to change from time to time. And I need to move along to serve.
CO: What do you hope your second year of being a deacon will bring?
TN: Moving to my new parish of Our Lady Queen of Peace, Greystanes, on 17 February 2020, I am trying to restart my objective of “being a bridge between the parishioners and the priest” with my new experience and new hope.
I understand this is not an easy task. It requires time and patience. I also need time to learn the new culture and explore the new expectations of my role as deacon at Our Lady Queen of Peace.
I hope I will be constantly supported by the priests and local parishioners. Their support will allow me to grow and build up my further confidence in serving God.
Catholic Outlook’s interview with Deacon Roderick Pirotta will be published tomorrow.
For more information about the permanent diaconate in the Diocese of Parramatta, please visit: www.parracatholic.org/permanent-diaconate