In a first for the Australian Catholic Church, the Diocese of Parramatta has become home to the first-ever Diaconate Council.
The Council, which had its first meeting in mid-June, will serve as an advisory body to the bishop regarding the formation, ministry and life of deacons and their wives in the diocese.
Deacon Tony Hoban, the newly appointed Vicar for Deacons, explained to Catholic Outlook that this is an “exciting new phase” in the life of the diaconate community.
“It was originally Bishop Vincent’s idea to establish a council,” he said. “He’s very supportive of our community and what we bring to the diocese and wanted to utilise the gifts and talents of our community.” He added that having a deacon as Vicar for Deacons provides opportunities for leadership from within the diaconate community.
About the diaconate community in the Diocese of Parramatta
The Diocese of Parramatta has one of the largest communities of permanent deacons and their wives in Australia. It has been providing consecutive formation for deacons for 17 years.
The diocese has 18 active deacons serving in ministry, with another six men in formation. It is also supporting two men in formation from the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle.
Council members reflection of community
The membership of the council comprises of four deacons currently in ministry – Deacons Wilfredo (Willy) Limjap, Michael Tan, John Collins and Nicephorus Tan – and one wife or widow of a deacon – Sandra Carroll. Deacon Tony will be the Chairperson of the Council, and alongside Deacon Rod Pirotta, the new Director of Diaconate Formation, will act as ex-officio to the Council. Bishop Vincent is the president of the Council.
The council will assist with planning, coordinating and evaluating all aspects of diaconal life and ministry, especially post-ordination education and spiritual formation. It will also provide a forum for input from deacons, their wives and widows and their families.
Supporting deacons to support the People of God
Deacon Tony wants to see the Council support the needs of deacons as well as their wives, whose support is vital to the success of the diaconate.
“Every deacon and his wife have vastly differing backgrounds and experiences which we can bring into our ministry. It’s crucial that we have the wives’ support on the council as the first vocation of a deacon is that of marriage and the family.
“We aim to provide our own unique support to our deacons so that they, in turn, can be well placed to support the People of God.
“We have deacons in almost half of the parishes across the Diocese, including myself and Deacon Rod as pastoral directors of parishes, which means we are also able to tap into the views of the parishioners.
“Our diaconate community has received the news of the establishment of the council positively and are looking forward to being able to be heard, supported and further trained in how best to live out their vocation.”