A journey that started over 30 years ago is on the cusp of reaching its destination for Dr John Collins.
On Friday, John, alongside Dr Michael Tan, will be ordained to the permanent diaconate in the Diocese of Parramatta at St Patrick’s Cathedral, Parramatta.
John is looking forward to the significant celebration, and sees that it will be the beginning of a new phase in his life.
“There will be changes, but I feel this is a pivot point in our lives, something is finishing and something is beginning,” John told Catholic Outlook.
His wife of 32 years, Dr Sandra Carroll, adds, “We’re coming to the end of a long formation journey, but I’m happy this is coming to fruition.”
John explains that he first felt a call to ministry in his early 20s, but moved more concretely towards the diaconate nine years ago. He began his formation in the Archdiocese of Sydney, before transferring to the Diocese of Parramatta.
“It’s been with him right from the beginning,” Sandra says.
“When we first got married, John mentioned to me that he was interested in being a married deacon, and how I would feel about that, and I said, ‘that’s fine’.”
Over the last three years, John has been serving the community of Christ the King Parish, North Rocks, an opportunity he has “very much enjoyed.”
Alongside serving on the parish council, participating in liturgical groups and assisting the parish’s youth groups, a highlight for John at North Rocks has been his involvement with the local chapter of the St Vincent de Paul Society.
“I was very impressed by the practical and deep spirituality of the members and the great work that the little conference does,” he said.
Once ordained, John expressed his excitement at being able to formally preach, as well as being an official witness at weddings.
“Preaching is a privilege and a responsibility, and I look forward to exercising this ministry once I am ordained.
“I’ve been doing a bit of practice at North Rocks, as Fr Ian [McGinnity] has let me do some reflections on occasions, and I believe they have been well-received.
“Regarding marriages, I have been involved in preparing couples to get married for around 27 years with CatholicCare, so I am already engaged in that ministry, and I look forward to acting in the role as the official witness and to see it from the perspective of the bride and groom administering the sacrament of matrimony to each other.”
Among the thanks to Sandra and his two sons Paul and Bede, John wished to express his gratitude for the support of a number of clergy who assisted him during his formation, including Fr Ian, Deacon Tony Hoban and Bishop Vincent Long OFM Conv, Bishop of Parramatta.
He also acknowledged the “great assistance” he received during a difficult time in his formation journey from Fr Brian Lucas, Fr Gerard Kelly, Fr John McSweeney, and Bishop Anthony Randazzo, who at the time was an Auxiliary Bishop of Sydney.
Inspired by Bishop Vincent, John hopes that he will carry out his ministry by putting an emphasis on servant leadership.
“I admire Bishop Vincent’s courage and his holiness and his unflinching desire to implement the teachings of the Second Vatican Council. I think he’s an extraordinary example of the exercise of servant leadership.
“You are ordained to leadership, but I hope to serve not as ‘one over’, but ‘one with’ and one who inspires others.
“I want to encourage and invite people to use their baptismal gifts, and to encourage and create a space where their gifts can reach more fruit.”
Dr John and Dr Michael Tan will be ordained by Bishop Vincent Long OFM Conv, Bishop of Parramatta, on Friday 1 June, the Solemnity of The Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, at St Patrick’s Cathedral at 7.30pm.
The Mass will be livestreamed on the Diocese of Parramatta’s YouTube page here.