Michael hopes to serve with humility and a listening ear

By Mary Brazell, 11 June 2021
Dr Michael Tan and his wife Annette. Image: Diocese of Parramatta


Dr Michael Tan may be retired from clinical practice, but a new chapter of his life is set to begin.

On Friday, Michael and Dr John Collins will be ordained to the permanent diaconate in the Diocese of Parramatta at St Patrick’s Cathedral, Parramatta.

Michael told Catholic Outlook that his ordination day will be a very important day.

“My ordination will be a public acknowledgement of my ministry in communion with the Bishop,” he says.

“All my family and friends are excited, and I’m glad that many of them will be in attendance at my ordination.”

Over the last 18 months, Michael has been serving the community of St Patrick’s Parish, Guildford – attending parish council meetings, participating in parish liturgical events and assisting with funerals and baptisms.

“Fr Peter Blayney and Sr Helen Cunningham OP have been very supportive of me during my time here.

“A highlight for me has been meeting the different parishioners and experiencing a different view of parish life, compared to my own parish,” he said.

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Michael has also taken it upon himself to gain familiarity with serving at St Patrick’s Cathedral by assisting at Mass on a Monday morning. He also assists with baptisms on a Sunday alongside Deacon Roderick (Rod) Pirotta.

“Deacon Rod has taken me under his wing and has helped me with my transition from GP to a Deacon.

“We are both in health-related professions, so he has been a listening ear to my concerns.

“Having served in the parish and assisted at the Cathedral, I feel I have a better grasp of managing the pastoral responsibilities that come with being ordained.”

Growing up as a non-Catholic in Malaysia, Michael felt drawn to Christianity throughout his high school education and developed a devotion to Mary.

“I was baptised a Catholic during the Easter Vigil in 1975, and I came to follow Jesus under the patronage of Mary, and I took this faith journey into becoming a doctor.

“I always sought to seek what God was asking of me in my career and in treating my patients.”

Between 2005 and 2006, Michael became involved in palliative care, where, in caring for the dying, the first seeds were sown for his calling to serve the community as a deacon.

“Working in community palliative care, I realised that people in that care had unresolved issues with grief and anger, and I felt a calling to help Catholic healthcare professionals to accompany these people and to help them live in hope in the face of death.”

Michael decided that he was better suited to be working on this formation of healthcare professionals as a deacon, rather than a doctor, so he retired five years ago when he began his studies.

He thanks the support of Deacon Rod and Deacon Tony Hoban in helping him in many ways through his formation, and also thanked the late Deacon James Phelan, who he first met whilst working in palliative care in Mount Druitt.

“He [Deacon James] struck me as a holy man in many ways, and a very pastoral presence. He brought a pastoral dimension to the palliative care team. It’s sown a few seeds and laid the ground for when I decided to become a deacon myself.”

He also wished to thank his “very supportive” wife of 40 years, Annette.

Once he is ordained, Michael is looking forward to being a support in health-related areas and serving in a parish – the “foundation of my ministry”.

“I hope that I carry out my ministry with humility and always with a listening ear,” he said.

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.


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