In his message of welcome to delegates at the Biennial National Deacon Conference, Bishop Vincent Long OFM Conv, Bishop of Parramatta, referred to “the Church that expresses diakonia in actions that heal and nurture people and relationships”. There is a certain visibility in being the wife of a deacon.
One of the highlights of this Conference was a gathering at the women’s high tea that enabled the women from many parts of Australia to meet and exchange ideas and friendship. There were the wives of deacons with their different understandings of their role as well as religious sisters and women involved in deacon formation.
Skillful facilitation and input on Mary of Nazareth was provided by Dr Debra Snoddy. At the same time as the high tea for women, the Deacons gathered for some tips on creative pastoral practices with Fr Paul Roberts, Parish Priest of Our Lady, Queen of Peace Parish, Greystanes.
It is worth making the point there is no one role for the wife of a deacon, there is the Christian call to service “in actions that heal and nurture people and relationships” in Bishop Vincent’s words. The wives of deacons, as different people do, bring different gifts to this call. There is no formula, no straight jacket role to “fit into”.
This NAD Conference provided a wealth of opportunities for formation. When COVID delayed this Conference, the organising committee made the decision not to go with Zoom, but rather defer until it was possible to meet up in person. The value of informal exchanges and conversations face-to-face was acknowledged as a major benefit of physical meetings.
All delegates, deacons’ wives and others shared together the insights from our keynote speakers: the personal stories of Lana Turvey Collins; the challenges given by Robert Fitzgerald; the scholarship of Deacon Anthony Gooley and the call to leadership by Dr Anne Benjamin. The contribution of Deacon Gerald Du Pont from the International Diaconate Centre afforded a global perspective.
The afternoon workshops were repeated over the two days, allowing a rich choice of informed practice. Included in the workshops were:
- Gary Stone’s Ministry to veterans
- April MacNeill’s Pastoral care in the healthcare context
- Fr Patrick McInerney’s presentation on Interreligious dialogue
- Fr Jamie Calder’s research on the importance of self-care for those in ministry
- Prison ministry of married couple Robyn and Deacon Peter Presdee
- Deacon George Bryan‘s ministry in mental health and disaster recovery chaplaincy and
- Deacon John Francis Collins’ insight regarding the importance of pastoral supervision.
A special note of thanks to the seminarians who attended. They were very welcome as the close collaboration and understanding of the Deacon’s ministry enriches all. The Conference dinner allowed a welcome opportunity to hear from Archbishop Charles Balvo, the Apostolic Nuncio to Australia.
Overall, this Conference was a wonderful gathering of many interested in the ministry of the Deacon. It gave the time and space to share information and more, stories from our own personal lived experience of the challenges and joys of the call to diaconal ministry.
Dr Sandra Carroll is the wife of Deacon John Collins and part of the permanent diaconate community of the Diocese of Parramatta.
The Permanent Diaconate in the Diocese of Parramatta is growing faster than any other Diocese in Australia. There are currently 13 active deacons in the diocese, along with one deacon on extended leave and two retired deacons. In addition, there are 13 men in formation and most of their wives are also active in the formation process.
View images from the 2022 Biennial National Deacons’ Conference here.