The Permanent Diaconate

By Deacon Tony Hoban, 12 February 2018
Bishop Vincent Long OFM Conv with deacons from the Diocese of Parramatta. Image: Diocese of Parramatta.

Growing the presence of Deacons in our Diocese. A God-given calling to ordained ministry, open to married and single men. In the service of the Liturgy, the Word and Charity.

Are there married clergy in the Catholic Church? Most people would likely answer in the negative.

However, they overlook the growing presence of deacons. Deacons are ordained minsters of the Church who take on the ministries of the Word, the altar and charity. They proclaim the Gospel at Mass, preach the homily, with permission of the presider, perform Baptisms, are celebrants for Marriage in the church, undertake blessings and funeral services, and serve in a variety of chaplaincy roles, including in hospitals and prisons.

While men on their way to priesthood are ordained as deacon as a transitional step before priestly ordination, permanent deacons are ordained to an ongoing vocation. Deacon is the only rank of clergy that is generally available to married men. The rank of deacon is collectively referred to as the diaconate.

In the Diocese of Parramatta there are currently 13 married men who are permanent deacons and a further 9 who are in formation to be deacons in the future. Next year it is expected that a new group will commence formation.

This growing diaconate community is supported by the following structure:

  • Vicar for Deacons, Fr John McSweeney
  • Vocations Team – Deacons George Bryan, James Phelan and Nicephorous Tan
  • Formation Team – Deacon Tony Hoban, Director of Formation, supported by Deacon Owen Rogers (pastoral formation), Mrs Ann O’Connor (support of wives), Fr John Hogan (personal formation), Fr Wim Hoekstra (academic) and Fr Paul Roberts (spiritual formation)

A highlight of 2017 was the Ordination of Deacons Jerome Emmanuel and Rudy Rupac by Bishop Vincent Long on October 21. Deacon Jerome and his wife, Freeda, and Deacon Rudy and his wife, Agnes, have undergone a formation process of more than four years which has involved a formation weekend each February, a Spiritual retreat weekend each November and eight Saturday morning formation sessions throughout each year. The formation sessions cover topics under the broad headings of human formation, pastoral formation and spiritual formation. All men being formed are also expected to undertake extensive formal studies in theology.

Each Saturday gathering has a communal meal as an important means of coming together for those couples in formation, and existing deacons and their wives, to support each other.

The wives of those in formation are warmly welcomed to participate in the formation sessions and weekends. At most Saturday gatherings, time is devoted to the wives meeting separately in order to ensure they are being suitably supported. For married deacons, the Sacrament of Ordination is built upon the Sacrament of Marriage. A married man cannot be ordained as a deacon without his wife giving her written consent.

Deacons are appointed to a parish community and usually also have other ministries outside of their parish. Current deacons minister in roles such as hospital chaplaincy, university ministry, police chaplaincy, ethnic chaplaincy, St Vincent de Paul Society, and ministry to people in retirement villages and nursing homes.

Those men interested in the vocation of deacon should consider how they line-up against the following criteria required of those entering formation:

  • a Catholic man of sound moral character and mature faith with a vocation to service;
  • prayerfulness and openness to spiritual formation;
  • if married, be at least 30 years of age;
  • usually no older than the commonly accepted retirement age;
  • if unmarried, be at least twenty-five years of age;
  • is actively supported by his wife and family, if married;
  • sound mental and physical health;
  • supported by his parish priest or other equivalent church leaders;
  • involved in parish or other apostolic life;
  • the ability to undertake undergraduate theological studies
  • able to devote time for formation without detriment to family or work responsibilities;

If you think you meet this criteria and feel you might be called to this vocation, please visit: 

By Deacon Tony Hoban, Director of Formation – Permanent Diaconate


This article first appeared in the December 2017 print edition of Catholic Outlook.

At the request of Most Rev Vincent Long OFM Conv, Bishop of Parramatta, Catholic Outlook was printed in December 2017 to connect the Diocese and showcase the good works across the Diocese’s many agencies and ministries.

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