Conference for Deacons

August 12, 2009 10:43 am
To promote faith in society we have to be good at our job, Abbott tells Deacons’ Conference
To promote the Christian faith in secular society, Catholics have to be very good at expounding the Church’s teachings, but not in ways that make them alienating, Federal Opposition front-bencher Tony Abbott told the National Deacons’ Conference.
In his address to the conference of permanent deacons and their wives, Mr Abbott said that he had always taken his Catholicism seriously thanks in large part to his parents and the example of the Brigidine Sisters and the Jesuits who educated him.
Reflecting on the best way of promoting the Church in society, Mr Abbott said: “We’ve just got to be very good at our job”.
“We have to be very good at expounding the Church’s teachings but not in ways that make them alienating. If we do all that, we will be a force for the progress of the Church rather than a force for regress.”
“Living your principles without alienating those who don’t share them is the challenge we all face.”
More than 50 Permanent Deacons and their wives gathered in the Diocese of Broken Bay for the conference which focused on the theme of “Word, Worship, Service”.
Bishop David Walker opened the conference, with a presentation which explored the theme of pastoral charity in relation to the Deacon.
“As sacred ministers, deacons are required to give complete priority to their ministry and to pastoral charity and ‘do their utmost to foster among people peace and harmony based on justice’,” he said.
Drawing on the teachings of Pope John Paul II in this area, Bishop Walker said that pastoral charity “is the virtue by which we imitate Christ in his self-giving and service”. Pastoral charity is not just a professional activity, but a self-giving which is transformative.
“It is not imposed from without, but cultivated from within,” he said.
The Chairman of the Bishops Commission for Church Life, Bishop Michael Malone, pointed to the diversity and the variety of models of the Permanent Diaconate in Australia and paid tribute to the role of the wives of permanent deacons.
 “For 40 years now Deacons across Australia have been ‘working out’ what the ministry of the Deacon really is. In the light of the lived experience there seems to be a greater appreciation of the richness of the ministry. While I have the highest regard for the ministry of the Deacon, I venture to say that the wives of our married deacons have had a large part to play in the appreciation of the lived experience.”
Bishop Malone acknowledged that there were still pockets of resistance to the resurgence of the Permanent Diaconate and said that ignorance was largely to blame.
He said that in a climate of “loss of credibility, an exodus of people from the pews, rapidly ageing congregations, lack of Vocations …and so on,” the Permanent Diaconate was well placed to play a crucial role in building on the signs of new life being sent by the Holy Spirit.
“The relative youthfulness of the Permanent Diaconate places this ministry firmly in the forefront of that rebuilding process,” he said. “Because of the challenging richness of the lived experience and of future possibility, the Permanent Diaconate is limited only by our inability to dust off the past and reveal its full potential.”
The Deacons’ conference also heard addresses from Bishop Anthony Fisher, who spoke on “Service Ministry of a Deacon”, as well as Fr Frank Devoy, the Director of the Office of Clergy Life and Ministry; Fr Gerard Kelly; and Deacon Jim Curtain from Melbourne. Fr Frank Brennan SJ was the guest speaker at the conference dinner.
Delegates took time out on Saturday to commemorate the 100 years anniversary of the death of Blessed Mary Mackillop.