A new intake of potential candidates for the permanent diaconate in Auckland diocese has just started their process of discernment. The decision to have a new intake came after consultation with priests over recent months.
Some 18 potential candidates attended an information day in late February.
The day covered what this vocation entails, and gave an outline of what the four-year formation programme involves.
Following a subsequent formal interview with a panel appointed by Bishop Patrick Dunn, those being invited to commence training will begin a preparatory spiritual year, with some academic formation included.
About a decade ago, some 27 men started out on a formation programme in Auckland diocese. In 2012, 14 men were ordained as permanent deacons.
One of those ordained in 2012, Deacon Stephen Fraser, told NZ Catholic that “we have been reduced to nine with several retirements due to illness”, and there have been two deaths.
“It is good news for the diocese that our bishops have decided to instigate another intake of permanent deacons in Auckland,” Deacon Fraser said.
Asked about his ministry, Deacon Fraser, who works in Auckland diocese’s pastoral services group, said, “for me, being a permanent deacon has been incredibly fulfilling, though it is not an easy life to live”.
“Where most will have a full-time role, perhaps a family and some time for activity and life, the permanent deacon has a 24/7 life, that must balance family, marriage, job and ministry, and that ministry is one totally dedicated to serving: serving the Church, the parish, the community and the family.”
“Permanent deacons are needed now more than ever,” Deacon Fraser added, “because the job of ministry for those in need, for our young people, and young families trying to get ahead in life, and for discipling the diminishing Church in these Covid times, is now more urgent than ever”.
Asked what advice he might give to men considering the permanent diaconate, Deacon Fraser said that, “when thinking about becoming a permanent deacon, there are many things to consider”.
“The most important being to understand whether God calls us to this ministry as a specific sacramental vocation, because, by virtue of our baptism, as Catholics, we are all called to serve as deacons serve, balancing family, job, and relationships for God’s action in the world around us.”
“An older and wiser permanent deacon than I once said to me, ‘Steve, as a permanent deacon, we may be sacramentally and vocationally ordained, but we are still just sheep in the fold’.”
In 2008, Bishop Dunn accepted recommendations from most deaneries in Auckland diocese that there should be permanent deacons in the diocese. Vatican II restored the permanent diaconate after an absence of this ministry for hundreds of years.