The Australian Bishops officially launched new norms and guidelines for the permanent diaconate during their plenary meeting in Sydney on May 8.
Deacon Tony Aspinall, National Coordinator of the Permanent Diaconate joined Bishop Peter Ingham, Outgoing Chairman of the Bishops Commission for Church Ministry to launch the guidelines following a special Mass with deacons at Mary MacKillop Memorial Chapel in Sydney.
Deacons Tony Hoban and Roberto Corpuz joined the bishops at the launch along with Fr Greg Bourke, Executive Secretary of the Bishops Commission for Church Ministry.
The ‘Norms for the Formation of Permanent Deacons and Guidelines for the Ministry and Life of Permanent Deacons’ were developed by the Australian Bishops following the publication of a Vatican document providing clarity about the formation of deacons. Each bishops’ conference was encouraged to develop their own guidelines.
The guidelines can be downloaded from the Clergy, Life and Ministry website, http://www.clergy.org.au/images/pdf/Norms_&_Guidelines.pdf
In his homily, Bishop Ingham focused on Psalm 23; The Lord is my Shepherd. ‘Priests, bishops and deacons all have an obvious pastoral role – to pastor is to shepherd God’s people and be a witness of the Gospel image of Jesus as the Good Shepherd – I like to maintain that this pastoral role and shepherding does not exclusively belong to clergy.
‘It is also shared by almost everyone – our parents are obvious shepherds – they nourish us, guide us, protect us and provide for us. Teachers who act in place of parents while we are at school are shepherds; partners in marriage do the same shepherding for each other; and all of us are to shepherd and care for our neighbour if we follow the way of Jesus.
Marking the occasion, the Bishops of Australia sent greetings to the Permanent Deacons serving throughout this vast land. In a message to deacons, the bishops said, ‘we affirm our esteem for the vocation to which the Lord has called you, for your service in the Order of Deacons, and for the ministries you exercise in the person of Christ.
‘Recalling the restoration of the Permanent Diaconate, heralded in 1964 by the “Dogmatic Constitution on the Church” Lumen Gentium and enacted in 1967 by Blessed Pope Paul VI in his Apostolic Letter motu proprio on the “Sacred Order of the Diaconate” Sacrum Diaconatus Ordinem, we give thanks to God for the ministry of Permanent Deacons in the Church today.
‘We remember with joy the ordination of our first Permanent Deacon, and first Aboriginal deacon, Boniface Perdjert of Wadeye, Port Keats, who was ordained by Darwin Bishop John O’Loughlin in 1974 and who, aged 80, continues to serve his People.
‘We remember, too, those who have served as deacons and who are now with the Lord who first called them into diaconal ministry. We give thanks for their service among us and for their witness to Jesus Christ, who came not to be served but to serve.
‘We express our gratitude to you, our brothers in Sacred Orders, for your diaconal ministry within the community of the Church and in service of the Church’s mission. We pray that the Norms and Guidelines will enrich your lives and your ministry, so that your service may proclaim God who in Jesus Christ became servant of all, and call the whole Church to serve as he served.
‘Lastly, we join with you in thanking those who love and support you in your ministry, most especially wives and families.’