Tuesday, 20 April 2010

A Dedicated Deacon

Below is an extract from an interview by Peter Burholt with one of the deacon's of the diocese, Gerard Irwin from St Paul's, Haywards Heath which will appear in full in next month's A&;B News:

Peter: How did the road to your diaconate happen?

Gerard: Twenty two years ago I was working in Liverpool and, when time allowed, I used to go to Mass at a church near my office. I got to know a lawyer at this church who was going through the diaconal formation process. Like the itch [to investigate the Priesthood] I mentioned earlier, it started me thinking.

I moved here and my parish priest, Martin Jakubas, helped greatly by talking me through the possibility of becoming a deacon. One day, in his inimitable way, he said “Do we need to do something about this?” First of all I thought I had been caught smoking behind the bicycle shed, as I did not know what he was talking about! But this was the real start for me.

The Church does not do “quick”. It took another year of discussing my calling and then there was another year for my application to be processed. As I have studied on and off all my life, the prospect of studying did not worry me. Christine came to all the study days with me, apart from 3 weekends away – but she was relieved not to have to do the essays, though!

What else do you do with your life?

My day job is as a principal consultant for a French consulting house, Sopra. I help companies resolve their business issues and, given these challenging times, my practice is quite busy.

You asked me about Faith in the workplace. This is important to me that what I do affects people’s lives. At various times I have been responsible payment for 1.7m pensioners each month and later for providing the support for people who were long term unemployed.

In the Catholic Encyclopaedia  it says of the deacon being close to his bishop, taking arduous tasks off his shoulders, and being the “natural intermediaries between celebrant and the people”. It also repeats the need to fulfil the role of looking after the sick and poor.

I guess it is much the same now. The early deacons became the bishops’ administrators, but nowadays we are more likely to support those in need in our parishes. I work very closely with my parish priest to try and share his ever growing work load.

In practical terms a deacon works with the parish priest, though the whole College of Deacons does get together with Bishop Kieran at least once a year.

People are puzzled about what a deacon can actually do in the Church.

We have quite a wide brief. Sometimes it is easier to say what we cannot do. As a deacon I can and do, Preach, Proclaim the Gospel, Conduct funerals, Preside at weddings, Lead morning and sometime evening prayer in the church, Baptise, and Assist at Mass. But most of the work is behind the scenes working with parishioners and groups, just making things happen.
But I reckon it is not what you do, but who you are. People relate to people, not “offices” and that’s where the work gets done.

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