Friday, 22 August 2014

40 Years of Permanent Diaconate in Arundel & Brighton Diocese

Bishop Kieran, Deacons, Family and Friends at Arundel Cathedral
On Sunday 10th August, the Feast of St Laurence, Deacon and Martyr, the deacons of the Diocese of Arundel & Brighton with family and friends gathered at Arundel Cathedral with Bishop Kieran for Evening Prayer followed by a celebration in the nearby Cathedral Hall. It was the occasion to give thanks for 40 years of the Diaconate in the diocese, restored during the Second Vatican Council 10 years before.

Eric Kilminster was the first man to be ordained for the restored permanent diaconate in Arundel & Brighton Diocese on 11th August 1974 by Bishop Michael Bowen, though his initial ministry was in the Gulf state of Bahrain. He was the first deacon for Arundel & Brighton and second ever in England and Wales. Although Eric has since died his widow is still living in retirement in the West Country.

The diaconate formation process in the diocese did not, however, begin in earnest until 1981 when four men began training of which three were to eventually be ordained. Hilary Parson, one of these three, is still alive, living in retirement in Portsmouth Diocese. He celebrated his 30 years as a deacon this year on 29th June, the Feast of SS Peter and Paul. This was recognised on the day when he was presented by Bishop Kieran with an icon of Christ washing the feet of the disciples during the Diocesan Festival in Crawley on that day.

Deacon Hilary with Icon

Since Eric’s ordination the place and role of the diaconate has grown and deepened in the diocese. At the time of the silver jubilee of the diocese in 1990 there were 10 deacons. As we approach the golden jubilee of the diocese in 2015 there are four times that number. Currently there are 38 active deacons in the diocese with 9 retired deacons and 5 men in training.

Bishop Kieran gave thanks during Evening Prayer for all that deacons had given to the Church in this diocese over the 40 years, but challenged the deacons present to reach out to those on the edge of the Church and draw them in more fully into the life of the Church through gentleness and mercy.

The 40th Anniversary of the Diaconate in Arundel & Brighton Diocese will continue to be celebrated during the year especially as it coincides with 50th Anniversary of the Vatican II document on the Church, Lumen Gentium which at paragraph 29 speaks about a restored permanent diaconate.

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