David: A Deacon’s Tale
I was Ordained a Permanent Deacon in my home parish in the Diocese of Westminster on 16 June 2007. It was a very joyous occasion for my wife June, my family and the parish.
One of the highlights of being a Deacon is best summed up in an email I received in early 2009. It read: “You baptised my son on 21st October 2007. I believe that this was your first baptism. It was the loveliest, most beautifully presented, spiritual and heart warming baptism we had ever been too. We will never forget how special you made our day. So thank you!” Baptisms are very special times and I try to personalise the service – adding a blessing for brothers and sisters as well as Mum and Dad, having family members names in the Saints names, etc.
Each year we go to Lourdes with HCPT and going as a Deacon meant that I could assist more with Masses and services. June and I were the English voices leading the rosary at one of the torchlight processions. I discovered that wearing a clerical collar gets you special treatment in queues although we did get some light hearted comment from a member of our group when we walked hand in hand through the domain.
Ecumenically it is great to be part of the Minister’s Fellowship and I was privileged to be asked to preach in the market place on Good Friday (possibly the first time a Catholic has preached there publicly for a few hundred years).
I enjoy preaching and it is always good to be told that people have “got something out of it”. In the parish I preach at all three weekend Masses about once a month. I have also been asked to preach at conferences, other local churches and a local school.
I find funerals very demanding emotionally and although I know what we do is appreciated, it can be hard work. The crematorium can be a very unspiritual place sometimes and the subsequent service of interring the ashes demands some extra planning and thought.
Taking the Eucharist to the housebound is an important role and it is nice to be asked to pray for family members or to bless the house. It keeps people in touch with the church. Explaining to the gasman one day that I had to leave him in our house on his own while I took communion to someone led to a wonderful conversation with him about keeping people in touch with God and the community.
Explaining the role of the Deacon is very difficult – especially as it is so new in our Diocese. This website will be a helpful resource to refer people to. Some people wonder why the deacon has to be the Minister of the Eucharist, others insist on calling me Father. Everyone seems to expect you to know everything about everything and it can be like serving in a shop at the end of Sunday Mass with people queuing up with questions.
The main problem is lack of personal time. Although I work for myself and therefore can work flexible hours, there is nearly always something going on at the weekend. When I am preaching and doing a Baptism then almost the whole weekend is filled up and so sometimes you never get a day off.
In essence a fulfilling first year, where I learnt a lot about the true meaning of being an icon of Christ in the community.
David Palmer is a deacon of the Archdiocese of Westminster and is currently ministering to the parish of the Sacred Heart Berkhamsted.