By Matthew Lau
“Grace and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” – Romans 1:7
More than 80 deacons, candidates, aspirants and wives attended the fifth biennial Australian National Association of Deacons (NAD) Conference from 3 to 6 October at the University of Notre Dame Fremantle Campus.
Deacon Mark Powell, Chair of the NAD Conference 2019 Organising Committee, explained that the theme of “The Father and I are one” (Jn 10:30) was chosen to reinforce the community aspect of the diaconate.
“Not only are we, as deacons, most effective when we are working as one with the community, we are also at our most effective when we work in the shadow of God’s love,” Dcn Powell said in his closing statement for the conference.
“Our hope is that [the attendees] found each of the speakers both challenging and, at the same time, supportive of their calling to work with the communities in which they find themselves.”
The four-day seminar began with a pre-conference session by Parramatta Bishop Vincent Long, who shared the inspiring story of his journey from Vietnam to Australia in the 1970s as a refugee.
The program included talks and concurrent sessions by Broome Bishop Christopher Saunders, Dcn Tony Hoban, Dr Steven Kiely, Dcn Anthony Gooley, Dcn Greg Lowe, Prof Glenn Morrison, Dcn Patrick Moore, Dr Debra Sayce, and Dcn Gerald DuPont.
Annette Hoban, Hilary Kelly and Deborah Talbot led one of the final sessions, speaking about how wives support deacons and the impact of the diaconate on wives and families.
In his opening reception keynote address, Bishop Saunders spoke about how ordained ministers can counteract the threat of clericalism, to which he described as “a root evil within the Church”.
“Most of you here today have been called to ministry. Your ministry was a call from God that you have answered most generously, and serve out generously.
“The time in which we live is the most challenging to be in, certainly in the Church and in our country right now. This is a brave moment in our history,” he said, referring to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.
“We can never turn the clock back, no matter how genuine our efforts.”
Authentic discipleship must have core values and promote the common good, Bishop Saunders explained, adding that one’s faith works in the world through “the power of love”.
“The faith we know reshaped the world through God’s given power, founded on the Gospel, centred through Christ.”
The Bishop of Broome told listeners that we, as Catholics, are “living in a time of crisis”.
“We’re living in a time of great emergency; we have to find a way out of it. How do we find a way out of it? By being truthful for how it is – that’s where we start.
“What pointers and assistance can we take from the teaching of the Church to find out new beginnings? One of those is to look to Catholic social justice teaching, because [it] teaches us about truth and truthful ways. That helps us look at ourselves carefully, and find ways to be able to solve problems that oppress people.
“We can find a way out of the abysmal position we’re in at the moment, but we need courage to do that – we need strength, we need conviction, we need faith, and we need prayer,” Bishop Saunders concluded.
The 2019 NAD Conference culminated on Sunday 6 October in the Holy Spirit Chapel, UNDA Fremantle. Archdiocese of Perth Vicar General Father Peter Whitely VG led the closing Mass, joined by concelebrants Fr Brian McKenna and Fr Peter Bianchini, supported by Dcn Bruce Talbot.