By Matt Lau and ACBC
The Australian Bishops have appointed a new national coordinator for the fastest-growing vocation in the Church in Australia.
Adelaide’s Deacon Tim Grauel was recently appointed as national coordinator of the permanent diaconate for the Bishops Office for Clergy Life and Ministry.
The appointment was ratified in August by Australian Catholic Bishops Conference (ACBC) president Archbishop Mark Coleridge and Bishop Greg O’Kelly, Bishop of Port Pirie and Apostolic Administrator of the Archdiocese of Adelaide.
Deacon Paul Russell of the Perth Archdiocese told The eRecord that this is an exciting time for the diaconate in Australia with the new norms and guidelines for Australia now in place.
“The need for the ministry of the deacon is critical in Australia. While the traditional ministry of the priest is so frequently centred in leading a parish community, the deacon’s ministry is often exercised in ‘non-traditional’ places,” Dcn Russell said.
“Given the increasing number of people who do not have regular contact with our parishes, it is in these more secular spaces that deacons are able to encounter people who have had little contact with the Church or who have lost contact with it.
“As a minister called and ordained to preach the Gospel, and frequently as a minister who has a family and a secular profession, the deacon has the possibility to bring Christ’s presence to places and people far outside the parish.”
It is one of the great strengths of the diaconate, he added, that historically the service of deacons has taken on various forms in order to better meet the diverse needs of the Christian community.
“In this way, I welcome Deacon Grauel’s appointment, and, the continued commitment of the Australian Bishops to the support and promotion of the diaconate across Australia through this role,” Dcn Russell concluded.
Fr Greg Bourke, Executive Secretary of the Bishops Commission for Church Ministry and director of its Office for Clergy Life and Ministry, said Australia had experienced a significant increase in the number of deacons.
“Deacons were in great numbers up until around the year 1000 and after then it declined gradually. There’s differences of opinions on the reasons for this; however, since Vatican II, the diaconate has been revived and seen significant increases in vocations,” he said.
Fr Bourke said St Stephen, the first martyr of the Church, and St Francis of Assisi, who lived 800 years ago, are two well-known deacons in the rich history of the diaconate.
“The diaconate is at its best when the ministry is at the interface of the Church and the world, for example prison chaplaincy, emergency chaplains, police chaplains, and proclaiming and preaching the Gospel,” he said.
“One quote often attributed to St Francis of Assisi that he said to his friars – ‘Preach well and preach effectively, and if you have to, use words’ – is still relevant today and supports the vision and purpose of the modern diaconate.”
Dcn Grauel, a former senior manager for a major aged care organisation in Adelaide, said he was excited about the new role and looking forward to the challenge of promoting the permanent diaconate and encouraging sound formation and ongoing formation.
“I’m a relatively new deacon and was ordained just under three years ago, but I have a background as a minister with the Uniting Church,” he said.
“I’ve embraced the challenge of being a deacon and see it as a bridge, both between the clergy and the laity, and between the Church and the world.
“There’s a move for deacons to be almost entrepreneurial in the Church by encouraging the Gospel to reach different places and to be creative in doing that.”
Dcn Grauel said Pope Francis was very supportive of the role of the diaconate.
“The Pope often stresses that we need to be close to the lives of the people, not hidden in an office. He is supporting the mission of reaching out and that’s what the deacons are there for – to witness to a mission of charity,” he said.
The permanent diaconate was restored following the 1964 Lumen Gentium (Dogmatic Constitution on the Church), and enacted in 1967 by Blessed Pope Paul VI in his motu proprio on the Sacrum Diaconatus Ordinem (Sacred Order of the Diaconate).
In May 2017, the Australian Bishops officially launched new norms and guidelines for the permanent diaconate during their plenary meeting in Sydney.
Click Here to download the guidelines from the Clergy Life and Ministry website.