Parish Hero and Pioneer Permanent Deacon Paul Naggar

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Paul Naggar with a photo of his Ordination to the Permanent Diaconate by Cardinal Clancy. Photo: Alphonsus Fok
Paul Naggar with a photo of his Ordination to the Diaconate by Cardinal Clancy. Photo: Alphonsus Fok

Deacon Paul and Julianne Naggar say that following the promptings of the Holy Spirit has never steered them wrong.

The proud parents of Peter and Clare and doting grandparents to Liam have also accompanied and served thousands of parishioners over the years at All Saints’ Liverpool, while Deacon Paul has also served Holy Spirit, Carnes Hill, St Joseph’s, Moorebank, Mary Immaculate, Bossley Park, and St Anthony’s, Austral.

The first permanent deacon ordained for the Archdiocese of Sydney by Cardinal Edward Clancy, Paul last week celebrated 25 years of ministry devoted to preaching, assisting at Mass, celebrating weddings and baptisms, preparing couples for marriage, supporting the grieving and officiating at funerals.

“I was listening so intently and then after the Mass, I went and asked him the question, has the archdiocese any plans for establishing permanent deacons here?”

But he was volunteering in All Saints’ even before that and had a long career in service as well, in the telecommunications industry.

A busy working dad, he read a report in The Catholic Weekly about the permanent diaconate and, not long after, the then-vocations director Fr Michael Foster came to Liverpool to speak about vocations.

“I was listening so intently and then after the Mass, I went and asked him the question, has the archdiocese any plans for establishing permanent deacons here?” he said.

“The ministry of the diaconate is a service to all people, regardless of where they come from or what their beliefs or philosophy of life.

Paul Naggar and wife Julianne. Paul is Sydney’s first permanent deacon. Photo: Alphonsus Fok
Paul Naggar and wife Julianne. Paul is Sydney’s first permanent deacon. Photo: Alphonsus Fok

“I didn’t go looking for this vocation. It was the Holy Spirit who called me, but you have to be open and be listening, and I could never have fulfilled my ministry in the way I have been able without Julianne’s wholehearted support.”

Now officially retired from his duties at St Anthony’s, Deacon Paul still helps out from time to time and is accompanying engaged couples who are preparing for marriage later this year.

Last week the couple addressed the Vianney dinner at Bicentennial Park’s Waterview restaurant, which is held each year in honour of the jubilarian clergy.

“As a wife of a deacon, I can allow grace and faith reach others through the service provided by my husband.”

“For Paul and I, the words of [Vatican II’s] Decree on the Apostolate of Lay People (Apostolicam Actuositatem) ring so true when it states that “Christian couples are co-operators of grace and witnesses of the faith for each other, for their children and their extended family”, Julianne, who has also served as a teacher, a catechist, and a founding RCIA facilitator at All Saints told the clergy present.

“From this perspective I find it helpful to look at the marriage of Mary and Joseph.

“Joseph had to let the grace of God flow out to all mankind through his marriage and family. He did just that. As a wife of a deacon, I can allow grace and faith reach others through the service provided by my husband.

“As we grew together in this partnership over the past 50 years we follow the example of the Holy Family, helping each other to fulfil our vocations.”

A match made in heaven

Paul was a recent migrant from Cairo hoping to marry and raise children in the Catholic faith. Julianne had returned home to Sydney after 11 years serving the Church as a sister with the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary. They met at a social club at St Patrick’s at Church Hill for 21s and over, called St Peter Chanel, and the rest is history. The pair have continued to serve parishes in Sydney’s south west in myriad ways, and say their marriage and trust in the Holy Spirit has been the foundation for all of their work in different ministries over decades.

“It is very important as a deacon to have my wife’s full support, she doesn’t necessarily have to learn or do anything in ministry if she doesn’t want to, but to be a support,” says Deacon Paul, who believes every parish would benefit from having at least one permanent deacon.

“And it should bring you closer together, it shouldn’t take away from your primary vocation. The first vocation of a married deacon is the sacramental marriage. That gets priority and the rest gels with it.”

Deacon Paul baptising his grandson, Liam.

“THE FIRST VOCATION OF A MARRIED DEACON IS THE SACRAMENTAL MARRIAGE. THAT GETS PRIORITY AND THE REST GELS WITH IT”.

Julianne agrees: “Yes it’s never clashed with the family commitments, because I’m very flexible and have been able to adjust timetables and that sort of thing, but also Paul has always been very careful about always making sure if there was something important in the family that he kept that time free.”

The couple met one Thursday evening after a meeting at St Patrick’s.

“I grabbed my car keys and said ‘I’m going towards Liverpool if anybody wants a lift?’ Paul recalled. “And Julianne put her hand up, I’d been going there three or four months and never seen her before. I dropped her home in Petersham and asked if she would like to go to dinner with me that Saturday night. I really I thought she was the right person.

“Although we came from very different cultures we seemed to have the same philosophies and believed in the same thing. So then we got married the next year, in June 1971.”

The now semi-retired deacon says he has had many joyful and sad experiences in accompanying people through pastoral care.

“The only time I ever became emotional as a deacon was when I preached at my brother-in-law’s funeral,” he said. “Otherwise, in the sad moments I never became emotionally involved, it’s a matter of listening to people and just being a sacramental presence with them and comfort them without saying anything much unless they ask you a question.

“If anyone is thinking of a vocation in any field, priesthood or whatever, they should pray about it first and allow the Spirit to open your mind and your heart to see what Christ wants from you. And things happen in your life that makes you go the way God wants you to go.”

“Yes,” Julianne adds. “God has a plan for our lives, we just have to trust and follow Christ’s lead.”

Are you interested in finding out more about the Permanent Diaconate? Contact the Office of the Permanent Diaconate in the Archdiocese of Sydney. Ph: (02) 9390 5941 or email: [email protected]

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