Unbridled joy as three men ordained to the permanent diaconate

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Deacons Constantine Rodrigues, John Ting and Gregory Alessi enjoy the moment after their ordination to the permanent diaconate in St Mary’s Cathedral on 22 November. PHOTO: Giovanni Portelli

A computer retailer, a chef and a chemical engineer are the three newest permanent deacons for Sydney.

St Mary’s Cathedral was filled in the evening of 22 November as Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP ordained the three new permanent deacons for the Archdiocese of Sydney.

Deacons Constantine Rodrigues, John Ting and Gregory Alessi were ordained in a ceremony witnessed by families, friends and faithful from Sydney and beyond.

Although deacons have served the Church since its beginning, with the institution of the diaconate described in the Acts of the Apostles, the presence of deacons as a distinct, permanent ordained ministry gradually declined before disappearing in the Middle Ages.

After that, the role of deacons was mainly linked to those who were ordained as “transitional deacons” prior to being ordained to the priesthood.

After the Second Vatican Council discussed the desirability of restoring the permanent diaconate, Pope Paul VI decreed that the order of deacon could be conferred for a life-long ministry upon married or celibate men.

Prior to this, the office of the permanent diaconate had not been exercised in the Western church for more than a millennium.

In his homily, Archbishop Fisher explained the crucial role of the deacon.

Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP greets the families of the Sydney’s newest permanent Deacons. PHOTO: Giovanni Portelli

“Deacons are specialists in sacred hatch, match and dispatch; they do baptisms, marriages and funerals,” he said.

“Whether he’s preaching at Mass, taking Viaticum to the dying, assisting the bishop in the chancery, organising charitable works, or hatching, matching and dispatching sacramentally – he is first and foremost about service.

“St John Paul II called deacons ‘the Church’s service sacramentalised’ and ‘living signs of the servanthood of Christ’s Church’.”

The three travelled very different paths to the same vocation.

Deacon Rodrigues, 57, migrated to Australia in 1989 and ran a computer business for more than a decade. He served his local parish of St Anne’s, South Strathfield, as a catechist, and co-ordinated its homestay program for World Youth Day in 2008.

It was during a conversation with a priest that he first learned of the vocation to the permanent diaconate, and soon after began his path towards ordination.

Deacon Alessi, 46, speaks of the strong Eucharistic devotion instilled in him by his mother, who took her children daily to visit Jesus in the tabernacle before and after school.

A trained chef, he too found his call to the diaconate through service in his local parish, in his case as an acolyte. After first learning of the permanent diaconate at a workshop conducted by the Archdiocesan Liturgy Office, Deacon Alessi applied for the diaconate, a journey which took seven years to complete.

Deacon Ting, 53, came to Australia from Malaysia as a teenager, and is a chemical engineer.

Spending time working and volunteering as youth leaders in both Singapore and Malaysia, Deacon Ting and his wife returned to Australia in 2001 to again volunteer as youth workers with Australian Chinese Catholic youth.

After completing a Master of Arts degree at the Catholic Institute of Sydney in 2008, Deacon Ting discerned his call to the permanent diaconate.

For more information about the Permanent Diaconate, including the steps to take if you feel called to serve the Church as a deacon, go to www.sydneydiaconate.org.au