BRISBANE’S newest permanent deacon has asked Christians to find Christ in the poor, who are thirsting for friendship and human belonging.
Deacon Andrew O’Brien, who was ordained a permanent deacon on November 11 at St Stephen’s Cathedral, said Christians should not be afraid to encounter those on the margins, particularly those who lived on the streets.
“Our purpose as Christians is to go out to meet Jesus and we know we will find him among the poor,” Deacon O’Brien said.
He is no stranger to the poor, having served for three years as the general manager for Rosies – Friends on the Street, a Catholic charity founded by the Oblates of Mary Immaculate to offer friendship to the homeless.
It was while the newly-ordained deacon began with Rosies that he was accepted into the Brisbane archdiocese’s diaconal formation program under the guidance of Columban Father Trevor Trotter.
“I don’t think it is coincidental that I began my work with Rosies, the same month I was accepted to commence diaconal formation,” Deacon O’Brien said.
Brisbane Archbishop Mark Coleridge has appointed Deacon O’Brien to serving the marginalised and homeless through organised charitable activity in the archdiocese, meaning his work with Rosies has not ended.
Deacon O’Brien encouraged members of the Church to get involved with organised charitable activity works as a way of serving the poor.
“Volunteers love being part of something that not only involves a positive human encounter, but also one that is well organised and makes good use of donated resources,” he said.
Members of various Rosies branches across Queensland including volunteers from Cairns, Toowoomba, Ipswich and Wynnum packed the cathedral with their familiar red shirts for the ordination.
Friends and family from Deacon O’Brien’s time in Toowoomba and Mount Isa also attended the ordination, celebrated by Archbishop Coleridge.
Eight permanent deacons from the archdiocese assisted at the Mass.
Deacon O’Brien said his ordination was a “communal event”.
“The vantage point of being on the altar was seeing all the faces of the people in my life and that was a special moment for me,” he said.
Born in June 1959 in Toowoomba, Deacon O’Brien was taught by a string of religious orders including the Good Samaritan Sisters, the Christian Brothers, the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart and the Ursuline Sisters.
At least 18 different religious orders and diocesan priests have influenced Deacon O’Brien’s life.
In 1983 Deacon O’Brien married his wife Colleen and the pair have three sons.
He worked for 20 years in local government including six years as the chief executive officer of Mount Isa City Council.
Deacon O’Brien is the first permanent deacon to be ordained for Brisbane archdiocese in seven years following the ordination of Deacon Tim Shanahan in 2010.
During the Second Vatican Council, Pope Paul VI asked the Church to restore the sacred order of the permanent deacon “as a proper and permanent rank among the clergy in the Latin Rite”.
Deacons are able to preside at marriages, funerals and baptisms, and are called to preach the Gospel and give homilies, among other roles.
Permanent deacons are mostly married men who take up a ministry of service to the Church for the rest of their lives.
In Deacon O’Brien’s first public address, he said he was ready to proclaim God’s love which he felt so deeply.
“My call to the diaconate has been in essence a response to God’s goodness to me,” he said.
“I feel his love so personally. ‘How can I not proclaim the joy of the Gospel?’”
Deacon O’Brien will be based at St Sebastian’s Church, Yeronga, supporting parish priest Carmelites of Mary Immaculate Father Josekutty Vadakkel.