This is an edited version of the homily Bishop Michael McCarthy gave at the ordination of Andrew Hogan and Stephen Camiolo to the transitional diaconate at Holy Spirit Chapel, Banyo on June 19. It was the first time Bishop McCarthy, a former rector of Holy Spirit Provincial Seminary, Banyo, had presided at an ordination since he was ordained Bishop of Rockhampton on May 29.
I BEGIN with the words in the Rite of Ordination and it begins like this, “These sons of yours, Andrew and Stephen, will be advanced to the order of deacons. Strengthened by the Holy Spirit, they will help their bishops and their priests in their respective dioceses in the ministry of the Word, of the altar, proclaim the Gospel, prepare the sacrifice and distribute the Lord’s Body and Blood to the faithful.
“Furthermore it will be their duty at their bishop’s direction to exhort the believers and unbelievers alike and instruct them in holy doctrine or preside over the public prayer, minister baptism, assist and bless marriages, bring Viaticum to the dying and conduct funeral rites.”
Dear young brothers, Andrew and Stephen, I’ve just read you your duty statements … about your future ministry as deacons.
You’ll be appointed to parishes whereby God’s people will welcome you and welcome your ministry.
And through the exercise of your ministry of love they will in turn discern and call out of you your pastoral gifts.
So in a few months when your rector again stands in the cathedrals of St Joseph and St Stephen respectively and says that upon inquiry of the People of God, the rector will have heard the voices of those who have experienced your ministry and drawn the priestly gifts out of you.
The Church will admit you then to the orders of presbyters.
The readings that you have chosen give ample scope to the most important part of your ministry. They illuminate your inner life.
The prophet Jeremiah responded to the call of God and … great things were asked of him. He was asked to be a spokesman on behalf of God’s people.
Recently Pope Francis, speaking to the Congregation of Bishops, called on them to find bishops as audacious as Moses to bombard Heaven with prayers for their people and to intercede on their behalf.
Again as bishops, as presbyters and as deacons we’re all invited in that ministry to bombard Heaven with our prayers.
And each day as you speak with the Lord in prayer, like the prophets of old, you as new young prophets, you share in the ministry of your bishop and intercede unceasingly before God for your people.
You as deacons, and eventually as presbyters, will likewise keep God’s memory for the people whom you serve. And, like Jeremiah, it does cost.
But that is the mystery of taking up one’s cross, the cross of Jesus, every day of your life.
As God’s reassuring presence to the young Jeremiah, my young brothers, God reassures you, “Do not be afraid for I am there to protect you.”
And this is what I believe Pope Francis describes as “being under the Father’s gaze”.
St Paul when speaking to the community down in Ephesus advised of the gifts that God gives freely for the building up of the Church.
These gifts have been discerned in you and now you lay those gifts before the Church to authenticate them and for the Church to use them for the building up of the People of God.
The gift that the Church asks you to take up is that of being a pastor, firstly as a deacon among the People of God and, as you hone that skill, that calling, that gift for the rest of your life is for the building up of our parish communities in our dioceses where you will be appointed in the future.
The Church needs ministers, who have the heart of God, pastoring the people of our parishes and interceding to God on their behalf.
And so the words of Jesus echo constantly about our positions as deacons, presbyters and bishops – Jesus of Nazareth and the Risen Jesus came as servant. Three weeks ago I quoted from St Francis about this very time, about the role of a leader – that is, to walk with and walk behind. These words apply to all ministers of the Church. We walk with our people and especially caring for those who lag behind and fall by the wayside.
And now brothers, Andrew and Stephen, you come and present yourselves for this order of the Church, the order of deacons.
The diaconate is an ancient order of the Church and has to be, together with the presbyterate and the episcopacy and the diaconate, for the building up of the Church.
Each of our orders is for the work of God and it is a ministry of service. You share in the bishop’s preaching of the Gospel, sharing with your people your insights through your daily homilies.
Preparation I believe begins very early on a Monday morning as you begin your week in the parish maybe in front of a class joining the parish catechists or on the sacramental team or visiting the house-bound and taking Holy Communion to them.
It is through the sweat and the tears of the people you work with during the week especially through your pastoral work – Andrew, standing with the farmers as they watch their produce and livestock shrivel and dry on the land – there is where the homily has its genesis and, together with meditating on the Scriptures, that God’s Word comes alive for you and your people.
God’s people want to hear how the Holy Spirit works in your life, how you pray, how you encounter difficulties, how you deal with adversity – the real-life experiences that, together, you walk with your people as their pastor.
On their ride that you’ll preach takes your people from their earthly life and invites them to look upwards and gives them a hope that God is in their midst and in their lives, and builds them up to face life with all its complexities and help them to know that God is with them.
In a few moments when you lie on the floor here of the chapel and we invite the communion of saints to surround you with their prayers, the coolness of the floor will seep into your body as the prayers of heaven surround you and support you as they take you to the next step of allowing God’s Holy Spirit through the laying on of hands and the prayer of the ancient Church to replace that coldness with the warmth of assurance that you have been set apart for the service.
The Holy Spirit gives you that strength as you follow Jesus Christ each day for the rest of your life.
May God who has begun the good work in you now bring it to completion.