Michael Smith ordained a permanent deacon

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Michael Smith ordained a permanent deacon

Michael Smith has gone from doing crosswords instead of going to Mass, to being ordained as the newest permanent deacon for the Archdiocese of Hobart.

Deacon Smith, 62, was ordained on Friday night at St Mary’s Cathedral by Archbishop Julian before a congregation of family members, including his wife Christine and their four adult sons, parishioners from his home parish of Kingston Channel and the faithful from around the Archdiocese.

During the homily Archbishop Julian spoke to Deacon Smith about his journey to ordained ministry.

“I am sure you are conscious of the mysterious hand of God in your life: in your journey to the Catholic faith; in the journey of increasing desire to serve within your parish community; and now in your journey over the past four years towards ordination as a deacon,” His Grace said.

“The evident joy you experience in pursuing this vocation – and tonight in seeing your desire fulfilled – is testimony to the grace of God at the heart of this path you have chosen.”

Born on Bruny Island, Deacon Smith was baptised an Anglican. His mother an Anglican and his father a Catholic, he says that there were disagreements within his extended family over faith.

“Pretty much because of the fighting, Mum and Dad moved away from the church and didn’t have a lot to do with it, and so we all have very little to do with it as well as we were growing up.”

At 16 he joined the army as an apprentice. During his 20 years of service, he met and married his wife Christine.
It was Christine and the example of her family that first attracted him to the Catholic Church.

“I’d met Christine and met her Mum and her family who were all Catholic and lived that faith as a normal family … There was no fighting, there were no questions, they just lived their faith and it was beautiful. And that started to attract me.”

Despite the attraction, he didn’t attend Mass. When living in South Australia, he would drive his family to the church and wait outside until it ended.

“I’d drive, sit in the carpark while they went to Mass. I’d read the paper, do the crossword, have a cigarette and then I’d wait for them to come out and go home,” he said.

However, the attraction of the faith continued, and when they moved to Tasmania in 1989, Deacon Smith began attending Mass with the family.

He describes a tragedy in his extended family as a “watershed moment” in his faith journey and he began asking Christine questions about the Catholic faith. To make sure she was giving him the right answers, Christine began attending the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA).

“After a while, she sat down one night and said, ‘Why don’t you just go?’ So I did,” Deacon Smith said.

“We went together,” Christine said.

“I ended up deciding to go the full hog, so I did the 12 months of RCIA … every Tuesday night at a lovely family’s home,” Deacon Smith said.

He was received in to the Catholic Church at Easter in 1994.

“It was one of the most amazing experiences I’ve ever had in my life, and ever will have in my life,” he said.

“I was standing on my own in front of the altar, and I had just finished everything. I got this amazing vision in my head, and it was only for me, of this little mountain with this huge sun rising up behind it … all of these birds flew up into the air and this voice simply said, ‘What took you so long?’”

That experience left such an impression on Deacon Smith that he had the image put on the prayer cards for his ordination.

Now a Catholic, he became involved in ministry in his parish after witnessing a decline in the parish community.

“I just started to get this feeling in my head and tug in my head, and I decided, ‘Well, what are you doing about it? Go and do something about it.’ I started to become much more involved myself, and once I did, I started to feel a lot of joy and happiness. And then I started learning a lot more about how you go about the life of Christ, about the love for each other and the main commandments: love your God and love your neighbour. Then I kept getting this tug to say, ‘There’s more you can do. What do you want to do about it?’”

When their son Steven said he wanted to look into the priesthood, Deacon Smith went with him to speak with people and learn more and felt he was also being called to ordained ministry.

Even after years of study and many steps in the process of discernment, it’s still a call he feels strongly.

“I do know that every time I stop and really think about it and go up to the church and sit down and pray, I know when I walk out: this is where I’m supposed to go.”

Both he and Christine have been heavily involved in ministry in their parish.

“I wouldn’t want to do this without her, because to me it’s a partnership role. It’s the one place where, as a married couple, we can minister and we can do things within our Church.”

Christine says she was not surprised when her husband told her he was looking into the diaconate.

“From the moment he came into the Church, my prayer was that he would find where God was calling him to go,” she said.

“I don’t think it was a surprise, I think it was just an end to that prayer,” she said.

Deacon Smith says his ordination is just the next step in his journey.

“Tonight is exciting, but this is not the end. Tonight is just the next step into what we want for the rest of our lives.”

Deacon Smith will serve in the Kingston Channel Parish.

To view a collection of photos from the ordination, click here.