Deacon Michael Smith
Michael Smith has gone from doing crosswords rather than going to Mass, to being ordained as a permanent deacon for the Archdiocese of Hobart.
Deacon Smith, 62, was ordained in June 2020 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.
“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 had 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.
He was received in to the Catholic Church at Easter in 1994 and says, “It was one of the most amazing experiences I’ve ever had in my life, and ever will have in my life.”
He became involved in ministry in his parish and “started to feel a lot of joy and happiness”.
“I kept getting this tug to say, ‘There’s more you can do. What do you want to do about it?’”
Through a series of events, he began to discern the permanent diaconate at the same time his son Steven began to discern the priesthood. Steven is now a priest for the Archdiocese of Hobart.
Even after years of study and many steps in the process of discernment, it’s still a call Deacon Smith 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.”
He says he sees it as “a partnership role” with Christine.
“I wouldn’t want to do this without her.”
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.