Renewal of Promises

Tasmania’s permanent deacons have publicly renewed their promises in what is believed to be a historic first for Tasmania.

The renewal of promises took place during a Mass at St Mary’s Cathedral on Saturday, June 6 celebrated by Archbishop Julian, in honour of the feast of St Ephraem – a deacon – on June 9.

Priests of the Archdiocese traditionally renew their promises each year during the Chrism Mass.

The Archdiocese of Hobart has three permanent deacons: Nick MacFarlane, 69, of Sandy Bay, in the Cathedral Parish; Michael Hangan, 58, of Moonah, in the Moonah-Lutana Parish; and Michael Smith, 64, of Margate, in the Kingston-Channel Parish.

The intention to revive the permanent diaconate was signalled by the Second Vatican Council, and implemented by Pope St Paul VI in 1967. Deacon MacFarlane, the first permanent deacon of the Archdiocese, was ordained in 2006. He explained the significance of the renewal of promises, and said that the deacons now intend to renew their promises each year.

“We are affirming our commitment to the diocese, the parish and parishioners and to our vocation; and it’s a way of the bishop affirming us and the people affirming us,” Deacon MacFarlane said.

He described the vocation of deacons as a grace for the Church and the individual, and said that deacons bring their own unique set of work and life skills, perspective and gifts.

“It is the path to fulfilment in holiness for me, and it is a great blessing to our Church,” he said.

“We need more deacons and we need to pray for vocations in all areas. Above all, we need a lot of people to realise they are called to be missionary disciples of Christ by their baptism and I pray that we get many more deacons in many more parishes. I would like to encourage people to pray for the diaconate. It is a great blessing.”

Like Deacon MacFarlane, Deacon Smith has been active in Charismatic Renewal. Deacon Smith, who is a father of four including Fr Steven Smith, described answering the Lord’s call to become part of the diaconate as an act of faith, serving the Church and the parish at a deeper level. He was ordained to the permanent diaconate in 2018.

With the support of his wife, Christine, he continues to be involved in a number of parish initiatives including Alpha courses, book clubs, Bible studies, and parish social activities as well as his duties as a deacon, preaching and serving at the altar.

“I am a servant of the parish and its people and enable them to find God and to find Christ,” he said.

“It is a hard journey, but it is a calling. It is an evangelising role: we need to bring the people back to Christ and to the Church.”

Deacon Hangan, who is also the Moonah-Lutana Parish office manager, was ordained to the diaconate in May 2013. He is on his parish pastoral council, finance committee and Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults’ team. He described the renewal of promise Mass as an ‘absolutely beautiful’ occasion to share with his brother deacons and the wider Church community.

“It was a chance to come together and share our faith and to show that we are part of the growing Church,” he said.

He said that the role of deacon was a deeply rewarding one, working with community members and encouraging and supporting them in their faith lives. He urged more good Catholic men to stand up and come forward.

“I am a cradle Catholic, but I loved learning more about the history of the Church and getting to know why things happened. This enabled me to grow in my own faith as well.”

At the renewal Mass, Archbishop Julian described the vocation of the deacon as an ancient one, having its origin in the New Testament as recorded in the Acts of the Apostles.

“Today, as deacons, I charge you to teach and advise your brethren in the faith, inspired by the faith that animates your life,” Archbishop Julian said.

“Above all proclaim Jesus Christ and call people to enter into a living relationship with Him.”

Deacon MacFarlane said that across Australia there were about 180 permanent deacons, although numbers varied widely between parishes and dioceses.