Archdiocese of Perth set to begin a process of discernment for the ministry of the Permanent Diaconate.

22 Jun 2022

By Jamie O'Brien

Fourteen Deacons ordained on 29 June 2006.
Fourteeen men were ordained to the Permanent Diaconate on 29 June 2006 by then Archbishop Barry Hickey; 12 remain following the passing of Deacons Ivan Sands and Patrick Seatter. Photo: Jamie O’Brien.

Perth is set to embark on a program of discernment for the formation of Permanent Deacons.

Mature men of good health, actively involved in their parish and informed in their Catholic faith are being invited to express their interest in discerning and learning about the ministry of the permanent deacon.

The Archdiocese of Perth currently has 12 men ordained as permanent deacons most of these serve in various ministries in parishes, prisons and hospitals.

Since the time of the apostles and the early Church, deacons have played an important role in the life and ministry of the Church.

The Acts of the Apostles records that, as the apostles had to grapple with the increasing calls on their ministry as the early Church began to grow, they chose seven men and appointed those men to assist them in the ministry, especially the ministry to the poor.

Over time, that ministry took on a liturgical function as well, especially in preaching and teaching.

Derived from the Greek ‘diakonos’ meaning ‘servant’, a deacon’s ministry is, therefore, one of service to the community and the proclamation of the Word of God.

Perth’s Permanent Deacons and their wives in 2006, shortly before their Ordination on 30 June 2006 at St Mary’s Cathedral. Perth is set to build a program of discernment for those who wish to learn more about the Permanent Diaconate. Photo: Jamie O’Brien

Over the centuries, for a variety of reasons, the ministry of deacons, and their presence in the life of the Church as a permanent and stable ministry alongside that of the bishops and priests, began to diminish.

Especially in the Latin Church, to which most of us belong, the diaconate was seen simply as a step towards the priesthood.

What should have been a permanent ministry became a transitional one. While deacons appear in the early and middle history of the Church, they disappeared in the latter centuries as a “permanent” state and became a “transitional” state for those men being formed toward the priesthood.

In 1967, Pope Paul VI re-established the diaconate as a permanent ministry and opened it to married men as well as to celibates.

In 2006, then-Archbishop Barry Hickey ordained 14 men to the permanent diaconate.

In a special presentation released to invite expressions of interest, Perth Archbishop Timothy Costelloe SDB said that men who express their interest will be those who believe that the Permanent Diaconate may be God’s will for them.

“Always of course with the discernment of God’s will in relation to a vocation to the ordained ministry is the work of the community rather than simply of the individual himself,” Archbishop Costelloe said.

“It will ultimately to be confirmed by the bishop’s discernment and decision,” he said.

Director for the Office of the Permanent Diaconate, Fr Peter Bianchini, explained that the role of the office, which opened in 2019, will be
• to promote vocations to the Permanent Diaconate;
• to provide a service whereby men, with the support of their wives if they are married, can:
o explore and discern the possibility of a vocation to the diaconate;
o if so to be formed in discerning that vocation;

Permanent Deacons from across Australia and their wives, with Vicar general Fr Peter Whitely VG, Vicar for Clergy Fr Brian McKenna and Director of the Office of the Permanent Diaconate, Fr Peter Bianchini, following the National Conference of the Permanent Diaconate at UNDA in 2019. Photo: Jamie O’Brien

“In their active involvement in the community, their outreach to the poor and marginalised, and their fostering of Eucharistic communion, deacons sacramentalise the Church’s service,” Fr Peter explained.

“The support of a deacon’s family is vital and essential for anyone contemplating the ordained ministry of the permanent diaconate,” he said.
Potential applicants are invited to speak with their parish priest in the first instance and also to discuss their intentions with a spiritual director.

“If your heart tells you that this might be a path God is inviting you to discern you can access more information by searching for Permanent Diaconate on the Archdiocesan website,

Article also published in The Record Magazine Issue 36 Page 10-11.