Tom McEvoy will be ordained to the Permanent Diaconate at St Mary’s Metropolitan Cathedral on Saturday. On the same occasion, Douglas Robertson, a parishioner at St Michael’s, Linlithgow, is to be instituted as a Lector, a step en route to the diaconate. We spoke to Tom about his journey to the diaconate...
What parish do you attend?
I am a parishioner of the Sacred Heart & St Margaret Parish, Penicuik; My wife Anne and I have been here since 2006 and feel very much at home. Although both of us are approximately 30 years in Scotland, some traces of our Irish accents do remain!
Why did you decide to apply for the diaconate?
I decided to apply because of an incident on the Feast of St Joseph, 19th March, 2016. At the time I was at a weekend conference and woke up during the night, saying “So you want me to become a permanent deacon?” I have no recollection of hearing a voice and there were no lights or bells or suchlike, but something prompted me to make the statement before falling back to sleep. A few hours later, I awoke with a sense of calm that I’d not known previously, and knew I ought to explore the possibility. In the months that followed, Anne and I prayed and talked about it. We took our time and, thank God, it proved to be a precious summer and autumn of unhurried debate, prayer and discernment. Eventually, when it felt right, we decided to make ‘what next’ enquiries.
What are you most looking forward to in your ministry?
I am looking forward to being able, thanks to the Sacramental graces of Holy Orders and despite my many limitations, to help people as God wills me to and to be helped by them; also to learn from them and to share joys as well as sorrows, ordinary days as well as extraordinary happenings, indeed whatever lies in store as we journey together through life ... all the while growing in and sharing and celebrating God’s gifts of faith, hope and love.
What is your day job?
I am a soon-to-be-retired College lecturer who has never quite stopped being a farmer’s son. A career involving research science and science teaching brought me to Scotland and has kept me here, happily engaging with, and indeed learning from, both students and staff colleagues from all over the world.
What is a deacon, and what do they do?
A deacon is a man who has received the Sacrament of Holy Orders but who is not a priest or bishop. All priests and bishops are ordained as deacons before ordination to the priesthood. Permanent deacons are men, married or single, who do not become priests. All deacons are configured to Christ the Servant (Pope St John Paul II).
Deacons are ordained to assist their bishop in his doctrinal, sacramental and charitable ministry both publicly and permanently. Part of what deacons are ordained to do is highlighted in the Rite of Ordination: proclaiming the Gospel and preaching. A key statement in the Rite, referring to Holy Scriptures, is: “Believe what you read; teach what you believe, and practice what you teach”. Above all, theirs is a sacramental ministry of service: they are to heed Christ’s example of washing His disciples’ feet and they are to pray the Church’s morning and evening prayer every day for the people of God. Specific tasks include assisting the bishop and priests in the celebration of the Eucharist, assisting at and blessing marriages (if so delegated), and presiding over funerals.
What support have you been given?
At all stages, Anne and I have received wonderful support on all sides, among so many friends at parish and Archdiocesan level as well as further afield, notably including many we know and pray with through Churches Together, locally and nationally. The five-year diaconal formation programme (one year of initial discernment plus four years of part-time studies, prayer and further ongoing discernment) also has been a means of support from many very generous, dedicated and (yes) holy people.
What advice would you give to married men considering the diaconate?
First and foremost, talk to and listen to your wife, and together listen to and trust in God. Seek information and talk to deacons and their wives. Pray and pray again – Stephen, Francis of Assisi, and Laurence (who identified the poor as the Church’s true treasure) are among the saints who can intercede for you. In my own case, St Joseph was and remains my ‘go to’ Saint. I thank him and God and Anne for prompting, shaping and sharing my journey to the diaconate. On the day of ordination, in this Year of St Joseph, the next stage of the journey begins and we will continue to pray: Jesus, we trust in You.
If you are interested in finding out more about the Permanent Diaconate, contact Deacon Ronnie Macaulay: firstname.lastname@example.org