Brother Michael ordained a Deacon at Nunraw

Congratulations to Brother Michael Downie OSCO* who was ordained a deacon by Archbishop Cushley at Sancta Maria Abbey, Nunraw (near Haddington) on Friday.

He is a fully professed Cistercian monk and is due to be ordained a priest later this year. He is originally from Holytown in Motherwell Diocese.

From left: Brother Michael is pictured with Archbishop Cushley, Fr Mark Caira, the Abott of Nunraw and members of the Cistercian community.

*OSCO: Order of Cistercians of the Strict Observance. They live a contemplative monastic life with a focus of celebration of the liturgy throughout the day (and night). Find out more at

Vocations Week: Becoming a Deacon

Douglas Robertson is being ordained a permanent deacon at St Michael's Church in Linlithgow on Saturday. We spoke to him about his journey to the diaconate.

What parish do you attend?
St Michael’s in Linlithgow. I have been a parishioner here for over 30 years.

What is a deacon, and what do they do?
Deacons (the word comes from the Greek word diakonia, meaning 'service') are ordained clergy who are not priests, but assist the priest at Mass by proclaiming the Gospel, reading the Intercessions, distributing Communion and dismissing the Faithful. A deacon assists the priest outside of Mass by administering the Sacrament of Baptism, bringing Viaticum to the dying, presiding for prayer services, officiating at funerals and burial services and witnessing marriages. As ministers of service, deacons perform charitable works such as visiting the sick, sacramental preparation and outreach to the poor.

Wherever I have been I have appreciated the many people who have taken the time to quietly encourage me.

What was your day job?
I worked in IT for forty years, in a number of different jobs and for several companies, starting with Rolls-Royce in Glasgow and ending with Lloyds Bank in Edinburgh.

Why did you decide to apply for the diaconate?
Looking back I feel that my whole life was leading up to this point. My faith journey took me from being a child attending Church of Scotland Sunday school, and not wanting to be there, to a teenager who went to Scripture Union camps, and found a living faith but could not sustain it.

Despite this, my faith was always there and in my early thirties, I wanted to integrate it fully into my life and joined the Catholic Church. This was the start of a wonderful and exciting journey. My faith continued to develop and I found myself saying “God, whatever you want me to do, I will do”. During a conversation with my Parish Priest Canon Paul Kelly he challenged me to go much further than my own limited plans for the future and look at the Permanent Diaconate. The words in Malcolm Muggeridge’s book about Mother Teresa inspired me – “as the whole story of Christendom shows, if everything is asked for, everything – and more – will be accorded; if little, then nothing”. So I applied!

What support have you been given? 
I am so grateful to my wife Margaret, whose own faith and that of her family is so important to me. Her Uncle Monsignor McShane, latterly of St Margaret’s in Clydebank, was a bedrock of the Catholic faith in our lives. Margaret has read my essays, tolerated the hours of study and said the right things when I found the formation challenging. I have had huge support both from this parish with its live faith and committed parishioners and that of my parish placement at St Francis Xavier, Falkirk, where I was provided with an insight into the life of a Deacon in a large parish. Wherever I have been I have appreciated the many people who have taken the time to quietly encourage me.

What are you most looking forward to in your ministry?
Serving my parish!

What advice would you give to married men who are considering the diaconate?
Contact your vocation director, an exciting journey is in front of you.

Douglas Robertson will be ordained a permanent deacon at midday on Saturday 14 September at St Michael's in Linlithgow. Interested in the Permanent Diaconate? Contact Deacon Ronnie Macaulay at 

Tranent teacher ‘humbled’ as he is ordained a deacon

A TRANENT teacher has thanked colleagues family and friends after becoming a Catholic deacon.

Eddie White, who teaches maths at Ross High, was ordained to the permanent diaconate at St Mary’s Cathedral in Edinburgh on Saturday.

The married dad of three (left) said: "One of the wonderful things about the Permanent diaconate is that we come from so many different walks of life - although I would guess teaching is one of the most common.

“This presented a chance for my family, for parishioners, for colleagues and friends from such a vast range of places to join me, for which I am truly humbled."

At the ceremony, David Edwardson (below) was also ordained a deacon as part of his journey to the priesthood while Tom McEvoy was made an acolyte.

Deacons in the church do not celebrate Mass but can conduct baptisms, weddings and funerals and play a vital role in supporting priests.

Deacon White, who is currently based at St John the Evangelist in Portobello, said he was most looking forward to serving the sick and the marginalised.

(All pictures, Eliza Veitch)


'If you feel drawn towards the diaconate, explore it!'

Eddie White, 42, is a married father of three and a teacher from Edinburgh who will be ordained as a permanent deacon tomorrow (Saturday) in Edinburgh. Here he discusses what’s involved in the process…

Why did you decide to be a deacon?
I felt drawn to it. I have a secular vocation of service in teaching. As a committed Catholic, I felt what I had to offer, what the diaconate wanted and what it gave back to the Church drew me to it and allowed me to respond to the Lord's call in both a practical and spiritual way.

 When did you decide?
I had contemplated it while teaching at Holy Rood High School in Edinburgh. The staff prayer group from that time was quite efficient as one other, older, teacher started the process before me, Deacon John Smith.

What are you most looking forward to in your ministry?
No more essays! I’m looking forward to the chance to serve the sick and the marginalised. Doing this while holding down a full-time job gives me some unique opportunities to be a face of the Church in day-to-day life.

What is your day job?
I am a maths teacher at Ross High in Tranent.

How does a deacon differ from a priest?
A priest has more focus in the Altar and the Word while a deacon's principle ministry is service - to the sick, to the prisoners and the marginalised. That said, a deacon still has a vocation to preach the gospel. Deacons never say Mass - the transubstantiation of the bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ is a reserve of priests and bishops. However, deacons can conduct baptisms, weddings and funerals, which not only gives them a ministry of the altar, it also helps release our over-burdened priests to other matters.

Tell us about the training you have to do…
There is a minimum of five years needed. There’s a propaedeutic year - an over-fancy name for the pre-vocations year, then four years of academic and pastoral training. The technical skills for the altar, lighting the thurible in such a way as to not set the smoke alarm off was one key skill I managed. The essays I also managed, and the music theory. However, singing... if that was a required skill I would not have managed the second weekend of training! There were lectures in Church theory, from early fathers to Gospel readings and Canon law and six essays a year. Finally, a homeletics weekend and a seven-day residential summer school makes up the remaining time commitment each year for the four years, plus a day for end of year exams.

What support have you been given from your family?
Without my wife and my mother, this vocation would not be possible. With three young children, I had to get the help of my mum in Dundee for many of the residential weekends. Tanya, my wife, has been very supportive throughout even though, as many of the trainee deacons' wives have noted, it can be hard. There is a real risk that some people forget about the importance of the role of our spouses. There were some frustrating moments for us, such as well-meant remarks directed at Tanya about how hard it will be as "The Deacon's Wife" (sounds like the name of a pub in the Grassmarket or something). Fortunately, my parish priest Fr Jock Dalrymple extended his support to her as well and was always available on the phone if ever she wanted to talk. That is something I would hope every candidate's wife would have available to them.

What advice would you give to married men considering the permanent diaconate?
If you feel you are being drawn towards the diaconate, you should explore it. If I understand it right, I will become the youngest deacon in Scotland at 42. People in their late thirties should consider the training and the draw to service if they feel the call. A chance to meet someone who has gone through it always helps, and I would extend a welcome for a meal and a chat if anyone wants to ask either Tanya or myself about our experiences.

Eddie White will be ordained a permanent deacon at midday on Saturday 7 September at St Mary’s Catholic Cathedral in Edinburgh.