Q&A: Tom's journey to becoming a deacon

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.

Tom, centre, was accepted as a candidate for Holy Orders in May this year at his home parish of Sacred Heart & St Margaret Parish, Penicuik.

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:  macaulay_ronnie@yahoo.co.uk

WATCH: Four men ordained Deacons in Rome

Joshua Moir, 27, from Galashiels in the Scottish Borders, was ordained to the diaconate at the Scots College in Rome this morning (Sunday 2 May).

Archbishop Arthur Roche celebrated the Mass, during which a total of four men became deacons. The Mass is available to watch here

Interested in the priesthood or religious life? Have a chat with one of our vocations directors:


Q&A: Josh ordained a Deacon on Sunday!

Joshua Moir, 27, from Galashiels in the Scottish Borders, will be ordained to the diaconate at the Scots College in Rome this Sunday (02 May).

Archbishop Arthur Roche will celebrate the Mass, during which he will ordain a total of four men to the Order of Deacons. You can watch the Mass live on YouTube from 10:20am (UK) here. Download the Order of Service to follow along at home here.


When and where is your ordination to the diaconate taking place?
Josh Moir: I’ll be ordained a deacon on 2nd May at 10:30am (GMT), in the Chapel of the Scots College, Rome.

What is a ‘transitional’ deacon?
JM: A Deacon is someone who is ordained for service at the altar and in life. While some are called to exercise this state permanently, in my own case I’ll be ordained a Deacon as a preparation for Ordination to the Priesthood in 2021.

Are there others being ordained to the diaconate with you?
JM: I’ll be ordained alongside my year-mates here in the College: Malcolm Hutchison (Dunkeld), Edward Toner (Glasgow) and Kevin Rennie (Galloway) (see main pic). I knew all three before coming to Rome, and it’s been a pleasure and privilege to work alongside them, and to take this step together.

What did you do before becoming a seminarian?
JM: Before beginning my training for the Priesthood, I studied at the University of Edinburgh completing an Honorary Masters in Philosophy and English Literature.

Has anyone helped inspire your journey to the priesthood? 
JM: As a teenager, I was struck by the witness of many good and holy priests working in our Archdiocese and beyond. This witness helped me to realise the necessity of good priests, and gave me occasion to pray about what my own call in life might be.

What advice would you give someone who may be discerning a vocation to the priesthood?
JM: The most important thing is to go before the Lord in prayer, and ask Him how best you might serve Him. If thoughts of a call to the priesthood continue, look for advice and talk it through with a trusted priest or the Vocations Director of the Archdiocese, who can help your discernment.

Interested in the priesthood or religious life? Have a chat with one of our vocations directors:


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.