By GARRY CULLEN
This is the first time I have written a blog entry, so, readers, please forgive me as I am no doubt a novice. As most of you will know, I have recently completed my first year at St John’s seminary in Wonersh as part of my journey to become a Deacon, which – God willing – will see me ordained in 2018. So what have I learnt thus far?
A significant part of the journey to become a Deacon involves completing a foundation degree in Pastoral Ministry, which is managed through St Mary’s University in Twickenham. This involves regular submissions of written work on a variety of subjects, which my colleagues and I in Year 1 found pretty challenging. The subjects are pretty diverse, and involved learning about the foundations for the study of Theology, Scripture and the Sacraments, as well as the Liturgy, Philosophy and Moral Theology, amongst other things. To be honest, it has been a pretty steep learning curve for me – but a very enjoyable one.
The best thing about diaconal formation is learning more about my faith as a Catholic. Using and referring to a biblical commentary has ‘opened a door’ to me and really helped me to understand the meaning of scripture. I had read Pope Francis’s Apostolic Exhortation on the Joy of the Gospel (a truly wonderful read), prior to starting my diaconal journey, but I simply had no idea about the wealth of information held on the Vatican website. My study has, for the first time, opened me up to the wonderful documents promulgated by the Second Vatican Council, including Dei Verbum (Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation), Lumen Gentium (Dogmatic Constitution on the Church) and Sacrosanctum Consilium (Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy) to name a few. The language in all three documents is uplifting and has reinforced to me how much God loves us all, encouraging us to grow closer to Him through prayer, worship and care for others.
I have enjoyed the camaraderie of working with and getting to know a group of men from all walks of life who are on the same journey as me. The support we give each other is important – especially when you are struggling with essays.
So what is rewarding about becoming a Deacon? First, I feel very blessed. I don’t know why God chose me, I don’t feel worthy and I question my academic ability, but I am trying my best, not just to become a Deacon, but to live my life more closely according to the teaching of Jesus. The latter is challenging, but guided by the Holy Spirit and through the support and prayers from the parish community, I am simply going to try my best.