Changing Questions

I’m aware that this year I’ve neglected Tarella Spirituality and my faithful readers. While some retirees walk the Camino, some babysit grandchildren or become volunteers in community or church organizations. Others decide to write a book.images

Well, that’s me and now I’m a bit over half way through. To use a yachting expression it hasn’t all been clear sailing. 25,000 words in I reread what I had written and was dissatisfied with it. There were two options as I saw it – hit the delete button or re write. It took me a couple of weeks to dredge up the courage to start again but .. .I re-wrote and now that’s behind me and I’ve started on the rest of the chapters. All encouragement gratefully accepted!

I hope you find something to think about in this piece about Deacon Boniface Perjert. If not, then check out the Gospel reflection for this Sunday. You’ll find it on the Connexions page.  From my home among the gum trees, Judith


This gentleman with his impressive beard is Boniface Perjert. Deacon Boniface 2Way back, when I was  young and unwrinkled I taught at Wadye, then known as Port Keats, a dot on the vast space of the Northern Territory. While I was responsible for the education of the very young children and older girls, Boniface Perdjert taught the boys in a suitably distant separate building. That was really all I knew about him because he was answerable to Father John Leary a Missionary of the Sacred Heart and the superintendent of the mission. In 1974, two years after I returned to Melbourne and a new life there, I read in a Catholic paper that Boniface had been ordained a deacon, the first permanent deacon in the Australian Church.

At the time I asked myself, why aren’t women being ordained as deacons?  Forty two years on and deacons are quite a talking point in Catholic circles, especially among women. Every year a handful of men, married or widowed, complete a lengthy theological, personal, spiritual and ministerial formation program and are ordained as deacons and appointed to a parish, equipped and commissioned to proclaim the Gospel, preach and baptise, witness marriages and conduct funerals.

As a woman and even as a Pastoral Associate I was not allowed to reflect on the Sunday Gospel from the altar. For a few short years I was a funeral minister, but I’ve never baptised a baby or received an adult into full communion with the Catholic Church. If I was a deacon like Boniface  and others like him, this would have been an ordinary part of my ministry.

Now, from where I sit I ask a different question: As a woman do I want to be a deacon? If, or when, women are freed to be ordained as deacons, then that’s where they will stay because diaconate seems to have become an end in itself, a solution to the work load carried by priests and a way to silence women who want to be seen and affirmed as a viable part of Church.

If women, like men, are created in the image and likeness of God, why are they being kept out of full priestly ordination. Maybe the institutional Church could hold another synod, this time focusing on the theology and practice of priestly ordination instead of marriage. Who knows what could happen!