Welcoming a new deacon to the diocese

On Wednesday 14 June 2017, I was one of twelve men ordained a deacon by Bishop Seamus Cunningham, in the Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls in Rome. We are all students of the Pontifical Beda College, an international seminary for ‘late’ vocations to the priesthood.

There were two other men from Australia (Brendan from the Archdiocese of Brisbane and Brian from the Archdiocese of Melbourne), as well as men from England, India, Malaysia and South Africa. Our ordination to the diaconate was the culmination of three years of formal preparation involving philosophical and theological studies, formation in the various liturgies of the Church, spiritual direction and practical jobs in the College by which we contribute to the ongoing life of the Beda community.

Most young men in their twenties aspiring to the priesthood need to complete up to seven years of formation in local seminaries in their own country. But older chaps like myself are often sent overseas to colleges like the Beda that specifically cater for people of more mature years, and offer a more intensive course of studies across four years. This is what Vocations Director and Vicar-General, Fr Brian Mascord, decided would be the best course for me. Another seminarian from the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle, Graham Fullick, is following a similar path and having just completed his second year of study at the Beda, is anticipating his diaconate ordination in mid-June next year. The ages of the men I was ordained with range from 40 to 62. At 59, I’m near the upper end of this band, but am still in excellent health and full of enthusiasm for many years of dedicated service to the people of the diocese.

Each year the diaconal ordinations of the third-year students mark the close of the Beda College year and everyone returns to their own country for a pastoral placement (practical parish experience), a vacation and time to catch up with family and friends, before flying back to Rome three months later for another year of studies. This year I am doing my five-week pastoral placement in the Muswellbrook Parish with Fr Anthony Nguyen. As a transitional deacon (it’s transitional, rather than permanent, since my goal is the priesthood) I am now able to preside at baptisms, marriages and funerals, proclaim the Gospel at Mass and deliver homilies. My two previous placements in 2015 and 2016 were with Fr Kevin Kiem in the Raymond Terrace/Myall Coast parishes and Fr Terry Horne at All Saints Blackbutt South. In late September I will fly back to Rome to begin my fourth and final year of studies at the Beda before returning home in June 2018 to await priestly ordination in Newcastle’s Sacred Heart Cathedral by Bishop Bill Wright.

Since my diaconal ordination on 14 June, countless people, both in Rome and Australia, have enthusiastically congratulated me on reaching this important milestone on my path to priesthood. But the achievement has not really been mine but the Lord’s, by whose grace I received the ‘call’ over four years ago to make enquiries with the Vocations Director, take early retirement from my position as Accountant at Calvary Health Care Sydney and then move to Newcastle where so many people warmly welcomed and accepted me.

Please pray for me as I continue my journey. 


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John Lovell Image
John Lovell

John Lovell is a student for diocesan priesthood at the Pontifical Beda College, Rome.

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