The deacons of Southwark would like to share their stories with you. Perhaps their experiences will strike a chord and cause you to reflect upon what God has been saying to you.
By Deacon Phil Pond
“It’s a malignant melanoma… You’ll hear from us again shortly. Good luck.”
Those were the parting words from the hospital clinician after he had given me my test results.
A malignant melanoma? That’s cancer…
I made my way home from the hospital in a daze, the words going round and round in my head. It felt like a death sentence.
Except that it wasn’t. It all happened more than 25 years ago and I’m still here, thank God.
Nonetheless it was a terrifying experience at the time: the hospital visits, the tests, the biopsies, the surgery, the waiting, the worrying, the talk about radiotherapy and chemotherapy… Terrifying.
In the event radio and chemo were not necessary. Surgery removed all traces of my skin cancer because it hadn’t spread. As regular visits to the hospital over following years confirmed. Thank God again.
The whole experience was, as I just said, terrifying. And it caused me to do a lot of thinking about my life so far, what I had done with it, where I was going, what I was going to do in the future.
My conclusion was that I needed a change of direction; a dramatic change of direction.
It was then, providentially, that I came into contact with a friend of my sister. His name was Paul, he was married with children and he was a permanent deacon. I didn’t know what a permanent deacon was. But we ended up having a number of conversations about the diaconate.
Then one day I went to Mass, Paul was in the sanctuary, vested and assisting the priest as deacon. And it struck me like a bolt from the blue that this was something I could do; that I should do; that I really wanted to do. That I needed to do.
I went home, thinking that the idea would go away; that I would forget about it in a day or two; that my enthusiasm for the idea would disappear. But it didn’t. The more I thought about it, the more sense it made. The more I felt called to find out more.
Over the following weeks I prayed hard about it and discussed the idea with my wife, Mary. She was totally supportive. Eventually we decided that I needed to take action. But before we did, it was agreed that I would sit down with our four children, explain as best I could what I was thinking of doing – what the implications were – and ask what they thought about the idea. Mary and I agreed that if they objected, I wouldn’t take it any further. So we did – and they were totally supportive.
So I arranged a meeting with my parish priest at St Columba’s in Selsdon. Which led to him fixing up for me to see Neil and Kevin, two permanent deacons who were part of the Southwark diocesan diaconal vocation/formation team.
The rest, as they say, is history. I was ordained at St Columba’s on June 15, 2002. It was the beginning of a new life.
God is good.