Dipping My Toe In
It had been a particularly good night! The Hoteliers ball in Manchester was the event of the year and we always had an invitation. We hadn’t spoken about the meeting at LACE scheduled for the following morning and I went to bed feeling a little worse for wear, fully expecting to conveniently oversleep in the morning.
I was awakened by Barbara with the words” Get up! You’ve an important morning ahead….and I’m driving” There was no avoiding it. We were on our way to Liverpool and my journey was about to begin. We met a lot of lovely people including a Priest called Monsignor Austin Hunt, The Director of The Diaconate for the Archdiocese of Liverpool. There were several nervous men all with wives nudging them forwards! We all gave our details and were told we would receive an invitation in the post to a series of “conversation” evenings. I was still unsure about the whole thing – with a bit of luck God would intervene and my application would be lost!
I soon found out God had no intention of standing in my way, at least not at this juncture. My conversation evening invitation duly arrived, and I was to go to a Church in Crosby the following Friday night.
Friday came and I nervously prepared to drive to the 7.30pm meeting. The journey was about 45 minutes and I timed my departure time at 6.30pm. After all I didn’t want to be too early did I! I picked up my invitation letter as I left the house, and in checking my destination address, was horrified to read the meeting was scheduled not for 7.30pm but 7.00pm!! I was certain to be late – how embarrassing!! Maybe this was God telling me I shouldn’t go. Nevertheless off I went, depressed in the sure thought I would have to walk into the meeting 15 minutes late. I duly arrived at the church at 7.15 to be greeted by a group of people stood outside. The Church was locked and the person with the key was also late!! God clearly was in no mood to let me off the hook!
Conversation evenings were to last for one year – also known as the propedeudic year. It is an important year in many respects, not least in that it gives you a taste of what would potentially lie ahead. The whole process start to finish of Diaconate training is described as “Formation”. Its a necessarily slow process allowing all involved to assess the suitability of the candidates to the vocation. Certainly during this first year the numbers fell away. From an initial intake of around a dozen men, just 3 were left as we approached the end of the year. I had enjoyed my time, exploring different ideas, and areas of my faith. When the time came to decide if I wanted to make a formal application, I had little doubt that it was what I wanted to do. It was not just my decision though. Many Deacons have wives and families. Its a committment which has wider implications, and on my final meeting prior to application, Barbara came with me to make a similar pledge of committment. We received the application forms, completed them and submitted them.
A couple of weeks later, a letter arrived invting me to a full day selection event. Nothing could quite prepare me for what was to follow………