Bishop of Motherwell, Joseph Toal, will preside at the ordinations of three seminarians of the Scots College, Rome on the 1st May. Here, Bishop Toal reflects on the importance of the ordinations in the lives of those to be ordained and of the seminary.
I recently overheard Archbishop Mario Conti. Emeritus Archbishop of Glasgow, telling one of the Motherwell seminarians soon to be ordained a deacon that he had ordained me as a deacon in March 1979 in the Chapel of the Royal Scots College in Valladolid. When I was ordained bishop in Oban in 2008 Archbishop Conti had by then been a bishop for 30 years and would be Archbishop of Glasgow for another 4 years. This long ministry in the Church in Scotland is a fine example of the dedicated service offered by many priests and bishops across our Scottish Dioceses. Another outstanding example, and also a former student of the Pontifical Scots College, is Bishop Maurice Taylor, who will be 90 this year and continues to supply in the parishes of Galloway Diocese.
As some of the young men from today’s group of Scottish seminarians come to their diaconate ordination the Church in Scotland looks forward with anticipation and longing to their diaconal and priestly ministry in our dioceses – some may also be called later to the episcopal ministry, although it is unlikely I will be around to reminisce in the style of Archbishop Conti if that should happen!
In the life of a seminary diaconate ordinations are always very special, as those who have been preparing for priesthood for a number of years now receive the Sacrament of Holy Orders. It is a great blessing both to be ordained a deacon and to look forward to Ordination as a Priest, which is the goal of seminary formation. It is a special day for those who are ordained and for those looking forward to this day in their own lives – seeing colleagues and friends reach this day offers encouragement and hope to all in the seminary, especially if at times the journey does feel long and marked by moments of doubt or anxiety.
Ordination as a deacon places particular emphasis on being formed in the likeness of Christ the Servant. Through the power of the Holy Spirit the deacon is formed in the person of Christ, Our Servant Lord, and is commissioned to bring this self-giving love to all whom he ministers to. There is therefore a complete offering of one’s life to the Lord and his people and a generous willingness to do this is whatever ministry the Bishop asks the deacon to undertake. The promise of obedience made during the ordination rite indicates this full commitment to diaconal service freely chosen and given. This promise extends into priesthood, as does the promise to live a celibate life as a further sign of the offering of the whole of one’s life to the Lord and his Body, the Church.
The present diaconate ordinations are taking place in the Jubilee Year of Mercy, and both the call to a deeper understanding of the merciful love of the Father revealed in Jesus Our Saviour and the need to show this mercy in our own lives provide another excellent focus on diaconal ministry. Since the first description of deacons in the Acts of the Apostles the diaconal ministry has always been linked closely with acts of charity for the benefit of those most in need, and it incorporates a keen awareness of and willingness to carry out the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. We pray that the new deacons will find inspiration for their ministry in this Year of Mercy, and that others may benefit from the love and goodness offered through them in the name and person of Our Lord and saviour Jesus Christ.
I ask God’s blessing on those about to be ordained deacons – Jonathan, Paul and Bernard – and pray that their ministry may be fruitful, and inspire and sustain them as they continue to prepare for priesthood.
+ Joseph Toal