10 Oct 2016


If the cinemas are an accurate cultural barometer, our age is crying out for heroes, indeed for superheroes. In the short time since I became Archbishop of Sydney there have been two X-Men movies, two Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movies, two Captain America movies, and annual Star Wars films. With slightly fewer powers James Bond has now had 26 goes, and Mad Max, Indiana Jones, and the Mission Impossible team keep on keeping on. Then there’s Spider Man, Guardians of the Galaxy, Ant-Man, The Fantastic Four, The Avengers, and quite a few others I don’t know much about, but I’m sure were modelled on past or present deacons and deacon candidates in formation!

Ours is an age in search of heroes. If only it knew Christ and His saints, it need look no further. There every power worth having, every natural and supernatural virtue, and the greatest stories of danger, action and salvation, have already been told and they are for real. Some saints’ tales may be enlarged in the retelling, but the characters are authentic. Other stories of quieter heroism are unknown to history or legend but they are no less trustworthy for that. You do not need multi-million dollar budgets and computer graphics to make these superheroes. All you need is grace – mediated by the Word, the Sacraments and the People of God.

Enter today’s candidates, Aruna Perera and Eddie Ho. They are, on the face of it, rather unlikely superheroes. For one thing, neither would be mistaken for James Bond or the Incredible Hulk. But Christian heroism is not told in achievements of muscle and superpower, but in acts of self-sacrifice and generosity, often behind the scenes. Like John the Baptist, we Christians must decrease so the Son of Man can increase. Our clergy, in particular, rightly shy away from the spotlight so as always to highlight Christ: we want all eyes on Him. Our heroes, then, are humble, self-effacing men – men like the prophet Isaiah, called from his mother’s womb and formed to be God’s servant or deacon (Isa 49:1-6); men like Aruna and Eddie. This is enough for us: to be small in this world’s eyes, but satisfactory in the service of the Creator and Redeemer of the world.

These two men are, of course, big men, powerful men, in the sense that most matters: they are large-hearted, big-souled, magnanimous men; and they rely on the power of the Holy Spirit working through them. They dared move to Australia from other parts of the world – from Macau and America and from Sri Lanka and India – in search of friendship and opportunity. Little did they know at the time where that might lead: all the way to service at the altar as Deacons of Jesus Christ. But they came with open hearts and minds, ready to be led where God led them.

My dear friends, these men, our brothers, are soon to be ordained to the Order of Deacons. As servants of the Word, they will proclaim the Gospel and bring Christ’s teaching to believers and non-believers alike, for as Jesus said in our Gospel passage, “the harvest is rich but the labourers too few, so ask the Lord of the harvest to send more labourers” (Lk 10:2). They are charged like Jeremiah by God to “Go now to those to whom I send you, to say what I have charged you. Do not be afraid, for I am with you to protect you – it is the Lord who speaks!” (Jer 1:7-8)

In Eddie’s case it was his wife Anne who first said such things to him, suggesting that they study theology together at the Catholic Theological Union in Hunters Hill. She thought that would better equip them to instruct others in the faith. In due course they transferred their studies to the Catholic Institute of Sydney and completed Masters degrees, all the while juggling work and family commitments at the same time.

In Aruna’s case, it was priest and nun relatives who first inspired him, and endless conversations at home and school revolving around the Catholic faith – and, I expect, a cup of tea. He was also influenced by a charismatic renewal movement, which nurtured him in daily prayer, community, liturgy and social action. Then along came Kayshinee who ensured he went daily to Mass and gave him four sons and a daughter Mary, to ensure he practised endless charity. With her support he now desires to build up the kingdom of God beyond the domestic Church and to give witness to God’s love.

My sons, Aruna and Eddie, embrace now the Office of Deacon in the spirit of St Paul’s instruction to Timothy: “Be an example to all believers in the way you speak and behave, above all in your love, your faith and your purity,” he says. “Make use of the time… by reading the word of God, preaching and teaching the people.” (1Tim 4:12-13) Don’t only listen to God’s word but preach it; don’t only teach it, but live it in all you do. Preach faithfully, administer effectively, and serve the poor generously and cheerfully. Reject the false gods of unchastity, avarice and ambition: for no man can serve two masters.

Ours is an age in search of heroes. It needs you, Aruna and Eddie, to be all that you can be under God’s grace. As servants of the word, the altar and the people, you will be servants of God. Draw us closer to Jesus Christ the servant of all, our truest superhero, as He draws you closer to Himself.


Welcome to St Mary’s Cathedral for the Ordination to the Permanent Diaconate of Aruna Perera and Eddie Ho. Along with our candidates I especially welcome their wives Kayshinee Perera and Anne Ho, without whose support they would not be here tonight. Aruna’s mother, Merlyn, is also with us tonight, as is his daughter Krishmalie, a Postulant at the Benedictine community in Jamberoo. I would also like to welcome Eddie Ho’s relatives who have come all the way from the United States.

Tonight we acknowledge those who have assisted our two candidates in discerning their vocation and in their formation for it. Both have told me but they have been taught and encouraged by various priests and deacons, and Eddie asked me to record the particular contribution of the late Fr Paschal Chang to his vocation. Tonight I thank in particular Rev. Dr. Thomas Carroll, our Director of the Permanent Diaconate, and Rev. Dr. Gerard Kelly, President of the Catholic Institute of Sydney, with their staff. I also acknowledge concelebrating with me Auxiliary Bishop Terry Brady, Vicar-General Fr Gerry Gleeson and clergy of the Archdiocese and beyond. It is with great joy that the deacons of the Archdiocese of Sydney welcome two new members to their college this evening, and the clergy and people of the Archdiocese two new ministers of the word, of the altar and of charity.

Conscious of the call to each one of us to service, we repent of our failures and ask God for pardon and peace.