George and Kaye’s vocation journey
|George and Kaye toast the birth of their third grandchild. Photo: Will Luckman.|
Originally published in Catholic Outlook September 2014
By Will Luckman
When most people think of religious vocations, their minds instinctively gravitate towards priests, nuns and brothers – celibate servants of God who live to love and serve.
But as George and Kaye Bryan discovered, when faced with the age-old dilemma of children or Church, there is a way to have your wedding cake and eat it too; as a permanent deacon.
In fact, what makes this couple unique is that they are so perfectly normal. Members of St Finbar’s Parish at Glenbrook, George is a devout Catholic with a spirituality grounded in the Benedictine tradition, while Kaye has no particular religious connection, despite having a strong spiritual awareness.
They met 40 years ago at a Catholic Club dance; got married, had kids, and now, in retirement, breathed new life into their marriage when they decided to inquire about the permanent diaconate, an ordained ministry for both married and single men.
Kaye: "I thought in our retirement we may have taken up bushwalking or ballroom dancing, but I didn't think we'd be embarking on this. It has added an amazing spiritual bond to our marriage. We've had conversations, and broached subjects, that we would never have shared before."
George: "The love between two people generates a third entity in their lives, which is the marriage. In our lives we now have a fourth entity, which is our vocation. And I deliberately say our because it's something we do together. To the outside observer I may be the one doing the courses, but I never feel it's just mine. It requires the support of us both, just like our marriage, and it's difficult for me to conceive of doing it without Kaye."
Though they now sit arm in arm, celebrating the birth of their third grandson and a newfound love for each other and God, earlier Kaye had doubts.
Kaye: "I was worried George was going to leave me and become a monk because he loved God and religion was so important to him."
George: "Of course, that was never going to happen, but I don't think either of us was really aware that this option was available."
But after a busy work life, George always knew at some point he would need to find time to give something back. Kaye was searching for spiritual answers after the sudden passing of her parents.
It it is now six years since their first tentative steps into the theological unknown and as George's formation nears its end the dynamic duo has big plans for the years ahead.
George: "I would really like to work with mental health and to be able to take Kaye with me because it’s a ministry where people crave normality; to be able talk to a couple who aren't medical people, social workers or part of the hospital establishment, just normal people. A lot of the ministry is about presence, just being there for people."
Kaye: "One day if George is called to a house where someone has died I would like to think that I could go as well. Now that might simply be to support him, or to say 'George, these people don't want to hear about God just yet, they want a cup of tea, and they want to talk.' And then later he can comfort them.
“There are a lot of people out there who don't feel comfortable going to church. They want somebody just to visit them either in a religious or non-religious sense, and I think the Church needs people who can identify with them; people who have had kids, who have a mortgage, and are struggling to pay bills, and have done all that. I think a deacon provides that because they've got that life experience from being a part of community."
George: "It’s a call to be with the people; living with the people. If I was trying to talk to somebody who's contemplating this vocation, I would say you need to have the support of your partner, and a spirituality that challenges you, that calls you to look beyond who you are.
“You have to be prepared to let go of structure, and allow the Holy Spirit to form you. As my spiritual director once said, 'This is not what normal people do', but it’s a great place to be, and I wouldn't swap it for the world."
Permanent Diaconate Information Afternoon
Single men aged over 21 and married couples who are interested in finding out more about the permanent diaconate are invited to an information day at St Anthony’s Parish, Toongabbie, on Sunday 5 October 2014, from 2pm-5pm.
For more information please contact Rev Fr Arthur Bridge, Director of Vocations to the Permanent Diaconate, tel (02) 9631 3316, firstname.lastname@example.org
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