Married Dunedin deacon may open door to others

A married Balclutha man has been ordained the first permanent deacon in the Catholic Church in Dunedin.

“I went to Fiji to complete my studies to become a priest in 2017, but I got married to Fania.

“The following year we began the journey towards me becoming a permanent deacon.”

Deacon Iosefa and Mrs Fania Setu have four young children.

Welcoming Deacon Setu, the Dunedin Catholic diocese website is ablaze with pictures and a video of the ordination. It offers blessings and congratulations.

Deacon Setu hopes his first-of-a-kind appointment in the South will help open the door for others.

Setu did not attend the diocesan seminary nor learn theology at Good Shepherd College in Auckland, rather the process involved four years of academic and practical studies under Fr Mark Chamberlain of Dunedin.

Setu is the first permanent deacon in the South, and he hopes his ordination will “open the door” for other lay Catholics to step forward and offer themselves in service to their communities.

Setu says the church had two types of deacon — transitional and permanent — transitional being part of the pathway to priesthood, which is a celibate role in the Catholic Church.

“Fania is very important to me, and has been a central part of this journey towards becoming a deacon.

“Many people think of Catholic Church officials and only of priests.

“But if you’re already married, becoming a permanent deacon is a way for you and your family to serve God and your community through the ministry of the church.”

Permanent deacons could perform many functions of a priest, including baptisms, weddings, funerals and burials.

Mrs Fania Setu, Bishop Michael Dooley and Deacon Iosefa Setu

South Otago Parish priest Fr Jacob Thevasahayampillai, who will help Setu in his new role, said the ordination was an invitation for the “ordinary people” of the community to fill an important role.

“There are about 45,000 permanent deacons worldwide, but only some 35 in New Zealand, all in the North Island until now,” he said.

Setu was ordained deacon on 20 May by the bishop of Dunedin, Michael Dooley, at St Mary McKillop Church in Balclutha.

The ceremony was attended by 150 people.


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