The newly appointed National Co-ordinator of the Permanent Diaconate in Australia, Rev Paul Simmons, says communication will be his top priority as he seeks to support deacons in their role as bridge-builders in the Church. Rev Simmons, who was ordained a deacon in 2004 for the Diocese of Broken Bay, has been appointed by the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference to a three-year term as National Co-ordinator, which began on June 1. Chairman of the Bishops Commission for Church Ministry, Bishop Michael Malone welcomed the appointment. ‘Deacon Paul Simmons is a man with a diaconal heart,’ he said. ‘He will bring to his new position a clear sense of how the Permanent Diaconate enhances all aspects of ministry in the Church.’ Married for 37 years, and with two children and six grandchildren, Rev Simmons spent 35 years in the electricity industry before becoming a permanent deacon and believes this life experience helps form the special charism of the deacon. ‘People often ask, ‘˜what can a deacon do?’,’ he said. ‘But that question misses the point. The question really is, ‘˜who is the deacon?’.’ ‘The answer to that really comes out of the spirituality and the gifts of individual deacons. Some are gifted at working with the elderly, some with youth, some in the military, the Australian Federal Police, marriage tribunals, prisons and hospitals. ‘Some deacons are in full-time civilian employment and are a link between the Church and the workplace, the Church and the world. ‘But essentially, being with people who are on the margins, on the edges of society, is very much a diaconal ministry. We minister through witness, to where the need is.’ Rev Simmons said in his role as National Co-ordinator of the Permanent Diaconate, he would focus on communication. ‘It is very important to touch base with deacons and their families around the country, to find out how they’re feeling, what ongoing formation they’ve had, and what can be done to facilitate that ongoing formation,’ he said. ‘I see this role as also just being a presence to the diaconate community. ‘The diaconate is often referred to as a bridge between the people and the Church. A deacon can be that link, moving among the people, priests and bishops, and I look forward to being able to help facilitate that.’ Rev Simmons said there were now about 100 permanent deacons in dioceses around Australia.