By Sarah Mac Donald - 16 October, 2018
Nine new deacons include two prominent barristers, one of whom was raised a Presbyterian before he became a Catholic.
Bishop Noel Treanor ordained nine men as permanent deacons on Sunday in Belfast, the first cohort to serve in Down and Connor since the permanent diaconate was reintroduced into the Church after Vatican II.
The nine new deacons are: Joseph Baxter, Terence Butcher, Brendan Dowd, Brett Lockhart, James McAllister, Gregory McGuigan, Patrick McNeill, Kevin Webb and Martin Whyte.
The group includes two prominent barristers serving in Northern Ireland.
Brett Lockhart QC represented the Omagh bombing families. He was raised as a Presbyterian and was an Elder in his Church before he joined the Catholic Church.
The group also includes two teachers. Brendan Dowd is a religious education teacher at St Malachy’s College in Belfast and Martin Whyte is principal of St Oliver Plunkett’s Primary School in Toomebridge, Co. Derry.
Speaking after the ceremony at St Peter’s Cathedral in Belfast, Rev Lockhart said he was “overjoyed”.
“I was a Presbyterian and became a Catholic 20 years ago, and this has been an extraordinary journey. I am still loving parts of the Presbyterian background that I come from but being received into the Catholic Church, and now being able to serve the Church, is just overwhelming and brilliant,” he told the Irish News.
Gregory McGuigan QC was also ordained at Sunday’s ceremony.
Speaking ahead of the ordinations, Bishop Treanor said he welcomed the arrival of the permanent diaconate to the diocese.
“To these men, and to their families, I express heartfelt gratitude and appreciation and I assure them of the prayers and support of myself and of the priests and peoples of Down and Connor.”
Permanent deacons can celebrate weddings and funerals and they can read the Gospel at Mass but they cannot hear confessions or celebrate the Eucharist.
The deacons will take up pastoral work in parishes across Down and Connor.
Father of four Rev Brett Lockhart has been appointed by Bishop Treanor to serve in St Brigid’s parish in Belfast in a part-time capacity while continuing to work as a barrister.