Married Catholic deacon is ‘no holy Joe’
Rev Jim Adams is one of first eight Catholic deacons to be ordained here
The Rev Deacon Jim Adams at St Joseph’s Church Bonnybrook in Dublin: “I don’t have to face the loneliness of priesthood. I have the best of both worlds.” Photograph: Cyril Byrne
He would have you believe he is just an ordinary Joe, “not a holy Joe”. But he, by the grace of God, the assent of Monica and to the occasional bemusement of his children, is Rev Adams. Rev Deacon Jim Adams, permanent deacon of the Roman Catholic Church in Dublin. One of the first such people to exist in a place once hailed as the Island of Saints and Scholars.
History was made at Dublin’s Pro Cathedral on June 4th, 2012 when he and seven other men were ordained Ireland’s first permanent deacons by Archbishop Diarmuid Martin. Since then, as permanent deacon at Bonnybrook parish on Dublin’s northside, his role has involved all the functions of a priest except he cannot celebrate the Eucharist at Mass, give the last rites or hear confession.
What he can do is “serve”. He assists the priest at Masses, reads the gospel, assists at baptisms, marriages and funerals, presides at benedictions, brings Communion to the sick, trains altar servers and lay readers, and preaches homilies. He does this latter “by invitation” of the priest at Masses in Bonnybrook.
So how has it all been so far? “It’s a bit like marriage. You start out with one idea and it evolves into something else,” he said.
‘Best of both worlds
Rev Adams knows all about marriage. He married Monica 35 years ago when he was 20. Their four adult children are aged from 25 to 34. Monica’s support is “invaluable” and means “I don’t have to face the loneliness of priesthood. I have the best of both worlds.” He “never wanted to be a priest. I was never an altar boy”.
He worked at Tool Hire for decades until made redundant in 2008. Currently he works as a tutor and assistant with the Irish Wheelchair Association.
It was when the children began to come along that he started to think about his Catholicism. But one event made him do so seriously. “My father-in-law died 25 years ago. There was a Mass in the house. I refused the host at Communion. It had such an effect on me.”
It was the beginning of a spiritual journey which led him to study theology and philosophy part-time at All Hallows College. He became involved with the parish ministry team at Bonnybrook. He worked locally with Accord, the marriage advisory service. The parish team ministry is very important in Bonnybrook and currently consists of six women, three men, two priests and himself.
In 2008, when the Dublin archdiocese advertised for full-time parish pastoral workers, he considered applying. Around the same time he read an advertisement in this newspaper for men who wished to join the permanent diaconate. Formation took four years at the Mater Dei Institute in Dublin, including “one year of discernment” in which Monica was encouraged to take part.
She had to agree to his becoming a deacon, in a separate letter to the archdiocese. Such is the case with married men who wish to become deacons. They have to be aged between 35 and 55 and have the assent of their wives. Single men can be aged from 25 and must take a vow of celibacy. Should a married deacon’s wife die he, too, is expected to take a vow of celibacy. Where priesthood, the diaconate and celibacy are concerned Rev Adams believes it should be optional.