St. Dunstan, Kings Heath & St. Jude, Maypole
My name is Martin Casey. I am a first year on the Permanent Diaconate Formation Programme for the Archdiocese of Birmingham. I am married, and live with my wife, Sam, and children Teresa (9) and Francis (6) in the parishes of St. Dunstan and St. Jude’s, which serve the Kings Heath and Maypole areas of South Birmingham. I have worked as a Physics teacher at Archbishop Ilsley School in Acocks Green for the past 11 years.
I grew up in the parish of St Teresa’s, Aspley, in the Diocese of Nottingham. I was always involved in the life of the parish as a child and teenager, as often as not doing odd jobs that didn’t fit anyone else’s remit. I look back now on this time as wonderfully formative, and I can certainly see the beginnings of what I now understand as a vocation to diaconal service. When I was 18, I moved to Birmingham to study at Newman College and, after marrying and qualifying as a teacher, got a job and decided to stay!
The diaconate was first mentioned to me about 8 years ago, whilst on a school pilgrimage to Lourdes. At that point I knew virtually nothing about the permanent diaconate, but if someone else had seen the possibility in me, perhaps there was something to consider. Around this time I began reciting the major hours of the Divine Office regularly, and asking for discernment in my daily prayers.
A few months later, out of the blue, my parish priest at Our Lady Help of Christians, Kitts Green asked if I had ever considered becoming a deacon. As is often the case with those who pursue a vocation, more and more pieces were fitting together (as indeed, they still are). I went to speak with him and was put in touch with a deacon who suggested a number of books which would give me more information. I read them eagerly, but quickly discovered that while I felt more and more that a ministry of service was something I could well be called to, I was too young to enter formation.
Over the next few years, I continued to pray for discernment and was buoyed up by the occasional times when someone would unexpectedly mention the diaconate to me. Each time this happened I was able to answer that actually I had, but I was too young… until one day it dawned on me that I wasn’t too young anymore! I had since moved to my current parish, and after digging out and rereading those books (and some new ones), I decided to approach my new parish priest. By this point I had got into a circular mentality of “I’m not worthy to be considering this,” countered with “perhaps I do have some deeper service to offer.” In short, my discernment had become like a game of (spiritual and prayerful) tennis.
I was put in touch with the Director of the Diaconate for the Archdiocese, who came to visit one afternoon and asked my wife and I to attend a day for discerners at his parish in Coventry. This went well and I was invited to begin the propaedeutic year, which consisted of a series of weekends at St Mary’s, Oscott, with a few other commitments back in the parish in between. The discerners’ day and the propaedeutic year taught us both a great deal about the realities of the diaconate - things that cannot be found in any book - largely by allowing open, frank conversations with current deacons and students about their ministry and experiences. During the propaedeutic year, I applied formally to Archbishop Bernard to enter formation. This seemed like a daunting prospect, as there were lots of different components and people involved, but it actually proceeded remarkably smoothly.
So now I find myself, two years after approaching my parish priest, in the first year of formation. Please pray for me and my fellow students in our discernment and formation; for vocations to the priesthood and religious life; and for the openness of all hearts and minds to God’s call, whenever and wherever it may come.