Pat and Brenda Taylor were among the founder members of Grail Partners, the section of the Grail open to married members, which became active in the 1970s. It was surely Pat's awareness of the need for people to support priests that led him to offer himself for training as one of the first permanent married deacons in the country. It was Monsignor Derek Worlock later Archbishop of Liverpool who encouraged him.
Pat was ordained Deacon on the feast of Pentecost, 4 June 1974, an event which was something of a landmark in the life of the Church in this country as Pat was the first permanent married Deacon to be ordained, and for the Portsmouth Diocese. He is now the first in the country to have achieved 40 years whilst still in active service as a Deacon.
St Joseph’s parish in Basingstoke took up the challenge to celebrate in style Pat's 40 years of service as Permanent Deacon. The circular church was full to capacity with parishioners, musicians, a full aisle of clergy from around the diocese, and two bishops, Bishop Philip of Portsmouth and Bishop Christopher his predecessor. I am sure that Pat and Brenda felt the tangible warmth and appreciation which was expressed throughout the very joyous celebration of the Eucharist. The homily preached by Monsignor Vincent Harvey, priest of Portsmouth Diocese, who managed to weave the Gospel passage around some anecdotes which illustrated the humour and dedication inherent in Pat’s ministry. Below is part of the text of his homily which brings out the many gifts Pat has and how they have been used in the service of the Church.
I've know Pat Taylor all my priestly life but the last 17 years, due to my many years here in Basingstoke, I have got to know him and Brenda very well. Today, we are celebrating 40 years of dedicated, committed diaconal service of a man whose ministry was both specific and broad based.
When preparing for this celebration Pat asked that the Mass be one of thanksgiving:
- thanksgiving to God and to the Church
- to Brenda
- to the people he has served and worked with
- for the faith communities, Catholic and beyond, that he has been involved with.
One cannot do that adequately, and be fair to 40 years of commitment, without touching on what that ministry involved and the particular emphasis Pat brought to it.
The Second Vatican Council re-established the Diaconate as an ordained ministry in its own right, and not just a step to priesthood and beyond. It was considered, and still is seen, as a ministry of Word/Altar/ Charity. At one level it came into existence to give those already doing such work, usually in the missions, the grace of Holy Order.
Guiding & Teaching
The ministry gave the deacon a share of the task and the burden of leading, guiding and teaching the People of God on their pilgrim journey. Just as Moses, in the first reading needed others to share in his leadership of the people, to help carry the burdens such a role entailed, so, in a sense, the Deacon was seen in similar light in the 1970s. The Deacon, through ordination, received the spirit of God to strengthen him in the task ahead.
Bishop Derek Worlock, then Bishop of Portsmouth, later Arch-bishop of Liverpool, called Pat to diaconate and was personally involved in Pat's ongoing discernment, training and development. To quote the Archbishop who, in his book 'Give me your hand', describes the process for Pat's training in this way:
'He was a married man in his early forties. He was a convenor of a lay apostolic movement in the Diocese – The Grail – and was used to working with priests as well as laity. He has a sensible wife and was generally acceptable in the new
town where he was living and where a group ministry of priests was operating. He was also a member of the Laity Commission in London.
He had a good job working as a Contracts Executive drafting agreements with governments and large multi-nationals around the world. His experience of life in many countries was a formative time for Pat and, to an extent mapped out the focus of the ministry he was going to commit himself to in the future. '
3 Years of Training
Bishop Worlock outlined the 3 year course of training at a local level and how Pat would meet with the Parish Priest during this time:
- He would be invited, together with Brenda, to meals with the local clergy;
- the Bishop himself would meet with Pat quarterly to discuss developments and support him;
- the Bishop would also chat with Brenda to make sure she was fully supportive and understanding of what was happening.
He also mentions that comments that Brenda took on board a counselling course so that she might support him later with people he may have to help and advise. Bishop Worlock also recognised all that Pat had been able to do before his ordination.
In these early years Pat was seen very much as a bridge between the clerical and lay state; someone with theological, ecclesial and scriptural knowledge immersed in lay life, socially and professionally, but also a cleric with ordained authority and respect within the Diocese.
In this evening's second reading, Peter addresses Cornelius and his household outlining the life, ministry and resurrection of Jesus. Pat took seriously that same task of teaching the faith, particularly through the use of the scriptures.
The Need to Witness
The Word, its proclamation and explanation was a crucial part of Pat's ministry, not just at Mass or Liturgies of the Word, but on a one to one basis before RCIA was developed, and within groups he worked with. This enabled people to grow in their knowledge and faith with a desire to take on more responsibility for the life of the local Church.
Being a staunch proponent of the need to witness to Christ and one's faith at work, Pat took the Word wherever he found himself. At a national level he helped produce papers on faith in the work-place on behalf of the Bishops' Conference. He was a founder member of the South Hants Industrial Mission, an ecumenical approach to witnessing to the faith on the workshop floor and boardroom.
His ecumenical activity did not stop there. He was always engaging with ministers and lay people from other Christian communities in order that we better understand one another and so present a more unified image of the emerging Kingdom of God.
The Gift of Healing
Pat was aware that he was not alone. Like the 72 sent out by Christ into the community to witness to the faith, to heal and to proclaim the Kingdom, Pat built community and through this, discovered the gift of the ministry of healing which grew and grew. He would often say that it was not him but God doing the healing. He simply discovered the gift of enabling God's Spirit to bring about healing in many different ways. Because of this, and the reputation Pat acquired, he was appointed by Bishop Crispian, the then Bishop of Portsmouth, as an advisor on the ministry of healing.
Several times Pat was given pastoral oversight of pastoral areas notably Brighton Hill just down the road, Oakley and Overton further afield. Under his guidance, through preaching, teaching and the setting up of small cell groups these centres grew into vibrant communities of faith and outreach.
A Joint Ministry
Through his proclamation of the gospel, his healing ministry, pastoral work, and industrial mission, Pat, often with Brenda's help, saw individuals through difficult and life threatening times. In the course of their joint ministry, over 32,000 people visited their house, some staying for extended periods because they literally had no money or place to lay their head!
The work Pat has done, both inside and outside the Church, was recognised by the local community when he was presented with a 'Making a Difference' certificate by the Mayor of Basingstoke.
During these 40 years Pat has worked with many clergy, priests and deacons and, of course, 4 bishops. It hasn't always been plain sailing because as, in a sense, being the incumbent, being the permanent fixture, there have been tension and challenges to face with regard to personalities and priorities. At these challenging moments, Brenda has been there to support him.
Ministry at all Levels
Pat & Brenda in conversation with Kate,
on the occasion of the Grail moving
But I am sure that Pat would not want it to stop there. If our thanksgiving means anything, if our gratitude to God, Brenda and Pat himself is to be meaningful, Pat would want us, I am sure, to be active in ministry at all levels:
- proclaiming the Scripture through word and example
- being a healing presence in our community and beyond
- enabling those in industry to experience the living Christ
- to work with other Christian communions for the building up of the Kingdom of God.
At the end of Mass, Bishop Philip gave a special blessing to Pat and Brenda asking that 'Amid the joys and struggles of their life, you have preserved the union between them; renew their marriage covenant, increase your love in them, and strengthen their bond of peace so that they may always rejoice in the gift of your blessing'. This was met by a resounding 'Amen'.
The evening was also memorable for the enthusiastic singing accompanied by an instrumental ensemble and the seemingly endless procession which wended its way to receive communion. It was rounded off with wine, snacks and celebratory cake offered in the hall.
Pat and Brenda were clearly moved by the effort that had gone into the celebration.
Ad Multos Annos!
Grail Community Member
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