A friend noted on her FB page this morning that for the first time a permanent deacon — Deacon Elliott Casalegno — has died in the Archdiocese of Sydney, Australia. The diaconate there is still very new, and very small. The archdiocese ordained its first deacon in 1997, and added just four more in 2000. One of those in the last class was Elliott.
Deacon Elliott Casalegno also happens to be someone who had touched my own life. In 2008, he was a reader of “The Deacon’s Bench,” and sent me an email when they were planning World Youth Day in Sydney, asking if I’d write something for a brochure at their vocations tent. He was excited at the opportunity of spreading the word about the diaconate to young people, and I was only too happy to help him out. We swapped emails a few times after that, and he reported that the “deacon booth” had been a great success.
More on his life, from the Archdiocese of Sydney website:
Deacon Elliott Casalegno, one of the five permanent deacons with the Archdiocese of Sydney’s Diaconate suffered a severe infection and on Sunday, 19 February died at Liverpool Hospital where he had been undergoing treatment over the past 12 weeks.
Aged 72, the Queensland-born Deacon Casalegno is survived by his wife Regina and their daughter, Nova who lives in Medina, Ohio in the USA with her husband, Ryan and their five year old son, Joshua.
“He was a joyous personality and full of warmth and enthusiasm for his ministry and will be sadly missed,” says his long time friend, Deacon Paul Naggar. “I was ordained a little earlier than Elliott but we knew each other during our formation and became firm friends. His passing is a loss for all who knew him, and particularly for the Holy Family Church at Menai where was appointed less than six months ago.”
Ordained by the (then) Archbishop of Sydney, Cardinal Edward Clancy on 15 July, 2000, Deacon Casalegno was appointed to his home parish of St Felix de Valois, Bankstown where he and his family had lived since 1961. He was then appointed chaplain to Rookwood Cemetery where he spent six months before joining St Brendan’s Parish, Central Bankstown as Deacon. Next came several years at Sts John Vianney and Thomas More Parish at Greenacre before being appointed to his home parish of St Brendan’s Parish of Central Bankstown before Our Lady of the Southern Cross Parish, Enmore-Tempe.
His most recent appointment in September 2011 was to Holy Family Parish at Menai.
“He loved all aspects of the ministry but especially loved presiding over baptisms and marriages,” Deacon Naggar recalls.
During the last few years, Deacon Casalegno often said he enjoyed the opportunity his marriage ministry gave him “to bring, in a friendly way and non-threatening way, an understanding of what it is to be Christian and Catholic to couples who are almost always non-practicing and unchurched.”
And you can read more about the short history of the diaconate in Sydney here.
My prayers this day go out to Elliott’s family, and all those who loved him.
Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him…