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Q&A with The Rev'd Karol and Deanna Misso

Spotlight Q&A

Meet The Rev’d Karol and Deanna Misso and find out about their 50-year journey as a priest and priest’s spouse and what advice they have for newly ordained clergy and their partners

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Priest and Priest Spouse: Ministry Together

The Rev’d Karol and partner Deanna have been a priest and priest’s partner, respectively, for over 50 years. In this Spotlight Q&A they share about the challenges and highlights of their broad international ministry together.

Can you tell us a little about your journey as a married couple together?

We met at a Youth Conference in 1959 at Trinity College, Kandy, Sri Lanka and married at St Michael and All Angels in Colombo, Sri Lanka in 1966. We have two daughters, who are 50 and 48 years of age, and three grandchildren, who are 15, 12 and nine. We migrated to Australia from Sri Lanka in 1972. Between 1989 and 1994, we lived in Hong Kong where Karol worked as Chaplain and Director of a Counselling Service in St John’s Cathedral and where Deanna worked as a Mental Health Worker with the UNHCR in a Vietnamese camp for people seeking asylum. Karol celebrated his 50th anniversary of ordination in December 2015.

Where do you currently live and where do you worship?

We live in the north-side suburb of Fitzgibbon and we worship at Christ Church, St Lucia.

How long have you been involved in the Anglican Church and in what roles?

The Rev’d Karol: I am a cradle Anglican! In Sri Lanka, I have carried out the roles of altar server, Sunday School Teacher, Youth Officer, Assistant Curate, and office bearer for the Diocesan Christian Education Committee and Church of Ceylon Youth Movement. In Brisbane, I have been Assistant Curate, Grovely; Rector at St Laurence’s in Caboolture and All Saints in Chermside; a member of several Diocesan and national boards and committees; and, Ecumenical Chaplain at Brisbane College of Advanced Education/Queensland University of Technology. In Hong Kong, I was Chaplain/Director of St John’s Anglican Cathedral Counselling Service.

Deanna: I was baptised as an infant, attended Sunday School and worshipped with my family. I was a Sunday school teacher and  an active member of the Church of Ceylon Youth Movement. After I married Karol, I continued to exercise in ministry, as I felt encouraged/attracted to the parishes to which we were appointed.

What are your current roles, including any voluntary roles, and what do your roles involve?

The Rev’d Karol: I am currently a retired Honorary Assistant Priest at Christ Church, St Lucia where I preside and preach at Sunday Eucharist. I continue my ministry in the secular world as a nationally registered Counselling Therapist (specialising in relationship issues and sexuality), Consultant, Workshop Presenter and Lecturer

Deanna: I am a volunteer Anglican Pastoral Care Visitor at The Prince Charles Hospital and Holy Spirit Northside Private Hospital two days each week. I endeavour to be a non-judgmental listening presence. I also administer the sacrament of Holy Communion when requested.

The Rev’d Karol with a Church Warden in Chaplaincy of Estepona, Costa del Sol, Spain

What projects and activities are you currently working on?

The Rev’d Karol: I support stewardship initiatives, including Act for Peace and Christmas Bowl, and social justice issues, including the rights of refugees and people seeking asylum.

Deanna: I am also a passionate supporter of Act for Peace and the Christmas Bowl.

What have been the highlights of your roles so far?

The Rev’d Karol: Promoting the roles of women and children in ministry has been a highlight for me, as has promoting the concepts of the ‘role of all baptised Christians in ministry and consciousness raising on social justice and human rights issues’.

Deanna: In the detention camps in Hong Kong, knowing I had helped the women from North Vietnam to realise their dignity and helped the men to make choices that put their families first; and, as a Pastoral Carer in the hospitals, connecting spiritually with a patient while sharing the Gospel of love and redemption, and seeing fear replaced by hope. These are key highlights for me.

What have been the key challenges of your roles so far?

The Rev’d Karol: The key challenges for me have been the development of lay ministry across all areas of parish life, including active inclusion of children of all ages in Eucharistic worship, and promoting a scholarly and contemporary understanding of Scripture through teaching and preaching.

Deanna: Creating a comfortable space with patients who reject a concept of God, respecting and affirming their position and finding a way to tap into their spirituality.

Deanna taking a moment in the Multi-faith Centre before commencing her visits to the wards at The Prince Charles Hospital

What advice do you have for couples who are new to the roles of being a clergy person and a spouse of a clergy person?

The Rev’d Karol: For the priest: always remember first that you are a human being, second a Christian and third a priest. For the partner: affirm and value your individual identity, as you are essentially a partner, not a clergy spouse.

Deanna: Be an objective listener and a sounding board for your spouse. Prioritise your roles – partner, mother/father and parishioner. And, bring your own unique gifts to the life of the parish.

What are your plans and goals for the next 12 months?

The Rev’d Karol: Enrolling a Year Two Education for Ministry Group; continuing to contribute to the Eucharistic worship in the parish through presiding and preaching; and, presenting workshops and seminars at the interface of theology and psychology. I have been registered with the Anglican Diocese of Europe and have done three locums in Morocco, Spain and France, with plans to do another in Germany in 2019.

Deanna: To just be able to do all the things I do right now.

Can you tell us a little about your personal faith journeys?

The Rev’d Karol: I was inspired in early adolescence by my older brother who was a priest and young, vibrant and energetic vicar in Sri Lanka. My faith was challenged and grew through the modelling and leadership of significant mentors in a youth movement. Significant spiritual development happened during three years of theological training. My faith has been greatly enriched by laity, who have shared my journey, and the simple yet profound faith of my life partner.

Deanna: From my father, I developed commitment to regular worship, and from my mother I gained an abiding faith in the all-providing love of a gracious God. My faith also grew with the love of quiet spaces and reading the Bible and inspirational books. The friendship and example of two priests during my early adulthood also had a profound impact on my faith journey.

How does your faith inspire you and shape your outlook, life choices and character?

The Rev’d Karol: My faith has never been based purely on a set of beliefs or commands, as it has always related to action and making responsible decisions based on a living relationship with God within the context of my life in the 21st century.

Deanna: I believe in a God who empowers, who respects and affirms me, allows me to make mistakes, but will journey with me through all my choices. I believe in a God of love and wonders, who does great things. This belief enables me to be positive, take responsibility for my actions and rise above the inevitable trials of life.

What is your favourite scripture and why?

The Rev’d Karol: I have never had a favourite scripture. At different times in my faith journey, I have moved to explore salient passages, always in context and in terms of relevance to the contemporary world. As I am not good at recalling scripture, I rely on a good concordance!

Deanna: ‘The LORD is my appointed portion and my cup; you hold my lot in your hands. The share that has fallen to me is in pleasant places; and a fair land is my possession (Psalm 16:5-6)’. It reminds me to be grateful.

What are the primary strengths of the Church and what is the best way to make the most of these for the benefit of our communities?

The Rev’d Karol: The Church is good at pastoral care and continues to reach out to the hungry, homeless, sick, lonely, marginalised and refugees, irrespective of race, colour or religious affiliation. To make the most of this, we need to grow the pool of volunteers.

What are the primary challenges currently encountered by the Church and what is the best way to overcome these for the benefit of our communities?

The Rev’d Karol: Coming out of the safety of our church structures and speaking to the burning issues of our global world, such as poverty, violence, erosion of human rights, modern day slavery, the rights of refugees and displaced people, and the environment. We need courageous and learned leaders who are prepared to ‘stand up and be counted’ without fear or favour.

What do you do in your free time to recharge and relax?

The Rev’d Karol: In my free time, I walk; go ballroom dancing; read about theology, psychology, politics, sexology and cricket; watch the occasional movie or documentary; keep up with the news on TV; travel; and, get involved in university alumni activities.

Deanna: Make photobooks of our holiday travel photos; watch DVDs; see live theatre, especially ballet; long walks; reading; dressmaking; outings with my spouse; meeting up with girlfriends; and, sharing time with my daughters and grandkids.

What is your favourite book and why?

The Rev’d Karol: Passionate Marriage, by David Schnarch. It taught me how to keep intimacy and passion alive in a long-term committed relationship.

Deanna: I have several, but The King’s General by Daphne du Maurier comes to mind. I relish historical novels based on fact and written by a master craftsperson.

What is your favourite movie and why?  

Deanna: Most recently the movie Wonder from the book of the same name by R J Palacio. It is the story of an exceptional child and two remarkable parents brought to life on screen by skilled actors. It is a story about everyday choices of behaviour and how they can enhance or distort our lives.

What is your favourite travel destination and why?

The Rev’d Karol: Eastern Europe is amongst our wide travel destinations. I was enlightened by the manner in which these previous Communist countries preserved some of the positive aspects of their past, while at the same time moving towards a new era.

Deanna: Our travel destinations have been too diverse to pick a favourite, but our two months in Fontainebleau in France, with its magnificent forests will forever be ‘my happy place’.

The Rev’d Karol, Deanna and Archbishop Phillip Aspinall at Karol’s 50th anniversary of his ordination in 2015

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