It is hard to believe I was ordained a permanent deacon 30 years
ago during a weekend Mass in our parish church in Southern Indiana.
I vividly remember lying face down on the floor, surrounded by
family and friends chanting the Litany of the Saints.
And when I knelt before the bishop and he laid his hands on my
head in total silence, it felt as though time itself came to a
stop. This was a very special moment in my life.
Following ordination, I was off and running. I worked full time
in a Catholic hospital, taught one night a week at a local
university, and served as a parish deacon on the weekends. What I
didn't realize at the time was that I was still very much in the
process of "becoming" a deacon.
Since I had spent a number of years in formation prior to
ordination, how did I come to this understanding of a process of
"becoming" that continues today? I believe it is no different than
making a commitment to enter into marriage, to raising children or
to pursuing a career.
None of these commitments results in a straight-line experience,
often depicted with the words "they lived happily ever after."
Rather they are, at best, seen as a wavy line, depicting ups and
downs. And because of that flux, these commitments need to be
renewed from time to time.
Much of those early years as a deacon seem a blur. The fact is I
never really stopped to reflect on what was happening, not only to
me but to those around me. Recently, I came across some old
homilies from those early days and many of them were bad! You see,
back then, I did them all by myself. After all, I was a trained
Fortunately, through a series of events, the Holy Spirit made it
very clear to me that I needed to change the way I approached my
ministry, as well as the rest of my life. It was a difficult time
for me and my family, but it changed our lives for the better.
Today I see my ministry of deacon as a partnership with my wife,
the bishop, the priests and all of you. Now I have people in my
life who keep me grounded in the real world. For example, more than
once before my weekend to preach, my wife Ann, after looking over
my homily draft, suggested I start over. I thank God that His
Spirit often speaks through those closest to us.
The process of "becoming" a deacon continues with the help of
those we serve. The RCIA candidates and catechumens, as well as the
elderly I am privileged to serve, play a major role in the growth
of my faith.
Actually, the word "deacon" comes from the Greek word for a
table servant, and to me that says it all. I remind myself of this
every time I put on my alb. I think of my alb as my white apron.
Every time I put it on, I remember I am here to serve.