by Deacon Mike Whitehead
We asked the Permanent Deacons celebrating their one-year anniversary in the Diocese of Shreveport to submit short reflections on their parish ministries.
Deacon Tom Deal
Jesus the Good Shepherd Catholic Church
My first year as a deacon in the Catholic Church has been filled with challenges, surprises, but most of all, blessings.
The challenges of my first year have come in the integration of my life as a deacon with my other life ââ as a husband, father, grandfather and insurance agent. The problem is not so much time management of the required duties of a deacon as it is the management of choice ââ deciding how to spend what used to be âfree time.â
The subjective judgment to expand my duties as a deacon requires time be taken from some other part of my life ââ home and family, work or personal time. Thatâs not so hard at first because you naturally take your personal time, but when you get past that, the choices become more difficult and affect your life more. I have managed it and have more or less settled into a routine, keeping my priorities as we were taught in formation ââ God first, family second, work third and church fourth. If beingÂ a deacon was not so rewarding and satisfying, it wouldnât be a problem.
The first and most notable surprise in my first year as a deacon came with some sadness followed by joy. The first on the list is the passing of our beloved priest, friend and mentor, Father David Richter, pastor of Jesus the Good Shepherd where I am assigned. The surprise included the four services at the church on the Saturday and Sunday following Father Richterâs death, with Bishop Duca, Father Price and Father Garvin presiding, with fellow Deacon Chris Domingue and I in service.
The masses were emotional for our parish, yet healing at the same time. The joy of all this came in knowing Father Richter was receiving his just reward in heaven and leaving us behind to play expanded roles in our parish, but not before teaching us how to be willing servants by word and, of course, example.
The next surprise also serves as the blessing I spoke of earlier.Â It came in relation to a funeral when I was asked to preside over a vigil service, funeral and graveside service for a young man killed in a car accident. This happened after Father Richterâs death. No priest was available, so I was called upon to do the service.
I had almost no time to prepare and it was my very first time serving at a funeral, as a deacon in this or any other capacity. Iâm still not sure exactly what I said in the reflection at the vigil service, but the family said it was perfect. The funeral and graveside service the next day were equally spiritual and rewarding experiences as a deacon in service.
I have since done three funerals as presider, and I have come to the realization that our service as deacons is no more needed, appreciated and rewarding than when provided to a grieving family at the death of a loved one. The sense of loss, despair and sorrow are so profound, so overwhelming that for us to serve as an emissary of Christ to bring comfort and peace to aÂ family in this context may very well be our most rewarding service as a deacon. It is a true blessing.
Deacon Chris Domingue
Jesus the Good Shepherd Catholic Church
As I look back on the last year, I see mistakes, successes, tough times and sheer joy.Â All of it has been a blessing. I have been touched by the people of my parish and those of other parishes who know that I am a deacon and who not only congratulate me for my ordination, but thank me for my service.
I have had the pleasure of working with a quiet and solid spiritual leader in the pastoral care of Father David Richter, before his sudden passing. I had the honor of serving at the celebration of his life during the funeral mass offered for him at the Cathedral of St. John Berchmans.
Most recently, I have experienced the loss of Msg. Moore who has been a fixture of Jesus the Good Shepherd Parish for many years. In my heart I know that Father David Richter and Monsignor Moore are still guiding me in my ministry. I am blessed to have the energetic and enthusiastic, yet profoundly spiritual, leadership of Father Keith Garvin. Ihave the honor and opportunity to work with Deacon Tom Deal whom I admire so much and who teaches me by word and example.
I have led sessions in the RCIA process and was able to see 12 candidates come into full communion at the Easter Vigil. I have personally welcomed five new members to the Catholic family through the Sacrament of Baptism and assisted in the wedding of a nephew in south Louisiana.
I have persisted in my daily morning and evening prayers. I have found myself in complete awe of the Liturgy of the Eucharist as I served on the altar. I have spoken words that I did not know were there as I prepared and then delivered my homilies. I have done several Benedictions, communion services and vocational prayer services. I have been blessed to have the privilege to serve with the Bishop at the Red Mass and other liturgical services.
I have been afforded the privilege of using my gift of singing the Christmas and Easter proclamations, as well as with our choir when I am not serving on the altar. I have continued to participate and lead a small faith sharing community (Bible study group) and see it grow.
Through it all my wife, Szu-Wei, and my family have been solidly at my side ââ sometimes cheerleading, sometimes refereeing; but at all times, the grounding wisdom of my ministry. And though sometimes, perhaps often times, I have made mistakes; I have been blessed by everything God has brought me to and through.
It has been a good year.Â A year of learning, of praying, of crying (I even cried at my first Baptism, I was so moved), and laughing, it has also been a year of personal and spiritual growth and growing into my ministry. Though I do not know the future, I trust in Godâs plan to lead me where he needs me. I pray that I serve God and all his people well, and that it brings him (not me) all the glory.
Deacon Steve Lehr
St. Jude Catholic Church
My first year as a deacon began with me being ordained on a Saturday and an hour later I assisted at my mass at St. Jude and was called to give my first homily.
What a day of joy and a little bit of anxiety. I made it through that day and was welcomed by a great community of people at St. Jude.Â I am still getting use to people calling me Deacon Steve, but it is a great honor to serve Bishop Duca and the Catholic Church. I have so much to experience and to learn, but with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, I will continue to hope in the Lord and be brave.
There has been several memories for reflection that I would like to share. I have stood many times at the altarÂ and looked out into the congregation and witnessed great reverence and praise for our Lord in the most holy Eucharist. As a community we are truly participating in the most important event in all of our lives and that has become more evident to me as a Deacon on the altar. I am very thankful to serve at the mass. The Benediction at the adoration of the Blessed Sacrament is a powerful prayer, even though I am not good at singing in Latin. Godâs presence is such a precious gift until he returns in his glory and to take the time (which is the key to conversion) to be still and give him praise can be a new beginning.
The blessing of the graves is a rite that touched me immensely. I have been Catholic all my life and never knew about the blessing of graves of love ones who have passed on.
I was called to lead with other fellow deacons and I was inspired by the faith and love of all who come every year to remember their love ones and lift them up in Godâs mercy. I walked through the cemetery in my vestments not in sadness but in joy. The stories and love of family members that people shared with me before each prayer of blessing was a beautiful testament that faith is alive not dead. Godâs love is bigger than any grave and he proved that the moment the stone rolled away.
One of the most precious memories of all is when I did my first baptism. I baptized Ella, my granddaughter. I was so excited to witness Godâs grace on this day. I have to say that baptisms are such a great joy overall. I could go on and on, but I will have to end with an exultation ââ God is good, all the time. All the time, God is good.
Deacon Danny LeMoine
Christ the King Catholic Church
Itâs hard to believe that it has been almost a year since our ordination. My wife, Linda, and I find that our days and weeks are incredibly busy lately. We have been so blessed and serving the parishioners of our parish has enriched our lives so much. In addition, we continue to grow stronger together spiritually as a couple.
Our year has been very full as we have become more involved in the parish. I have been well received by the parishioners of Christ the King and Holy Trinity, and I am so grateful for the love and support that I have received from them. It is real now. The first time I was addressed as Deacon Daniel was so humbling. The feedback has been very positive. Several parishioners have told me that they can connect to or see themselves in my homilies.
At Christ the King, I usually preach on the last weekend of the month, and assist Father Karl during at least one mass a week. In addition, Msgr. Provenza and Fr. Charles Glorioso have given me the honor of preaching on the second weekend of every month at Holy Trinity.Â Over all, it has been a beautiful spiritual filled year.
Deacon Jack Lynch
St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic Church
The call you receive from Willis-Knighton Pierremont or the Veteranâs Administration Hospital does not always explain the circumstances of someone’s health. They could be near death or just wanting prayer before a relatively minor surgery. Often times when the patient is going in for a dangerous surgery or is near death, you are not just praying for the patient, but for the spouse and family, as well.
On one of my first outings I was called to pray over a veteran who was just about to go in for surgery. Before we prayed, I asked his wife what his first name was. She gave me his name, and then she gave me her name. My tunnel vision ofÂ being focused on the patient only was suddenly broadened when I realized he was not the only one who wanted or needed prayer.Â He might have been facing a serious operation, but his wife also needed the assurance of the Lord’s presence to quell her anxiety and fears about her husband’s health.There is no training for doing this. You just take the call, grab your copy of the Pastoral Care of the Sick and go in the name of the Lord.
Some of the situations you are called into are rather dire. Last month I prayed over a young man whose two friends had been killed in a motor vehicle accident and he was in extremely serious condition. When I arrived at the hospital, his bed was surrounded by medical staff hovering around the patient’s bed with his mother anxiously standing beside him. His body was covered with a sheet, but his Mom and I managed to uncover his hand. We placed our hands on his hand and we prayed for the Lord’s mercy in his life and for the Lord to be with him. But I also prayed for the mom who would see her son slip away to be with the Lord in a few short hours. Prayers for the dying are important, but prayers for the livingÂ are important, as well.
Deacon Robert Ransom
St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church
My experience as a deacon is going well. I definitely have been accepted into my community. I am transitioning more and more into the fabric of the community. Interestingly enough, the older parishioners accepted me right away. They tell me that when I read the gospel, they donât have to strain to hear me.
I am involved in several ministries and that is going well. I co-teach the Confirmation class with Tracey Oakley and we had a record number of students in our class this year ââ 34. And one-half of them were Latinos. I must admit, I became teary-eyed during the ceremony, watching so many 9th and 10th graders saying âyesâ to the Holy Spirit. It was awesome. Iâm also working with the CYO group in Ruston, as well as leading a junior high and high school bible study group. Indeed, I am staying very busy.
Christ the King Catholic Church
What can I say? The last year has rushed by so fast. I have had the opportunity to assist at several funerals with Father Joseph Ampat, Father Karl, and Father Rigoberto Bentancurt Cortes. Just one baptism so far, but assisted Father Rigo with seven or eight. Iâve had the privilege to participate in hospital visits. Iâve continued to work with my wife, Wanda, in Pre-Cana classes in the Spanish ministry at Christ the King.
I have become more involved with the liturgy of the mass and now I am the point of contact for liturgy in the Spanish masses and services. Doing Spanish and English homilies has been some work, but it has been very rewarding. It has been very humbling when you get compliments about the homilies ââ I chalk it up to the Holy Spirit working through me to maybe touch someone out there.
Iâm sure Deacon Danny will tell you there is no shortage of weekly meetings to go to whether it is one or both parishes. There have been some challenges to getting both parishes working together; however, we are progressing. Working for Father Karl and Father Rigoberto has been very rewarding and a blessing. Father Karl came from St. Joseph and has been very supportive of deacons.
On All Saints Day I tripped at Hillcrest Cemetery and almost broke my ankle (sprained) and scruffed up both hands. It was a unique way to end the day of blessing graves. But it was a humbling experience to provide blessings and comfort to those who came to honor their loved ones.
At every mass we have an opportunity to bless the children who have not received First Communion. Just as Christ did, I feel very honored to provide blessings to the little ones.
Wanda has been my cornerstone helping me with my ministry ââ Spanish homilies and working with Our Lady of Guadalupe group at Christ the King. Wanda helps out with RCIA and I have helped her with some of her sessions. I thank the Lord every day for the opportunity to serve him in whatever he wants me to do.
Deacon Charles Thomas
Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church
The one thing that makes feel good is the over whelming acceptance and appreciation the people in my parish have for my calling to the diaconate. I do make visits to the hospital and nursing homes, and you can see in the faces of the people I visit how much it means to them just by me stopping by to visit and bring them communion.
Deacon Marc Vereen
St. Joseph Catholic Church (Bastrop)
It hardly seems possible that itâs been a year since the day I was ordained as a deacon in the Catholic Church. Itâs sort of surreal. I canât believe it; itâs how I felt after graduating college as well, it was so much a part of my life for four years.
During those four years, I think I have experienced every possible emotion. There were good times and not such good times. There were times when I just didnât think I could make it through the classes and tests in formation, but, as we all know, God has a plan for us. I truly believe that when he nudged me to send in my application, he also agreed to see me through it until the end.
While I do, in fact, credit God for being there for me, I would be remiss without acknowledging my family. My son was only six-years-old when I began this journey and I missed a lot of activities of his. But he always understood and for that I am grateful. My wife, Kim, stood by me the whole time, as well; she was my tutor, critique person, sounding board, classmate and, most importantly, my rock. Together we persevered, and together we continue to go forward and grow in and with the ministry of the diaconate. To say it has been a blessing seems a little clichĂ©, but itâs what it is.
I have been blessed to serve at the right side of an amazing priest that has the utmost respect for me and, more importantly, the role of the deacon. Together we are indeed making a difference. Iâm in a more unique position than some; I was assigned to the church where I grew up and have attended for 44 years. I thought that would make for an awkward transition, but I couldnât have been more wrong. My parish welcomed me with open arms and continues to support and encourage me. Itâs what keeps me going, ââ knowing that I am doing what God called me to do and that I am making a difference.
To any men thinking they may be feeling the tug of the diaconate,Â I ask that you prayerfully discern your decision. If itâs what God wants you to do, you will know it. I encourage everyone to continue to pray for vocations and those that have already answered the call. I am proof of your prayers working.