Holy Spirit called Deacon Broz to go beyond comfort zone
Ken Broz was content with his commitment level to his parish and the church.
He was already a lector, extraordinary minister of holy Communion and acolyte for St. Mary Parish in Ashland, Nebraska (in the Lincoln diocese), and considered that to be enough. But the Holy Spirit had a surprise for him.
As he and his wife, Kathy, occasionally attended Mass at St. Patrick Church in Gretna, one Sunday he heard then-pastor Father Michael Grewe speak in his homily about the diaconate. That’s when he felt the nudge to do more.
“I had gotten really successful at telling God no,” he said, when presented with new opportunities to serve. “But I realized I couldn’t say no any longer,” he said.
After discussions with Father Grewe and eventually becoming a member of St. Patrick Parish, Deacon Broz responded to God’s call and committed to discerning whether he was called to the diaconate, beginning formation classes in 2013.
He was ordained a deacon by Archbishop George J. Lucas in May 2017.
Now, as a deacon for the Archdiocese of Omaha, Deacon Broz is grateful for the opportunity to deepen his faith and serve the people of God in a more intimate way.
“It’s about quiet service … behind the scenes,” he said. “You go where the pain is.”
FRONT ROW SEAT
It was his own front row seat to pain and suffering that helped him break out of his comfort zone as he began considering the diaconate.
During his discernment, he witnessed his daughter-in-law Melissa’s faithfulness and trust in God during a three-year battle with cancer. That reinforced his decision.
Melissa – a speech teacher for children with communication difficulties – had been diagnosed with glioblastoma, a rare form of brain cancer, Deacon Broz said.
Despite two operations, chemotherapy, radiation therapy and participation in clinical trials at Duke University, she endured her illness and treatment without complaint, he said. She eventually lost her battle.
“She was continually concerned about her family and her students, and she and (Joshua) were so very strong in their faith and trust in God’s will,” Deacon Broz said. “To watch her changed me – changed us.”
WHERE THE PAIN IS
“Going where the pain is” often includes helping people with marital or family problems or serving the poor and disadvantaged, he said.
One such aspect of Deacon Broz’s ministry is visiting inmates on a weekly basis at the Douglas County Correctional Center in Omaha.
“A lot of times, when they’re incarcerated like that, they feel hopeless, that nobody cares, that society doesn’t care,” he said.
“And unfortunately some of that is true. Most of us don’t think about the people that are incarcerated or their families and kids,” Deacon Broz said. “So this gives us an opportunity to bring Jesus to them and bring them some hope and maybe some direction.”
As a deacon, he also meets with engaged couples for marriage preparation, conducts baptism classes, performs baptisms, witnesses marriages, leads wake services and assists at the altar during Mass.
Father Matthew Gutowski, St. Patrick pastor, said the service of deacons is a great service to parishes.
“They’re indispensable in helping the pastor … from liturgies to the various ministries of the parish,” he said.
“Because of being married … and working out in the world, ... they can make a connection with folks that perhaps a priest cannot,” Father Gutowksi said.
Aside from serving his parish, Deacon Broz also gives back to the diaconate as a human formator, or counselor, for other men discerning a vocation to the diaconate.
SENSE OF GRATITUDE
Deacon Broz is grateful for the opportunity to serve, and he credits the Archbishop’s Annual Appeal for making it all possible.
The appeal funds 27% of the archdiocese’s annual budget, including the four-year diaconate formation program, which includes once-a-month weekends nine months of the year at the Immaculata Monastery and Spirituality Center in Norfolk.
“As a candidate for the diaconate, our only commitment is to listen to the Holy Spirit and discern if there is a calling,” Deacon Broz said. “Our only expense is for the books that help us grow deeper in our faith.”
The appeal also provides scholarships for students in the archdiocese’s 71 elementary and high schools; training for lectors and extraordinary ministers of holy Communion; marriage preparation for engaged couples; programs to enrich families; financial assistance for retired priests and seminarians; and help for the needy through Catholic Charities.
Earlier this year, when asked if he and his wife would serve as one of the appeal’s chair couples, Deacon Broz remembered how they, as a deacon couple, have benefitted.
“Kathy and I have been so richly blessed that it would almost be a sin to say no to anything that the Holy Spirit brings to us,” he said. “A lot of us like to pass the buck – you know, let somebody else do it. But we knew that would be the wrong response.”
The appeal kicked off during weekend Masses around the archdiocese Sept. 14 and 15. The presentations are being followed by a mailing with a personal letter from the archbishop.
Deacon Broz is most concerned about building participation. “Yes, we made our goal last year, praise God,” he said. But only 19% of parishioners raised that money.
“I think everybody is responsible – we all need to be participating … as the hands and feet of Christ … to feed the poor, clothe the needy, do all those things” that the appeal supports.
He compared the appeal to constructing a building.
“You need two things, blocks and mortar,” Deacon Broz said. “Not everybody can make a large donation, but even the small ones make a huge difference.
“That’s the mortar. We need everybody to participate and know that they are part of God’s work in the world.”
Deacon Broz summed up the call to participate through the words of a song, “Do Something,” by contemporary Christian artist Matthew West.
The song describes an individual questioning why God doesn’t do something about the world’s many problems, to which God responds: “I did, I created you.”
“We are all called as the Body of Christ to participate in the mission of the church, to evangelize, to encounter Jesus, to equip disciples and provide living mercy,” he said.