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Ten new deacons called to a life of service

Archbishop George J. Lucas will ordain 10 men as permanent deacons for the Archdiocese of Omaha during a 10 a.m. Mass May 4 at St. Cecilia Cathedral in Omaha.

They will join the 239 permanent deacons currently serving their parishes and communities in many capacities across the archdiocese.

Deacons assist at Masses; preside at baptisms, weddings and funeral services; visit the sick, homebound and imprisoned; help with baptism, marriage preparation, religious education and Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults classes, and lead Communion services and liturgies of the Word, among other ministries.

“The gift of the diaconate to the local church is that it places men bearing the grace of holy orders deep within the ordinary commitments of lay Catholics,” said Deacon James Keating, director of the archdiocese’s permanent diaconate program.

“There, at work or during leisure, the deacon is ready to pray with them, counsel them, listen for any needs they have that the church can assist with,” he said. “They are the eyes and ears of the bishop within the ordinary commitments of everyday Catholics.” 

Every two years, a new diaconate class begins a formation program and is ordained four years later.

Formation classes are held once a month from September through May at the Immaculata Monastery and Spirituality Center run by the Missionary Benedictine Sisters in Norfolk.

The Catholic Church re-established the role of deacon in 1968 in response to the Second Vatican Council. The Omaha archdiocese implemented its permanent diaconate program in 1971. 

“The value of the diaconate is clear,” Deacon Keating said. “Embedded within culture are men bearing the character of Christ the servant, envoys from the liturgy, if you will, sent to competently reveal Christ to those searching for healing and meaning and salvation.”

Profiles of the men to be ordained this year are highlighted below.

Patrick Benson

Parish: St. Michael, Central City.

Family: Married for 33 years to wife, Janelle; two sons, one daughter, 11 grandchildren.  

Profession: Chief deputy, Merrick County Sheriff’s Office.

Activities/Ministries: Parish trustee, lector, choir member, acolyte, jail ministry. 

Wife’s ministries: Religious education teacher, women’s Bible study leader.

Couple’s ministries: Extraordinary ministers of holy Communion (EMHC) taking Communion to hospital and nursing homes, Worldwide Marriage Encounter.

About the call to diaconate: “I was first approached about the diaconate years ago by my pastor, Msgr. Nelson Newman.  After discerning on it for several years I made application and was accepted to the class of 2019. The past four years have been some of the most rewarding of my life. The formation over the past four years has helped me grow in ways I never knew were possible. It’s difficult to describe, as words do not do justice to the spiritual growth both Janelle and I have experienced.”

Plans after ordination: “I hope to humbly serve our Lord in whatever way he calls me. I hope to continue ministry in marriage preparation and enrichment as a strong Christian marriage is the foundation of the domestic church.”

Charles Botdorf

Parish: St. Stephen the Martyr, Omaha

Family: Married 23 years to wife, Ann; one son, one daughter.

Profession: Technical training instructor with a defense contracting company.

Activities/Ministries: Teacher, RCIA classes and weeknight Bible study; table leader, That Man Is You! program; leader, men’s Lectio Divina small group; lector; EMHC.

Wife’s ministries: Sunday morning hospitality.

Couple’s ministries: Money counters at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church, Omaha.

About the call to diaconate: “Ann introduced me to the Catholic Church when we began dating and, after a somewhat long and winding beginning to my faith journey, I attended RCIA and was baptized into the church in 2010. It was on that very night, after the Easter Vigil Mass, that I had the first of three experiences of people approaching me and suggesting I consider the permanent diaconate in the future. Over the next few years, as my love for the Gospel and the liturgy deepened, and as I became more involved in parish life, I began to open myself to the possibility that God might be calling me. Formation has been tremendously rewarding and the growth that I’ve experienced, both personally and in my relationship with Christ, has truly been a blessing.”

Plans after ordination: “To serve Christ, his people and his church in whatever ways I am called to.”

Robert Kellar

Parish:  St. Columbkille, Papillion.

Family: Married 28 years to wife, Maura; one son, one daughter.

Profession: Business application manager at PromiseShip, a social services organization aiding families.

Activities/Ministries:  EMHC, leading Communion services, hospital visits.

Wife’s ministries: St. Vincent de Paul Society making home visits to assess needs and provide financial support to the poor.

Couple’s ministries:  Marriage preparation (after ordination).

About the call to diaconate: “My call to diaconate formation began when I started to feel the urge to find a way to get closer to Jesus. For me, this seemed like a natural progression in my spiritual growth, and so I started the process of discernment and entered formation. What I like most is that we all meet one weekend each month at the Immaculata Monastery in Norfolk. These weekends are like a mini-retreat where we can shut out the distractions of the world and focus our full attention on God. However, this also helps me to continue my focus on God while back in the ‘world.’ There is camaraderie, fellowship, an increase in the love of the Gospels and an increase in the love of the church, which has already changed my life. I’d recommend that any man thinking about the diaconate contact Deacon Jim Keating and begin the process of discernment. With his guidance, discernment can begin without entering formation, and the formation process itself affords discernment, helping each man to continue in the diaconate or move in a different path if the diaconate isn’t a true calling.”

Plans after ordination:  “Marriage prep with my wife, visitation ministry for the aged, and to see where the Holy Spirit wants to take me.”

Peter Kennedy

Parish: St. James, Omaha

Family: Married 18 years to wife, Karla; two sons, three daughters.

Profession: Parish director of evangelization.

Activities/Ministries: Total Board of Education (parish and school), Knights of Columbus, That Man is You!, scheduling and training of servers, lector.

Couple’s ministries: Community volunteerism, coaching, helping neighbors, providing respite care for the sick, visiting the lonely.

About the call to diaconate: “Even before we were married, my wife and I discussed that I felt this call and what it would mean for our lives.  As a cradle Catholic, I have always had a certain relationship with Christ and his church but I handed my life over to Jesus completely at the age of 16 after an encounter with him on a TEC (Teens Encounter Christ) retreat. My prayer life deepened tremendously and the direction of my life changed completely.  Through ups and downs, I have spent the last 28 years of my life seeking to be a good and faithful servant, laying my life’s path before him, tailoring my formation, education and career to make myself as useful as possible. This call to the diaconate is yet another opportunity to lay my life down in service to him.”

Plans after ordination:  “Go where Christ and my archbishop send me.”

Gary Krupa

Parish: St. Bernadette, Bellevue.

Family: Married 29 years to wife, Linda; two sons, two daughters.

Profession: Electrical engineer, Department of Veterans Affairs.

Activities/Ministries: EMHC at the VA Medical Center and Bickford Cottage, assisting with Journey of Hope program for Catholics going through a divorce, leading new parish sessions on the Eucharist and the Mass followed by vespers and adoration, longtime member of the parish music ministry.   

Wife’s ministries:  EMHC, parish Legion of Mary, vice president of the parish Junior Legion of Mary, secretary of the Altar Society.

Couple’s ministries: Parish ChristLife sessions (Discovering Christ, Living Christ, Sharing Christ), assisting with the parish’s ArchOmaha Unite efforts.

About the call to diaconate: “The call to the diaconate began while serving in the Air National Guard, specifically during the funeral of comrade Deacon Robert Chadwick. This calling was strengthened during overseas deployments.”

Plans after ordination:  “I plan to serve at St Bernadette Parish at which I’ve been assured that there are no shortages of ministerial opportunities for me. Moreover, I look forward to retiring sometime in the next year or so in order to make myself permanently available to the diaconal servant ministries.”

Randy Landenberger

Parish:  St. Leo the Great, Omaha.

Family: Married 36 years to wife, Kamala; three sons, two grandchildren.

Profession: Logistics manager for renewable fuels company.

Activities/Ministries:  EMHC, lector, That Man Is You! core team leader, Christ Renews His Parish retreats, homebound ministry, funeral Mass server, Knights of Columbus.

Wife’s ministries: EMHC, lector, Christ Renews His Parish retreats.

Couple’s ministries:  RCIA core team, altar server training, hospital Communion visitation team.

About the call to diaconate:  “Ever since I was a young man, I’ve always had a deep desire to serve others. I was raised Lutheran and up until my sophomore year of high school I planned to go to seminary to become a pastor. Then I met a Catholic girl who would eventually become my wife. I converted to Catholicism in 1988 and immediately fell in love with the depth and richness of our faith. About nine years ago I started going to daily Mass on a challenge from our pastor. Mass a day or two a week quickly turned into every day. Daily Mass became a big part of who I was and who I am today. It was there that I began to hear the call of Jesus. By quieting my mind and my heart I was able to listen and receive Jesus fully.  I asked God for the grace to accept his will in all aspects of my life.”

Plans after ordination:  “I just want to serve the archbishop, my pastor and all priests in any way they deem appropriate. In 2018, while convalescing from two major surgeries, I believe I truly received a call to homebound ministry. By the grace of God I came to realize there are many people who are alone, really alone, and don’t have anyone to reach out to. I want to serve those people the best I can by being available to minister to them in their greatest need.”

Thomas Manhart

Parish: St. John the Evangelist, Valley.

Family: Married 20 years to wife, Charlynn; one daughter, one grandchild.

Profession: Printing company owner with wife.

Activities/Ministries: EMHC, lector, RCIA.

Wife’s Ministries: St. Vincent de Paul Society, EMHC.

Couple’s Ministries: Senior adult ministry, adult faith formation, marriage preparation, RCIA.

About the call to diaconate:  “My call to the permanent diaconate came during a friend’s father’s funeral. It was one that took me by surprise, as I was unfamiliar with what a deacon was or what his role was in the church. After inquiry and discussions with my wife, I applied and was accepted into the formation class of 2019. Formation has been a true blessing not only for myself but for Charlynn as well. We have grown closer both personally and spiritually, which has led to a deepening of faith for the both of us. I believe the formation process has led me to a deeper relationship with God which is manifesting itself in service to God, the archbishop and the archdiocese in a more meaningful way.”

Plans after ordination:  “Senior adult ministry and adult faith formation will be my priority; however, I plan to continue service to the members of St. John the Evangelist Parish in whatever way my pastor sees fit. I am open to the workings of the Holy Spirit as I move into service to the archdiocese and my parish.”

Tracy Ortgies 

Parish:  St. Columbkille, Papillion.

Family: Married 16 years to wife, Ranae; two sons, two daughters.

Profession: Information technology manager for a payment processing company.

Activities/Ministries: EMHC to homebound and VA Medical Center, Communion services at assisted living centers in Papillion, committee member for IXIM: Spirit of Solidarity, youth baseball coach at St. Columbkille.

Wife’s ministries:  EMHC, lector, Moms of Faith.

Couple’s ministries:  Baptism preparation/catechesis. 

About the call to diaconate: “In 2010 I joined the Catholic Church, having been raised as a Protestant. My call to the diaconate was somewhat gradual but at the same time a continuation of my ‘yes’ to my conversion into the Catholic Church. Soon after I joined, I started to feel a pull towards increased service in my parish of St. Columbkille and on mission trips to Guatemala as part of IXIM: Spirit of Solidarity. Eventually, I realized the Holy Spirit was calling me to share my time and talents as a deacon. After a period of prayer and spiritual direction I applied and was accepted into the archdiocese diaconate formation program.  The past four years in formation has continued to reaffirm my call to the diaconate to serve God and the church.”

Plans after ordination: “I will continue to serve and assist in the IXIM: Spirit of Solidarity missionary ministry in addition to serving my parish and the archdiocese as a deacon, remaining open and available to the will of God.”

Kelly Schrant 

Parish: St. Isidore, Columbus.

Family: Married 29 years to wife, Rebecca; two sons.

Profession: Auto dealership owner.

Activities/Ministries: Jail ministry, Christians Encounter Christ (CEC), RCIA, Knights of Columbus.

Wife’s ministries: Making rosaries and praying them for people who will receive them.

Couple’s ministries: Marriage preparation, RCIA. 

About the call to the diaconate: “My call to the diaconate began on a CEC weekend. I watched a deacon at a Mass and how reverent he was kneeling in front of the Eucharist. It sparked curiosity as to what it was he did and what role he performed for the church. I found myself entering his dorm room and began to question him about all I witnessed. He told me he was a deacon and what he does. From that moment, the diaconate never left my mind. Every day I think about this great calling and how blessed I am to serve our Lord.”

Plans after ordination: “My plans after ordination are to continue growing and learning about different areas I am called to serve, continuing my education in church teachings and being with the people, both of the faith and bringing others to our beautiful faith we call Catholicism. I am willing to serve wherever Christ calls me and I look forward to the different things I will be experiencing in the years to come.”

Jay Wingler

Parish: St. Patrick, Elkhorn.

Family: Married 30 years to wife, Carol; one son, one daughter.

Profession: Retired Air Force police officer and Douglas County deputy sheriff.

Activities/Ministries:  RCIA team, vocations discernment group, musician, adoration of Blessed Sacrament, school and church security, visiting the sick at the Omaha VA Medical Center, web-based ministry/blog, www.headz2heartz.com, providing thought-provoking spiritual reflections inspired by the Holy Spirit.

Wife’s ministries:  EMHC, vocations committee, pro-life group, various Bible studies.  

Couple’s ministries: Youth ministries, marriage enrichment group.  

About the call to diaconate:  “The Lord used my wife to guide me to the 2010 Archdiocese Men’s Conference where I heard Father Larry Richards speak, which led me to experience a significant emotional event that changed my life forever.”  

Plans after ordination:  “To stay true to my ‘yes’ and to remain available to whatever the Son asks of me and fulfill the plans of the Father.”

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