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Three men to become permanent deacons

Patrick and Mary Jo Gross

Brian and Janel Heine

James and Connie Schindel

By Lisa Schulte
The Catholic Voice

Archbishop Elden Francis Curtiss will ordain three men from rural parishes to the permanent diaconate Saturday, Oct. 23, at 11 a.m. at St. Mary Church in Norfolk.

Those men receiving the sacrament of Holy Orders will be Patrick Gross, Brian Heine and James Schindel.

"These men are exciting and life-giving to the deacon community and they will be exciting and life-giving to their ministry," said Father Keith Rezac, director of the rural diaconate program.

He said these "outgoing" men will serve the archdiocese with compassion and "excellent listening and leadership skills," and they will share their enthusiasm for ministry, for Christ and Christ's work.

"They are anxious to get out there and minister," Father Rezac said.

The following are biographical sketches of each deacon.

Patrick Gross said the call to the diaconate has been a natural progression of faith for him and his wife, Mary Jo. Both have been active in their parish – St. Mary in Wayne – for many years and have grown in their prayer lives. The diaconate was the next step, he said.

"We were encouraged to see the deacon community at large support our call to service, and as we were progressing in our faith, we were drawn to the community as well," Gross said.

At St. Mary, Gross is a eucharistic minister, lector, altar server and a catechist on the RCIA team. He also teaches confirmation classes, assists the elderly and visits the sick.

Mrs. Gross, a retired assistant registrar of Wayne State College, is a eucharistic minister, member of the choir and volunteers at the parish office. She also assists with funeral dinners and provides support to those in the parish who are in need.

The couple, married 39 years, have five children. They have been members of St. Mary Parish for nearly 40 years.

Gross also is involved in several community activities, including chairman and treasurer of the Wayne Library Foundation, commissioner of the Nebraska Library Commission, trustee on the Wayne State College Board of Trustees, treasurer of the Providence Medical Foundation, director of State National Bank and Trust Co., and director of Goldenrod Hills Community Action.

From 1960-1964, he served in the U.S. Marine Corps and later had a 40-year career in financial institutions. He is a retired senior vice president of State National Bank and Trust Co. in Wayne.

Mrs. Gross is a trustee on the Wayne State College Board of Trustees and enjoys gardening, walking and spending time with the couple's four grandchildren.

"Our three years of formation have been a prayerful, loving and learning experience," Gross said. "We look forward to the grace we will receive at ordination and the joy of a continued experience of service to others."

Brian Heine's faith has always been an important part of his life. Raised in a family of 13, faith was the center of the family and his parents taught him the importance of stewardship at an early age, he said.

He said the call to serve the church as a deacon came many years ago, but it wasn't until a friend encouraged him to actively consider the diaconate that the idea "tugged at my heart." Being part of the Christians Encounter Christ movement also had him contemplating the diaconate, he said.

Eventually, after much prayer and consideration, he and his wife, Janel, began the formation process.

The Heines, members of St. John the Baptist Parish in Fordyce, have been married 24 years. They have two sons, Tyler and Mitchell.

Heine has been employed at Baldwin Manufacturing in Yankton, S.D., for 20 years. He has been a member of the Fordyce Volunteer Fire Department for 15 years.

Mrs. Heine is a case manager for Lewis and Clark Behavioral Health in Yankton. At St. John the Baptist, she served on the parish council.

Graduates of Cedar Catholic High School in Hartington, Mr. and Mrs. Heine are involved in many activities and ministries at St. John the Baptist. Both are eucharistic ministers and bring the Eucharist to the homebound. They are active with the JC youth camp. Along with being involved in Christians Encounter Christ, they have been FOCCUS coordinators, and teachers of "Abstinence Before Marriage" classes.

"It has been a very rewarding and challenging three years of formation," Heine said. "We would like to thank all the parishes of the Omaha Archdiocese that pray for vocations. Without them we would not be at this point."

The Heines said they plan to continue with youth ministry and would like to develop a grief ministry for those who have lost loved ones.

James Schindel and his wife, Connie, are parishioners at St. Michael Church in Albion. They have been married 26 years and have three daughters, Amanda, Crystal and Alicia Kay. They have two grandsons, Bradley and Jamison.

Schindel works as a line foreman for the Loup Power District and has been a fireman for 23 years. He is also an Emergency Medical Technician.

Mrs. Schindel is the administrative secretary at the Boone County Health Center in Albion.

At St. Michael, Schindel serves as a lector, usher and a member of the Knights of Columbus. He is involved in the Catholic Youth Organization, and he's a Catholic Youth Council sponsor.

Mrs. Schindel, also a Catholic Youth Council sponsor, is a member of the St. Michael Altar Society and has taught religious education at the parish.

The Schindels, who are eucharistic ministers, said they contemplated the diaconate for three years before they decided to answer God's call.

The decision, they said, was the right one.

"I feel very blessed being part of the deacon community and the growth in my life," Schindel said.

Following ordination, Mr. and Mrs. Schindel said they will do whatever God leads them to do.

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