Largest deacon class prepares for ordination

Twenty-one men – the largest class being formed as permanent deacons since the ministry began in the archdiocese in 1973 – are preparing to be ordained in two ceremonies a week apart at St. Cecilia Cathedral in Omaha.

Ten men from rural and urban areas of the archdiocese will be ordained by Archbishop George J. Lucas at 10 a.m. April 29, and 11 men will be ordained at 10 a.m. May 6.

Some of the larger classes in the archdiocese have included 19 ordained in 2005, 15 in 2011 and 13 in 2012. More than 200 permanent deacons now serve in the archdiocese.

This large class coincides with efforts to hold diaconate ordinations every other year. It also reflects the number of quality men who received the call and the archbishop’s desire to have them all in formation, said Deacon James Keating, director of the archdiocese’s permanent diaconate program.

They will assist priests and help parishioners, he said.

"One never knows where the Spirit will lead a deacon; we always like to encourage men in formation to look to where the Gospel has yet to reach the archdiocese, be creative, imaginative, and begin to minister to those yet unmet needs," Deacon Keating said.

Encouraged to be leaders in serving people’s emotional, physical and spiritual needs, deacons also preach, teach and proclaim the Gospel. They baptize, lead the faithful in prayer, assist the priest at Mass, witness marriages and conduct wake and funeral services.

To help bring deacon candidates from rural and urban areas together, the 21 men have met the last four years of formation – once a month except over the summer – at the Immaculata Monastery and Spirituality Center run by the Missionary Benedictine Sisters in Norfolk.

"Immaculata Monastery has been a blessing and we are grateful for the sisters who welcome us there," Deacon Keating said. "This location will continue to be the center for deacon formation."

Biographies and photos of the men to be ordained are on the next page. Similar information about the other 11 men will appear in the May 5 edition of the Catholic Voice. And a summary of both ceremonies, with photos and reaction from a number of the deacons, will appear in the May 19 edition of the newspaper.

Men to be ordained May 6, with their parishes: Fred Abboud, Wayne Reed and John True, all St. Gerald, Ralston; Donald Blackbird Jr., St. Joseph, Walthill; Omar Gutierrez, St. Peter, Omaha; Daniel Keller, St. Charles Borromeo, Gretna; Ted Menzel and Mark White, both St. Mary, Bellevue; James Naughtin, St. Bonaventure, Columbus; Loren Randy Park, Christ the King, Omaha; and Jeffrey Zurek, St. Francis Borgia, Blair.



Parish: St. Wenceslaus, Omaha.

Marital Status: Married 27 years to wife, Julie; two boys, two girls.

Profession: Admissions director, V.J. and Angela Skutt Catholic High School.

Activities/Ministries: Communion services to retirement community, hospital; retreat leader and board member for One Heart One Fire ministries; various ministries to Skutt Catholic.

Wife’s ministries: Extraordinary minister of holy Communion (EMHC) at St. Wenceslaus Parish, active in Christians Encounter Christ and Boys Town National Hotline.

About the call to diaconate: "Since I was very young, I have felt a deep attraction to the Gospels. The beauty and depth of Christ’s word has allowed me to grow closer to him. His visit to the woman at the well, giving sight to those in darkness, and his story of the prodigal son, are just examples of how his word is timeless and is the key to a deeper relationship with him. Through a deep prayer life and a strong formation program with the archdiocese, it has become clear to me that God has called me to help spread his word through service to his church."

Plans after ordination: "Serving the archbishop of Omaha, St. Wenceslaus Parish and Skutt Catholic High School."



Parish: St. Patrick, Gretna.

Marital status: Married 45 years to wife, Kathy; two boys, one girl, seven grandchildren.

Profession: Vice president, Sapp Bros. Petroleum

Activities/Ministries: Jail ministry, assist with Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) training, EMHC, lector.

Wife’s ministries: EMHC, lector.

About the call to diaconate: "Kathy and I had been members of St. Mary Church in Ashland, Neb., and participated as an acolyte, lector and EMHC for over 30 years. During the latter years we would have occasion to visit St. Patrick Parish in Gretna for Mass on the weekends. At one Mass, Father Mike Grewe’s homily and his offer to explore discernment to the diaconate struck a chord with me as I had considered how to further serve. As the Lincoln Diocese has no diaconate program, Kathy and I transferred to St. Patrick to begin the process of discernment. Much of the process is being open to listen to the Holy Spirit and how he stirs the heart. I look forward to this next chapter and the journey the Lord is taking me on."

Plans after ordination: "Jail ministry, pro-life (activities), assisting the poor."



Parish: St. Wenceslaus, Omaha.

Marital Status: Married 24 years to wife, Lynne; three sons and one daughter.

Profession: Manager, computer operations, Pinnacle Bank.

Activities/Ministries: Baptism preparation, RCIA, sacristan, serving Communion to homebound, hospitalized, a retirement home, Bible study.

Wife’s ministries: Seeking Truth Bible study group leader, Family Life ministry, school volunteer.

Couple’s ministries: Lectors, EMHCs, Family Life ministry, pro-life committee, March for Life pilgrimages to Washington, D.C.

About the call to diaconate: "The thought of becoming a deacon has been with me for some time. Having my dad and mom as a deacon couple, I saw in them the joy they experienced in serving their parish community and in sharing their faith with others. Over the years, I have come to know this same joy as I served in a variety of ministries with my wife, and grew in faith by participating in different Catholic Bible studies. The diaconate formation has led me into a much deeper prayer life and relationship with the Holy Trinity. I look forward to the many ways God will use me to draw others to him."

Plans after ordination: "Through the guidance of the Holy Spirit, I look forward to the unexpected encounters I will have with others, which will lead to faith sharing and prayer. And through the graces God provides, I pray that I may humbly serve Jesus through the ministries I will be involved in at my parish."




Parish: Divine Mercy, Schuyler

Marital status: Married to wife, Sharon, 37 years; two sons, one daughter, five grandchildren.

Profession: Farmer, truck driver

Activities/Ministries: Fourth degree, Knights of Columbus, Communion to the homebound, past parish council member, 20 years in LifeTeen youth ministry, Christians Encounter Christ (CEC) Avanti leader, pro-life director.

Wife’s ministries: Faith formation catechist, lector, minister to the elderly, homebound care.

Couple’s ministries: CEC, Marriage Encounter, pro-life activities, RCIA, blood drive coordinators.

About the call to diaconate: "I was approached 12 to 13 years ago by the late Deacon Evan Drozda and the late Deacon Carl Perrin to consider the diaconate. I was putting so much time into the LifeTeen youth ministry that even when Father Jerry Leise and later Father Carl Zoucha asked me, I said, ‘No, not now.’ Then when I felt strongly called to the program – it was not open due to the timing wasn’t right (enrollment is every two years). I was blessed to observe the program in 2012, and entered in 2013."

Plans after ordination: "As your unworthy servant, I pray for the prompting of the Holy Spirit to pour the Gospel into the wounds of all God’s people whom I encounter. I still have a burning desire to bring Christ to high school youth, to show the beauty of marriage, and invite people to get excited about our Catholic faith through RCIA. Jesus, I trust in you … Come Holy Spirit … Thy will be done … Here I am, Lord, take me."




Parish: Holy Trinity, Hartington.

Marital status: Married 11 years to wife, Ann; one son and two daughters, six grandchildren.

Profession: Optometrist, with offices in Hartington and Creighton.

Activities/Ministries: Religious education, seventh- and eighth-graders and adults, parish morning prayer group, liturgy and spirituality committee, Christians Encounter Christ (CEC) prayer group and the Adoration society.

Wife’s ministries: Ladies Guild and CEC prayer group, volunteer at parish activities and fundraisers.

Couple’s ministries: FOCCUS pre-marriage administrators and marriage mentors for the parish.

About the call to diaconate: "My call began after I contemplated how wonderful the love of my wife is, then realized that God’s love must be even more infinite and perfect than marital love. I learned the church has always taught that this was one of the purposes of marriage, and this led to further discoveries of the faith. After beginning to teach CCD (religious education), I began to feel a calling to help others develop a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and was strongly drawn to the diaconate."

Plans after ordination: "I plan to become an annulment sponsor; work with Ann helping couples preparing for marriage fully understand the meaning of Christian marriage; and help with adult faith formation."



Parish: Sacred Heart, Norfolk.

Marital status: Married 27 years to wife, Beth; two children.

Profession: Programmer/analyst for city of Norfolk.

Activities/Ministries: Part of RCIA team, EMHC, sacristan, Knights of Columbus, CEC, eucharistic adoration captain, baptism instructor, altar server training.

Wife’s ministries: Bread of Life ministry, CEC, EMHC, Altar Society.

Couple’s ministries: Youth Ministry (Godparents), Serra Club, Marriage Preparation (FOCCUS facilitator couple), Communion service to hospital.

About the call to diaconate: "Beth and I had discussed a possible call to the diaconate, but I had not really prayed about discerning a call until several people, including my Mom, asked me if I ever thought of becoming a deacon. I was caught off guard when Mom asked, so I replied with the question, ‘Why do you ask?’ Mom answered, ‘Because you would make a good one.’ Thanks Mom!"

Plans after ordination: "To continue in the youth and couple ministries we are involved in, and discern a call to be more involved in ministering to the sick, home-bound and those at the end of their earthly life."




Parish: St. Patrick, O’Neill.

Marital status: Married 37 years to wife, Jane; three daughters and one son.

Profession: Dentist.

Activities/Ministries: Instituted acolyte, president of parish’s finance committee, member of Knights of Columbus, senior theology teacher at St. Mary High School, assists with RCIA, Holt County Jail ministry.

Wife’s ministries: Religious education director, nursing home ministry, Legion of Mary, Altar Society.

Couple’s ministries: EMHC’s, lectors.

About the call to diaconate: "I have always had a deep love for Jesus and the beauty and wisdom of the Catholic faith. Over the last few years, I have felt in my heart the need to respond to Christ’s love for me by offering myself to his service. The call to the diaconate is simply that response to my encounter with my Lord."

Plans after ordination: "I will be available to serve the spiritual and corporal needs of the O’Neill community and surrounding area as needed and directed by our pastor and our archbishop."



Parish: Holy Cross and St. Francis Cabrini, Omaha.

Marital status: Married to wife, Ann, 23 years; one girl, three boys.

Profession: Director of statewide nonprofit social services agency.

Activities/Ministries: Lector, EMHC, acolyte, Communion service at parish, nursing homes and the homebound.

Wife’s ministries: Certified spiritual director, sacristan.

Couple’s ministries: Faith formation team, CEC, sacristans, FOCCUS inventory and parenting workshops, guidance and support to couples struggling with challenges of married life.

About the call to diaconate: "I had the unique experience, at age 10, of watching my Dad be ordained to the permanent diaconate in the Diocese of Sioux City, Iowa. Numerous ‘nudgings’ followed. In 2008, when I was asked by my brother-in-law to serve as his Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults sponsor, I began a journey toward greater willingness to discern God’s will for my life. In 2012, it became clear to me that formation was God’s desire. For Ann and myself, the last four years of formation have truly been one of the greatest blessings of our married life. It is our prayer that, with God’s grace, we are able to share with others the hope that the Gospel offers."

Plans after ordination: "We feel called to continue our work with couples and trust the Holy Spirit will guide future ministries."




Parish: Mary Our Queen, Omaha.

Marital status: Married to wife, Joann, for 32 years; daughter, two sons and six grandchildren.

Profession: Internal auditor, First National Bank of Omaha.

Activities/Ministries: Lector, EMHC, That Man Is You core group.

Wife’s ministries: Sacristan, EMHC.

Couple’s ministries: Facilitate baptism class, participate in healing prayer, Communion service to home-bound.

About the call to diaconate: "The call came in lots of little nudges: while teaching catechism, serving as an EMHC and lector, observing the example of Deacon Paul Rooney at St. Francis Cabrini and Mary Our Queen, all the priests and nuns who taught me the faith by living, my mother and father’s faith and marriage, and by living the sacrament of holy matrimony with JoAnn and the fruit that has come from it. And last but not least, praying the most holy rosary."

Plans after ordination: "Be openly available to our Lord’s servant mysteries."



Parish: St. Wenceslaus, Omaha.

Marital status: Married 34 years to wife, Diane; two sons, two daughters, four grandchildren and one on the way.

Profession: Engineer, Schaefer Engineering Inc.

Activities/Ministries: Sacristan, EMHC, lector, faith formation instructor, building committee, men’s Bible study, baptism preparation.

Wife’s ministries: Faith formation instructor.

Couple’s ministries: Faith formation instructors, together as a team.

About the call to diaconate: "Over 10 years ago, I sat reluctantly in the pew each Sunday. After much coaxing by my wife, we signed up for a six-session couple’s Bible study class. Near the end of the first session, I murmured to the guy next to me that I wouldn’t be coming back. Diane dragged me back to the second session. We finished that series of classes and even signed up for more, making lifelong friends in the process. For the next few years this interest grew, until I knew without a doubt that the Lord was calling me."

Plans after ordination: "I hope to serve my parish in the areas I’m most needed."



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