The Twelve called together the community of the disciples and said, “It is not right for us to neglect the word of God to serve at table. Brothers, select from among you seven reputable men, filled with the Spirit and wisdom, whom we shall appoint to this task, whereas we shall devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” From the very beginning, the Church has needed deacons. Deacons are specially configured to Christ as Servant. They remind us that, when we come in Jesus’ Name, we come to serve. It is no accident that before serving the Church as a priest or bishop each man must be ordained and serve as a deacon first. Deacons attend to the spiritual and corporal works of mercy, paying special attention to those people in particular need. We are all called to serve others, but deacons are set apart for this ministry to keep the vocation of service in focus.
I am eternally grateful to the deacons of our local Area Catholic Community. Deacon Randy Altstadt helped me to get my feet under me as a new pastor when I first arrived eight years ago. He was freshly ordained and eager to serve. Deacon Randy brings his experience as a husband, father, grandfather, and meat-cutter to his ministry. Never before have the parables about salt had such flavor. Taking on the responsibilities of Parish Administrator in 2013, Deacon Randy made the transition to full-time ministry. Deacon Randy and his wife, Janel, have made a special mission of the care for the residents of our correctional facilities through the REC program.
Deacon Mark Stenger brings his own unique gifts to ministry at Sacred Heart and St. Lawrence. You won’t get more down-to-earth than a self-professed “gravel man.” Deacon Mark quickly made his mark with the students of St. Henry’s Area School by beginning each lesson with a joke so bad that we now have a new category beyond ‘dad jokes’ that I call ‘deacon jokes.’ Deacon Mark took service to a new level when he stepped in as custodian for the school after the death of Mark Strege. Nothing says service like scrubbing toilets for Jesus!
Our most recent addition, Deacon Richard Quistorff, is actually the most seasoned veteran among us. Though he originally grew up in our Diocese, Deacon Richard was ordained for the great Archdiocese of St. Louis and came to us by way of Colorado Springs. He brings the discipline and experience of a career soldier. He has continued to serve the Church wherever he has been and has stepped up as Court Chaplain for our local Catholic Daughters Court St. Rita. Deacon Richard rarely exploits his seniority among us clergy, but he does enjoy reminding me that I am the same age as his son.
All three of our local deacons have been exemplary models of Christ in their service, filled with the Spirit and wisdom. I am honored to have them as brothers in ministry. They have been a tremendous gift to Father George and me, and to our communities. Though we may occasionally fight like only brothers can, we share the share the joys and responsibilities of service in Christ’s Church. I am equally grateful to their wives, who have supported them through discernment, long-distance studies, and the many sacrifices involved in ministry; marriage is their first vocation, and deacons’ wives are worthy partners in ministry.
We have several men in our parishes who are discerning a call to service as permanent deacons; please pray for them and for those who will be called in the future. If you are feeling called to the Diaconate, please feel free to approach any of our deacons; Father George and I would be happy to assist you as well. Deacons are a necessary part of the life of the Church. Let us take a moment this week to thank God for the gift of the Diaconate as a whole and for our own deacons in particular.