New deacons called to imitate Christ through service

Before a packed house June 2 at the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis, Archbishop Robert J. Carlson ordained 25 men into the permanent diaconate, the largest ordination class in the 41-year history of the program.

"By your ordination, you are configured to Christ in His servant role, and you must be living signs of the Church in its servant role," Archbishop Carlson said in the homily, adding "This was at the heart of the apostles calling the first deacons."

The Archdiocese of St. Louis has been ordaining permanent deacons since Jan. 29, 1977, when 12 men were ordained by Cardinal John J. Carberry. Archbishop John L. May presided over a then-record ordination class of 24 in 1985, the same number as the class four years later.

From 1977 through 2010, the archdiocesan had 30 ordinations to the diaconate, then shifted to an every-other-year format of ordinations. This class is the fourth to be ordained under those circumstances, and the third in a row in double figures. Archbishop Carlson ordained 21 in 2014 and 18 in 2016. The ordination classes of 2020 and 2022 each have 23 men in formation.

Archbishop Carlson explained in his homily: "Remember always, ... the words of 2 Corinthians 4:7: 'We hold this treasure in earthen vessels that the surpassing power may be of God and not from us.' At one level this involves ongoing conversion, and at another, this call to ministry and service involves the whole person.

"As we read in Colossians 3:12, 'Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience,' then next two verses (add) 'forgiveness' and 'love.' This interior change begins when one responses to Jesus call and through a deep openness to God's grace makes the commitment to lead a fully Christian life — with a 'day in day out' commitment — to practice the virtues and for one called to be a deacon allowing the divine seed of charity to grow and express itself in actions which continually coincide with what God wants.

"May you have the courage in your ministry to be a positive influence for change in the world so that our world might be renewed by Christ and transformed into the family of God," said Archbishop Carlson, who advised the new deacons to always remember these words of Jesus. "'You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide; so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give to you (John 15: 16).' In other words, you are not called because you are necessarily worthy but rather — and here is the grace — Jesus called you!"

Then, laying prostrate — a human being's must vulnerable position — the men heard in the litany of saints that the Blessed Mother, the angels and the saints have their backs.

And then they heard the archbishop say the Prayer of Consecration over them: "May (these men) excel in every virtue: in love that is sincere, in concern for the sick and the poor, in unassuming authority, in self discipline and in holiness of life. May they imitate Jesus who came not to be served but to serve." 

The new permanent deacons

Paul J. Arthur

Age • 56

First Mass • 5 p.m. Saturday, June 2, St. Gerard Majella Church in Kirkwood

Family • wife: Anne; sons: Andrew, Scott

Secular career • Guidance counselor, Parkway North High School

The Call • My calling is in response to the Father's abundant mercy, the Son's loving example and the Holy Spirit's fortifying grace.

Michael G. Brancato

Age • 56

First Mass • 11 .m. Sunday, June 3, St. John Paul II Church in Affton

Family • wife: Christina; children: Robert, Sara

Secular career • C&W Services

The Call • I was called by God to be His servant but did not know it was to serve as a deacon until I was asked by Deacon Jim Murphy to consider the diaconate. By discerning the call, I found that Deacon Jim saw something in me I did not see.

Joseph R. Brindley

Age • 65

First Mass • 9 a.m. Sunday, June 3, St. Vincent de Paul Church in Perryville

Family • wife: Leslie; daughter Kelsey

Secular career • USAA general adjuster

The Call • I was introduced into the Vincentian spirit in the early 1970's as a young man in the Vincentian seminary at Perryville. After graduating from college there, I felt my vocation was elsewhere. I went back to California to live and work in a lay apostolate. I was looking for a place to eventually retire and asked God where I should go; I remembered the great Catholic spirituality of the people in Perryville so I moved there in 2011. After seeing what everyone else was doing in the Church here for other people, I felt inspired and asked God what I could do, and my past seminary training and being a deacon seemed a perfect fit. God answers prayers and shows the way!

James DeNatale

Age • 58

First Mass • 11 a.m. Sunday, June 3, Holy Spirit Church in Maryland Heights

Family • wife: Linda; children: Amanda, Brian

Secular career • Facilities coordinator, MOM365 Inc.

The Call • I was a seminarian in my younger years, and during that time, it became clear that God was giving me the gifts of service. For a time, I thought these gifts would manifest themselves in the call to priesthood, but I discovered God had other plans. After graduating from St. Louis University with a degree in theology, I taught religion, but I came to realize over the years after I finished teaching that God was calling me to use this degree in pastoral ministry. The diaconate formation has helped me to seek God's help on how I could do this, and with His grace, I hope to fulfill what He began back in high school.

John DuFaux

Age • 63

First Mass • 11 a.m. Sunday, June 3, St. Francis of Assisi Church in Oakville

Family • wife: Mary Jo; children: Eileen, Mary Renee, Regina

Secular career • Recently retired as tax director at Nestle Purina

The Call • Providing service has always been an important part of my life, and I particularly envisioned my retirement years being devoted to such work. For many years, when people would suggest to me that I consider becoming a deacon, I would brush aside their suggestions. Eventually, I realized that this may be God's patient urging of His will for me, and I took the leap of faith. It appears that God has His own ideas of the service that I can provide. I am honored to serve the Lord and His Church.

David G Ewing

Age • 58

First Mass • 9 a.m., Sunday, June 3, St. Ann Church in Clover Bottom

Family • wife: Sue; sons: Zach, Josh, Tyler

Secular career • CT technologist. Mercy Health Care in Washington

The Call • After contemplating a call to the diaconate for nearly four years, I decided to pray and ask God to give me a sign, some affirmation that I should apply for the diaconate program. Within 48 hours, two people mentioned that I should consider becoming a deacon. On the first night of class, I discovered that many of my classmates had had similar experiences. Throughout the past five years of formation, I have continued to feel that I am right where God is calling me to be.

Scott C. Kaufman

Age • 58

First Mass • 11 a.m. Sunday, June 3, Holy Spirit Church in Maryland Heights

Family • wife: Sharon; daughters: Melissa, Becky; son: Ben; three grandchildren

Secular career • Dynamic Vending

The Call • In 1986, I converted to the Catholic faith. Since then, due to job relocations, we moved to many different parishes and with each move I got more and more involved at church. In 2006 I went on an ACTS retreat which was followed up by a Living your Strengths class. These events, as well as encouragement by some parishioners, led me to consider a call to the diaconate. At that time, I did not feel ready for the commitment but finally, in 2013, on another ACTS retreat I said yes to the Lord to pursue my call to the diaconate to serve others.

Brian Knight

Age • 55

First Mass • 5 p.m. Saturday, June 2, St. Mary's of Perpetual Help Church in Villa Ridge

Family • wife: Joan; sons: Adam, Nathan; four grandchildren

Secular career • Sales at Straatmann Toyota in Washington

The Call • I believe that there are many forces that helped lead me to this ministry. Most importantly, my desire to serve my Church and my parish. But also from the inspiration and example set by my mother and father, my siblings — especially the two who are ordained priests — my wife, and my pastor Father Mark Bozada and all of the parish priests who previously have been a part of my life.

Kirk Lackas

Age • 56

First Mass • 11 a.m. Sunday, June 3, St. Patrick Church in Wentzville

Family • wife: Karen; daughters: Charis and Melissa; son: Justin

Secular career • Network engineer, the Boeing Company

The Call • The notion of becoming a deacon came to me twice in the year following my first ACTS retreat. I gave it a little more consideration each time but ultimately did not see myself in that role. The clincher came while I was serving on the team at my second ACTS retreat. A retreatant approached me after the first Mass and asked if I had ever thought about being a deacon; I've not stopped thinking about it since.

Kurt Loeffler

Age • 64

First Mass • 9 a.m. Sunday June 3, Queen of All Saints Church in Oakville

Family • wife: Barbara; daughters: Laura Loeffler, Pamela (Magruder): three grandchildren

Secular career • Retired mechanical superintendent from Manufacturers Railway

The Call • Our company was shut down in November of 2011. Shortly after this happened, I was at Mass the week before Stewardship Sunday. The pastor asked us to look for guidance from the Lord on how to share our time, talent and treasure. I said a prayer of thanksgiving for getting me through the shutdown and promised to give my time wherever He needed me, but under one condition: I wanted a guaranteed sign from Him. No guesswork. I needed to be hit over the head with this. Five minutes after Mass ended, the deacon approached me and asked me to consider applying for the diaconate. I got my sign! I applied the following spring and never looked back.

Randy Maune

Age • 55

First Mass • 10:30 a.m. Sunday, June 3, St. John the Baptist Church in Villa Ridge

Family • wife: Sara; sons: Shawn, Larry, Jacob; daughter: Alyssa

Secular career • Heavy equipment operator, Concrete Strategies

The Call • Looking back on it, I realize that Jesus has always had His arm around me, guiding me. It was I, who was not listening. In the beginning, I laughed at the idea of becoming a deacon, as I thought that I was not worthy. When Jesus became a little more firm, I began to listen and realized what He was asking of me. At that moment, I told Him that I would try to be a better listener and I promised to try my best to never say "No" to Him again.

Dennis M. Meinert

Age • 61

First Mass • 4:30 p.m. Saturday, June 2, St. Francis Borgia Church in Washington

Family • wife: Judy; children: Rianna, James, John, Theresa, Joseph

Secular career • Soil scientist, retired, State of Missouri Department of Natural Resources; U.S. Forest Service, present

The Call • I was working with my pastor in Neosho on the church grounds. It was about two weeks before I was to be married. He asked me if I had ever thought about becoming a priest and I indicated that I thought that it was a little late to be making that decision. But I never forgot his question and it became a part of my life. Since then, I have slowly worked my way to becoming what God has called me to and serving His Church.

Timothy G. Michaelree

Age • 55

First Mass • 11:30 a.m. Sunday, June 3, Saint Alban Roe Church in Wildwood,

Family • wife: Suzanne; children: Jill, David, Hannah, Dr. Kristin McLain Milonas, Thea McLain,

Sylvia McLain, Anthony McLain; eight grandchildren

Secular career • Religion teacher, Christian Brothers College (CBC) High School

The Call • Like many young men, as a child I always wanted to become a priest, however; my calling to become a father outpaced my calling to the Holy Orders. I attended Truman State University and became a businessman to support my family. In 2007, I was fortunate enough to attend a mission trip in order to build homes for families in Mexico with Father FROG and St. Theodore Parish. While working with the teens and doing missionary work, I realized my calling was still alive. I began to teach at the grade school level for All Saints Parish and Immaculate Conception in Old Monroe. I went back to college and received a master's degree in education from Lindenwood University in order to continue my ministry in teaching. This rekindled my desire to pursue the diaconate.

John Minicky

Age • 57

First Mass • 11 a.m. Sunday, June 3, St. Gianna Church in Wentzville

Family • wife: Kathy; daughters: Anna, Emily, Mary, Katie, Julie

Secular career • T-45 Goshawk chief engineer, the Boeing Company for 35 years

The Call • I was first called to consider the diaconate when I was a young father of three at St. Dismas Parish in Florissant. Over the years I had contact with other deacons who urged me to discern the call, and many other lay people and clergy who taught me how to live the Gospel with joy and fidelity. I am grateful to God for giving me this vocation, and grateful to all those who helped me to grow as a Catholic man, especially my wife Kathy. It is my desire to bring the hope and joy of the Gospel message to many souls as a permanent deacon.

Steven Moeller

Age • 59

First Mass • 11 a.m. Sunday, June 3, St. Charles Borromeo Church in St. Charles

Family • wife: Lisa; children: Matthew, Brett and Katelyn

Secular career • Architect, Clayco Construction Company

The Call • As a young man, I attended the high school seminary, Prep North, however at that time I felt that the call to minister was not really for me. I met my wife, Lisa, and we raised three wonderful children. However, as they grew older and began to move out of the house, it seemed that the Lord was still calling. He is patient and persistent indeed. With the love and support of my wife, I decided to follow up on that call to minister to the Lord's people in a special way as a deacon.

John J. O'Hara

Age • 64

First Mass • 10:30 a.m Sunday, June 3, St. John Bosco Parish in Maryland Heights

Family • wife: Janna; children: Shaun, Ryan, Molly

Secular career • An owner of Murray Company since 1993: a construction management/design build/ general contracting company.

The Call • My former pastor, Father Vince Bommarito, in the mid '90s ask that I consider a vocation to the diaconate. At the time, we were only 3 years into owning the business, and our children were still in grade and high school, the timing just didn't feel right. However that feeling to serve kept coming back year after year. In 2002 I attended a deacon night function, and I knew then how Jesus was calling me to serve. Starting in 2009, Jesus began removing each obstacle one, by one that had kept me from applying for formation. Janna and I realized in 2011 it was time to apply, and we accepted what Jesus was asking of me as an individual, and us as a family as to how I would serve His people. Next to being married, and raising our children, the formation journey has been the most rewarding and challenging experience of my life, even more that owning my own business. I consider myself truly blessed to have been called, and then chosen by Jesus to serve His people.

Matthew M. O'Neail

Age • 37

First Mass • 5 p.m., Saturday, June 2, St. Rose of Lima Church in DeSoto

Family • wife: Bambi; son, Lance; daughter, Angelina

Secular career • Criminal investigator, Jefferson County Prosecuting Attorney's Office

The Call • For me the call to serve the Church as a deacon came subtly, yet clearly. I spent a lot of time in prayer asking God to show me ways I could serve my parish. Many times after this prayer, I would be touched by memories of a deacon who many years ago ministered to my wife and I. From those memories, a desire to serve as a deacon began to form. I am grateful for the loving support of my family, as well as the guidance and support of Father Alexander Anderson, Deacon Edward Boyer and Father Clark Maes.

Manolo Rivera

Age • 52

First Mass • 11:30 a.m Sunday, June 3, St. Robert Bellarmine Church in St. Charles

Family • wife: Merle; daughter: Mary Ann (De Vera); son: Christopher; one granddaughter

Secular career • Operational accounting representative, CitiMortgage in O'Fallon

The Call • In 2005, our family moved from Maryland Heights to a new home in St. Charles, therefore we were in need of a Catholic church nearby. With God's guidance, we found St. Robert Bellarmine Parish, a church with a family perspective. Welcomed by now-retired Father Patrick Ryan who witnessed our 25th wedding anniversary in the church, we felt the warm embrace of Father Pat and the church community. My faith grew as the months and years passed by joining the church youth choir, adult choir, RCIA, server, Eucharistic minister. In light of these active involvements, then one of the deacons in this parish invited me to the diaconate formation welcome night. I thought this invitation is a calling from the Lord; that's how it started. I joined the diaconate class of 2018 and I'm on my way to the permanent diaconate ordination, on my way to a great and wonderful service for the Lord and for His people.

Richard H. Rosenkoetter

Age • 52

First Mass • 11 a.m. Sunday, St. Mark Church in St. Louis

Family • wife: Mary; children: Matthew, Jonathan

Secular career • Systems engineer, U.S. Government

The Call • I have had a call to ministry since a young age. Through the years I have engaged in various lay ministries and while fulfilling something just seemed incomplete. I few years back I was at the Catholic Men for Christ conference where the word "Deacon" hit in my heart and it felt complete.

William L. Scarry

Age • 55

First Mass • 5 p.m. Saturday, June 2, Sts. Joachim and Ann Church in St. Charles

Family • Daughter: Colleen (Morris)

Secular career • Programmer/analyst at The Boeing Company

The Call • I have felt an inner call toward a vocation since my youth. It has taken many years, and a few missteps along the way, to discern exactly what shape that vocation would take. But I truly believe that this is the particular service to which I have been called. I look forward to serving God, through His Holy Church, to the best of my abilities, and by His grace! I am excited to begin this new journey, and I hope and pray for the humility and strength to serve faithfully.

David Schaefer

Age • 57

First Mass • 10:30 a.m. Sunday, June 3, Assumption (Mattese) Church in south County

Family • wife: Patty; sons, Joe and Tom

Secular career • Retired from National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency

The Call • I was blessed to grow up in a large family with strong Catholic values. My parents sacrificed to send all of us to Catholic school through 8th grade, laying the foundation for my faith. I have always been active in my parish through participating in Mass, and volunteering in various ministries, which I believe was God's way of preparing me for the diaconate, even before I knew that I wanted to discern this journey. Over the years various friends, family, PSR and Scouting parents, and others asked me if I thought about the diaconate. I finally chose to listen and after several months of prayer I discussed formation with Patty and together we attended an information night. With the support of Patty, our sons, family, and friends I entered formation. I am truly blessed once again and humbled to be a husband, father, and deacon.

Daniel F. Schmitt

Age • 57

First Mass • 10:15 a.m. Sunday, June 17, Immaculate Conception Parish in Dardenne Prairie

Family • wife: Bonnie; daughters: Becky, Maria, Jenny

Secular career • Computer programmer, Bunzl Distribution

The Call • About ten years ago, a priest asked me when I was going to submit my application for the diaconate; I had never thought about it before, but it felt like he stabbed me in the heart with a sword made of truth. I spent several years telling myself I wasn't worthy or suited to the diaconate, but it kept coming back up. When I finally started asking God if this was something He wanted, the answer came quickly, loud and clear. I've learned that saying, "yes," to God's plan for my life is much more exciting and rewarding than anything I could imagine on my own, and feel blessed to be called to this ministry and am looking forward to serving God and His people.

Lee W. Trani

Age • N/A

First Mass • Noon, June 3, St Clare of Assisi Church in Ellisville

Family • wife: Sheila; sons: David, Lee, Sean, Christopher, Michael; daughter: Rachael; six grandchildren

Secular career • N/A

The Call • I have felt close to our Catholic faith. My Sheila has always been by my side and she has been an inspiration and guide to God's love. We have worked with many groups and charities for years as we traveled the world. Daily Mass is my reminder to start my day as God would have me, sharing my Catholic faith with everyone I meet. I want to share my blessings in service to others and to assist the Church in all ways possible. I have been close to Christ and my calling has been pulling at me for a long time. I am just surprised at how long it took for me to wake up and finally answer.

Patrick M. Wheadon

Age • 53

First Mass • 11 a.m. Sunday, June 3, Our Lady of Providence Church in Crestwood

Family • wife: Teresa; children: Colleen, Stephen

Secular career • Office of Religious Life and the Office of Sponsorship, the Marianist Province of the United States

The Call • I am fortunate to be able to see how my call to the diaconate has been rooted in fertile soil and cultivated throughout my life. My parents nurtured in me a desire to grow in my faith, gave me the opportunity to receive a quality Catholic education, and gave excellent witness to serving others. This was reinforced throughout my life by examples given to me by my family, my friends, colleagues and experiences God has led me to. I have been the beneficiary of incredible support, encouragement and modeling from my wife, my children and the many wonderful people in the communities I work in, pray with and serve. For me, the call to the diaconate, the call "to serve", comes from a call within, to be who God calls us to be and the desire to try to model Mary's "yes" in our daily lives.

Trevor Wild

Age • 45

First Mass • 10:30 a.m Sunday, June 3, St. Clare Parish in St. Clair

Family • wife: Erin; son: Caleb; daughters: Elizabeth, Mary Grace, Rebecca

Secular career • Chief deputy, Franklin County Sheriff's Office

The Call • During a very difficult time in my family's life, our parish priest showed us so much love and compassion it can barely be described. He loved as Christ loved. I am unable to forget what Jesus did for my family through that priest. I have reflected often on that time in our life and the impact on me and my family. In serving God and His people, I hope I can do for even one person what our priest did for my family. 

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