Sunday, October 13, 2013

A Loss in the Family

I learned this afternoon that one of my fellow Aspirants passed away Saturday.  During Morning Prayer at the start of our second Aspirant Saturday yesterday we included him in our intentions,  as we were aware he was undergoing a medical procedure that day.  Today, leaders of our Formation team passed along the news of his passing.

"Welcome to the Diaconate Family," is the way my acceptance letter from the Archdiocese of Detroit back in July started.  It continued, "Even as you begin a very intense year of discerning whether or not you have been called to be come a deacon, the diaconate community considers you to be our brother and sister in the diaconate family."  Indeed it is a family, and this weekend our family suffered a loss.

Eternal rest grant unto him Lord, and may perpetual light shine upon him.  May his soul, and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.


Saturday, September 14, 2013

Aspirancy Formation Saturday - #1

Met with the other ten men and their wives at Sacred Heart Major Seminary.  It is the first of many Saturday formation meetings, to be held the second Saturday of every month, with a "break" in July and August.  The "break" is for our summer ministry work. 

For our meeting this month most of the day was spent with each of the couples speaking for ten minutes on their background, how we got to where we are today, a concern we might have regarding diaconal discernment, and hopes that we hold.  I am humbled by what I heard today.  The faith, the spirituality, the love of the couples to one another, and the variety of ministries these men and their wives have fulfilled was just inspiring.  When you are constantly bombarded with horrific acts man perpetuates on his fellow man during the evening news (or on one of the many 24 hour news channels), it was refreshing to hear of act of love, hope, and charity.

The afternoon we spent time going over how to pray the Liturgy of the Hours.  While there are numerous electronic versions of the Liturgy of the Hours, the formation team wants us to learn how to pray the Hours out of a book, either the four volume set, or the single volume, Christian Prayer.  Our wives are encouraged to pray the Hours with us, so after the session Juanita and I stopped and picked up a copy of Christian Prayer for her.  We took Juanita's copy with us to Mass to have it blessed.  Fr. Vic was presiding.  He had spoken to the Aspirants at the retreat in August, so having him bless Juanita's Christian Prayer was fitting.

Next Sunday we are attending the Rite of Candidacy which is being held at St. Isaac Jogues in St. Clair Shores.  While our attendance is not mandatory, it falls under the category of "Also-Expected Events" it will be a good to witness this rite.  A year from now I could be going through the Right of Candidacy along with the other ten Aspirants.


Saturday, September 7, 2013

Spiritual Director

Today I met with Msgr. John to see if he might serve as my Spiritual Director.  As mentioned in an earlier post, we are to meet with our Spiritual Director on a monthly basis.  While what is discussed between an Aspirant and his Spiritual Director is confidential, the Diaconate Formation team will check with the Spiritual Director to make certain the monthly meetings are taking place.

We talked for about 45 minutes about my past, why I think I'm being called to the diaconate, and about my prayer life.  I asked him a few questions as well.  At the end I asked if he would be open to serving as my Spiritual Director.  He said yes he would.  He encouraged me to keep a journal so that as thoughts, issues, or questions came up through the month I could write them down and bring that with me to share with him.  We meet again in late October.


Saturday, August 17, 2013

Deacon Mentor & Spiritual Director

This morning I met with my Deacon Mentor, Deacon Jim.  We got together for coffee and ended up chatting for 2 hours.  It was a great conversation that touched on various topics associated with this Aspirancy year and Formation years to follow.  Through the course of the conversation I got a good sense that I was speaking with someone who is a lot like me, background, as well as current life commitments.  I think it will be very beneficial to have a mentor who is not retired and is still dealing with the daily aspects of working and serving as a deacon.

I've made arrangement to meet with a priest from a nearby parish to be my spiritual director.  Unlike the Deacon Mentor who is assigned by the Formation Team, selection of a spiritual director is up to both the priest and the Aspirant.  They both have to be comfortable with each other.  The priest I'm meeting is someone with whom I am familiar as he celebrated Mass a few times at the former St. Colman.  More on that meeting later.


Sunday, August 4, 2013

Aspirancy Retreat

Aspirant Retreat, another early milestone in Formation where Juanita and I spent the weekend at Capuchin Retreat in Washington, MI with 10 other Aspirant couples.  As Juanita and I learned this weekend, technically I am not in Formation at this time.  This first year, as an Aspirant, I am going through a structured discernment.  Formation is for Candidates and begins the second year.

We are encouraged now to begin saying Morning and Evening Prayer from the Liturgy of the Hours.  This is required of deacons.  During the first several Aspirancy Saturdays, the second Saturday of the month, the Formation Team will be helping us learn how to say these prayers - using the Brievary, and not an electronic version.  Having been saying these prayers more or less since 2011, I certainly understand the need for instructions on how to flip between various sections.  Feasts for saints can quickly become an exercise in ribbon management!  More on that another time.

We are were also instructed to end any ministry work we perform with our respective parishes.  I alluded to this in an earlier entry.  Part of the reasoning for this is associated with time management.  With the start of mandatory Saturday meetings and two classes a semester at the seminary, the workload, particularly for someone who is not retired, can be overwhelming.  Add to that meeting with a spiritual director monthly, and meetings with a Deacon Mentor at least every quarter, you'd be hard pressed to have time to properly prepare and fulfill other ministry roles.

Friday evening was primarily check-in, welcoming and introductions, followed by some short presentations covering the history and renewal of the diaconate.  Check-in was interesting in that we were given a room number, no room key.  We went to our room pondering why there were no room keys.  But then it clicks.  We are at a spiritual retreat center, where you would hope we were all obeying the 7th Commandment.

The room was quite simple, two single beds, each with a plain night stand, and a small desk in the corner.  The bathroom was equally simple, with a sink, toilet, and shower stall that was no larger than the old phone booths.  There was no phone, no television, no distractions.

Saturday was a full day, beginning with Morning Prayer at 7:30, wrapping up at 9:00 that evening with social time.  There were four presentations through the day, followed by Mass, dinner and a fifth presentation.  There was a period of reflection after the first four presentations during which we were encouraged to go out onto the grounds of the retreat center and spend some quiet time meditating on what was covered in the presentation.

Sunday we received our Aspirancy Handbook and viewed a presentation that covered the materials within the handbook.  We were given a list of priests as prospective spiritual directors with instructions to have arranged to have a spiritual director by November.  We were also told that we would be assigned a Deacon Mentor, with whom we should meet quarterly.  Meetings with our spiritual directors are confidential, while meetings with our mentors are less so.  The mentors will be asked to provide an assessment of the presence of a vocation and our readiness for Candidacy and formation. 

The retreat concluded with the commissioning of all the Aspirants, and a reminder of our first Aspirancy Saturday on September 14th, where, with our wives, are to give a 15 minute presentation about ourselves.

All-in-all, it was a wonderful weekend.  We met equally wonderful and spirit-filled couples, both within our group of Aspirants, as well as Candidates and their wives.  And not to sound like we are rushing things, but we are looking forward to our next couple's retreat in January.


Sunday, July 14, 2013

One Call to Serve Comes to an End to Prepare for Another

Two years ago during an information meeting regarding the Permanent Diaconate Juanita and I learned that a candidate in the formation program is required to cease all ministry work within their parish.  They are not to continue to serve on any councils, to serve as a lector, an usher, an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion, etc.,  The reason for this is to allow the candidate to focus their mind and efforts on formation.  I suspect that this aspect of formation will be covered in an upcoming Apirancy Retreat and Orientation.  With that in mind, today could have be my last time serving as a Reader for a while.  

This "restriction" seems counter intuitive, considering a main aspect about being a deacon is serving, but I am certain there are good reasons for this.  In the meantime, Juanita and I will join the other members of St. Fabian and celebrate the Eucharist.

In further preparation for our upcoming retreat and orientation, which runs from a Friday evening to Sunday afternoon, Juanita and I visited a number of dog boarding facilities.  We are having to deal with boarding our 7 year old Chocolate Lab, Deacon, for the first time in many years.  Juanita is rightfully particular about where Deacon will stay because she spends a tremendous amount of time and energy keeping his allergies under control.  This includes preventing skin infections by giving Deacon weekly baths and allergy shots.  It can be a thankless job until someone tells her how beautiful Deacon's coat is, or that they would be hard pressed to tell he had allergies.

As for the Formation Program itself, here is some information provided by the Archdiocese of Detroit.  As noted in an earlier post, I have been accepted into the aspirancy year of formation.
Admission into formation occurs through two distinct but unified processes: Acceptance into the aspirant path and admittance into the candidate path in diaconal formation.  With the acceptance of the applicant into aspirant formation, the admission process continues with an assessment of readiness for entrance into the candidate path in formation.  This phase of discernment extends throughout the entire aspirant formation process, thereby allowing ample opportunity for personal observations, dialog, interview, and additional assessment of each aspirant.
The path to ordination is a four year process where the expectation to complete the aspirant path is one (1) year and the expectation to complete the candidate path is three (3) years.  In addition to academic studies, the formation program is composed of a variety of components: Formation Days, Field Ministry, Retreats, Spiritual Direction, Mentoring, and participation in a variety of Archdiocesan functions.  All are essential in the formation of the whole individual and as such, active participation is mandatory.  (Archdiocese of Detroit Office of the Permanent Diaconate "The Discernment of the Call, An Inquirer's Guide for Men Discerning the Call to the Permanent Diaconate, p. 25)

Saturday, July 6, 2013


Nearly 30 years ago I received acceptance to my first vocation as a husband when I asked Juanita to marry me and she said "Yes!"  Our year-long engagement helped us prepare not only for the wedding, but more importantly, life together as husband and wife.  It would be foolish to say that our lengthy engagement (it certainly seemed lengthy at the time) prepared us for everything a married couple might face together, but in retrospect, it was time well spent.

Yesterday, I received a "Yes" to a possible second vocation, that of a Permanent Deacon.  Technically, as the letter from the Office for Clergy and Consecrated Life for the Archdiocese of Detroit states, I "have been accepted into the Aspirancy year of formation for the Permanent Diaconate."

 To say this "Yes" is a bit more formal than Juanita's "Yes" to my proposal for marriage would be an understatement.  Regardless, similar to Juanita's acceptance, this acceptance starts what could be a four-year engagement.  God willing, the engagement would culminate in a Sacrament similar to the Sacrament of Marriage, that being the Sacrament of Holy Orders - Ordination as a Permanent Deacon.  

While in the end I alone (in a manner of speaking) would receive this Sacrament, because of the magnitude of this commitment, the engagement - formation program - will involve both Juanita and I.  A weekend retreat and orientation with other Aspirants and their wives early next month kicks things off.  Now, in addition to the Intellectual Formation that started with the prerequisite classes I have been taking at Sacred Heart, Spiritual, Human, and Pastoral Formation will begin.  

I would be remiss to not include a few "Thank you's" in this transitional phase from the Application process to Formation.  To Jan, Dan, and Jim for their letters of recommendation - thank you.   Likewise, thank you to the late Fr. Norbert and Fr. Jeff for their pastoral support.  Thank you as well to Deacon Jene for helping to get the application ball rolling again last December when Juanita told me to follow my heart.  To my parents, Jim and Sandy, for all they have done throughout my life, leading me to this moment.  Finally, to Juanita, who has been by my side, and was instrumental in helping me hear and act on this calling.   I thank God that you are in my life.  Without all of your involvement, prayers and doing God's will, this would not be possible.

To wrap up this post, as a prayer for Juanita and I, I would like to paraphrase the closing included in the acceptance letter.   I would humbly ask readers of this blog periodically say this prayer for us as well.

"May God's Spirit be with us as we begin this journey in His service.  May His Spirit give us the knowledge, wisdom, and discernment that we will need to come to know His will for us.  Amen."


Friday, March 29, 2013

Disapproval Does Not Equal Hate

A while back one of my best friends sent me a link to a poster that lists 24 logical fallacies (   It is an interesting poster that states, "A logical fallacy is often what has happened when someone is wrong about something.  It's a flaw in reasoning.  Strong arguments are void of logical fallacies, whilst arguments that are weak tend to use logical fallacies to appear stronger than they are."

One of these logical fallacies is ad hominem attacks.  This comes to mind whenever I hear or read all the claims of hatred, bigotry, and made-up phobias directed towards people who, because of their faith, disapprove of same sex marriages or unions.  Disapproval or disagreeing do not equal hate, at least, I believe that is the case for most people.

To further this point recall God handed down His 10 Commandments.  Our Father disapproves of our violating these Commandments.  Yet, as the ultimate demonstration of disapproval not equaling hate we know, "God so loved the world he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life." (Jn 3:16-17)  

God did not water down his instructions to us so that we would not be separated from him because of our sins.   Rather, He sent his only Son to die for us, that through our belief in him, we could be forgiven of our sins.  Likewise, the Church does not waver on the truth when it teaches homosexual acts, "are contrary to the natural law.  They close the sexual act to the gift of life.  They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity.  Under no circumstances can they be approved." (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2357, p. 566). 

Reflecting the love God showed all mankind through the sacrifice of his only Son, the Church tells us with regard to men and women who have these tendencies that, "They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity.  Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided." (CCC, 2358, p. 566)

I will continue to disapprove of the sin, but will continue to love the sinner.  While this is not a popular position in our ever-secular society, and one that garners ad hominem attacks, I will take strength in the words of our Savior, "Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you [falsely] because of me." (Mt 5:11)


Thursday, March 14, 2013

The Blessed Virgin

This evening in my Intro to the Catholic Church class we were reviewing the section of Lumen Gentium covering Mary.  Class was moving along at a regular pace, with a bit of dialog between the six students and  our professor.  After our break we started reviewing paragraph 60.  The section addresses Mary's role as a mediator while stating unequivocally that Jesus is the one mediator of God.  "In the words of the apostle there is but one mediator; 'for there is but one God and one mediator of God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself a redemption for all' (1 Tim. 2:5-6)" (LG 60).

Stepping into the shoes of one of my Protestant friends with whom I've enjoyed thought-provoking conversations over our respective Christian faiths, I asked "Why?" with regard to the last part of the paragraph, which reads:

But the Blessed Virgin's salutary influence on men originates not in any inner necessity but in the disposition of God.  It flows forth from the superabundance of the merits of Christ, rests on his mediation, depends entirely on it and draws all its power from it.  It does not hinder in any way the immediate union of the faithful with Christ but on the contrary fosters it (emphasis added).
There are many reasons to venerate Mary, the Mother of God, but I was just not getting why she would or could foster my union with Christ if I already believed in her son.  What is the point? 

I don't have the memory to be able to quote my classmates verbatim, but suffice it to say, what resonated with me was, just as God may use any believer in his plans to "mediate" between Him and other believers or non-believers, God also uses Mary.  In other words, by my living out my faith in even the most seemingly mundane aspect of my life, I may knowingly, or unknowingly, help someone in their relationship with the Lord.  It may be their initial exposure to someone following the will of God, or it may be just the something they needed to return to God after a loss of faith, or maybe something that further solidifies their faith.

Consider Mary's response to being told by an angle of the Lord that she was full of grace and would bear the Son of God, "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord.  May it be done to me according to thy word" (Lk 1:38).  If knowing of someone who surrendered themselves to the will of God helps foster, or mediates, a relationship with Christ for another, there isn't a greater example than Mary.


Monday, March 4, 2013

Application Process Update

We received a letter today from the Archdiocese of Detroit.  After reviewing our application into the Formation Program for the Permanent Diaconate for Canonical issues, the Office of Clergy and Consecrated Life has informed us we are authorized to proceed with the next step of the application process, psychological exams for both Juanita and I.  We are also to expect an in-house interview from a Diaconate Couple. 

The letter closes by asking us to schedule the exams as soon as possible because they hope to notify everyone of their decision by the end of May or early June.


Sunday, February 10, 2013

The Only Constant is Change

Time certainly does not stand still, and change is really one of the few constants in our lives.  So much has happened since my last entry, it is difficult to find a starting point with which to begin.

St. Colman / St. Fabian Cluster

The prospects for St. Colman returning to being an independent parish were not good considering the its small size and the acute shortage of priests.  The prospects of a sustainable long-term cluster arrangement with St. Fabian was tenuous at best because of the demands on the pastor / administrator in running two parishes, one of which included a school.  A financial situation within St. Colman raised concerns with some, but I and others were confident that it could be resolved.  In the end, what could not be resolved was the lack of priests and the inability of the Archdiocese of Detroit to assign St. Colman a new pastor.  So with the interest in the long-term pastoral care of the parishioners of St. Colman in mind, the decision was made to close St. Colman and merge into St. Fabian.  On November 11, 2012 I made the announcement at the conclusion of the 11:00 am Mass.

Fr. Norbert Kendzierski Social Hall

On December 2, 2012, as a gesture of unity following the announcement of the merger, and because Fr. Norbert had been pastor at St. Fabian before moving to St. Colman, St. Fabian name and rededicated its social hall in memory of Fr. Norbert.   

St. Colman Closing Mass

On February 3, 2013, at 11:00 a.m, with the Most Reverend Bishop Jose Arturo Cepeda presiding, Fr. Jeffrey Day and Fr. Craig Geira concelebrating, and Deacon Jene Baughman assisting, St. Colman parishioners celebrated their Closing Mass.  While there were several parts of the Mass that were emotional, several moments moistened the eyes of even the most hard-hearted.  First was after Communion when the altar was stripped and the Sanctuary Lamp was extinguished after all of the Eucharist was consumed, signaling that the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist, was no long with us.  Second was during the Rite of Leave Taking, during which the sacramental books, Holy Oils, and Holy Water were ceremoniously removed and parishioners were invited to kiss the altar upon leaving one last time.  The final step, and most heat-wrenching was when Bishop Cepeda sealed the doors of the church with a purple sash while declaring St. Colman closed.

St. Fabian Unity Mass

Today, on the day when Fr. Norbert would have celebrated his 75th birthday, many of us from St. Colman joined with parishioners of St. Fabian and celebrated a Unity Mass, signifying the merger of the two parishes.  The Mass began with several members of both parishes processing in with their respective sacramental books and bowls of Holy Water.  Additional St. Colman parishioners processed in with the Holy Oils from St. Colman.  The Holy Water and Holy Oils from the two parishes were combined.  The old sacramental books of both parishes will be replaced with a new set of books for the new St. Fabian.  

Members from both parishes participated throughout the celebration of the Mass, including the Readings, the Setting of the Altar, the Presentation of the Gifts, and as Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion. 

Future of the former St. Colman

There is still a great deal of work to be done with the former St. Colman.  The Archdiocese of Detroit is in negotiations with a potential buyer.  If the sale is finalized, it would mean the property would continue to be used as a church.  Even so, there is the matter of making certain all sacred items are handled properly, either being moved and used at St. Fabian or within another parish in the area.  I will post updates as the transition team completes its work.

On a Personal Note

As my bio had noted, I had taken some time off of my studies at Sacred Heart Major Seminary.  I knew my workload last January (2012) was going to make it impossible to meet class obligations.  I also was still dealing with the questions of, did I want to be come a deacon in response to being called by God, or did I want to become a deacon because I wanted to.  As such, I did not finish submitting my application for Diaconate Formation last year.

Following a change in jobs last summer, I applied to and was accepted into the MBA program at the University of Detroit Mercy.  In mid-December as I was about to register for Winter semester classes, Juanita unexpectedly asked me if I really wanted to return to school for the MBA.  I said I did.  She then asked me if that was really where my heart was.  After a brief pause I said honestly, it was not.  Funny thing is, she already knew it.  I said I really wanted to return to the Seminary because something inside of me was drawing me in that direction.  With a loving smile and supportive hug, Juanita said I should follow my heart.  So with that, I am following my heart, which I believe with more certainty, is responding to a calling by God.  Juanita and I completed and submitted the application for Diaconate Formation, and I have resumed taking classes at Sacred Heart.  I will post more frequently on this restarted journey.