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Newly ordained permanent deacons share their journeys

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New permanent deacons of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati pose with Auxiliary Bishop Joseph Binzer, center left, and Archbishop M. Dennis Schnurr, center right, April 30 at our Lady of the Immaculate Conception Parish in Dayton.  (CT Photo/Jeff Unroe)
New permanent deacons of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati pose with Auxiliary Bishop Joseph Binzer, center left, and Archbishop M. Dennis Schnurr, center right, April 30 at our Lady of the Immaculate Conception Parish in Dayton. (CT Photo/Jeff Unroe)

Archbishop Dennis M. Schnurr ordained 18 men April 30 to the permanent diaconate during a Mass at Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception Parish in Dayton.

The newly ordained deacons will serve in their own parishes, where they will be agents for God’s grace in the celebration of baptisms, weddings and funerals. Men who are ordained to the diaconate promise to live out the charism of service to God’s people through the word, sacrament and charity for the rest of their lives. The role of the deacon is to be a helper of the bishops and priests and to proclaim by his life the church’s call to serve the needs of others. The deacon is the animator and promoter of what the community of faith must be: a community of service.

The men recently provided information on their background and vocations to the diaconate to The Catholic Telegraph. Meet our new deacons below:

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Robert Louis Brazier, St. Thomas More Parish, Withamsville.

Family: Wife, Vickey of 43 years; daughter, Michelle, son-in-law, Rob, grandson, Christopher Jordan, granddaughter, Shelby Leann ; son, Robert; daughter, Becky, granddaughter, Madelynn Grace; son: Joseph deceased.

Education: Glen Este High School, University of Cincinnati, Mt. St. Mary’s Seminary.

Professional/Ministerial Background: Maintenance supervisor of North
American Properties, coordinator of sponsors or godparents for the RCIA at St. Thomas More Parish, coordinator of Communion to the homebound and bereavement, also working with the Worship Committee.

How and when did you experience your call to the permanent diaconate and what are you looking forward to the most about your ministry as a deacon? I have been a parishioner at St. Thomas More Parish, along with my wife for 13 years. My wife, daughter, son in law, grandson, granddaughter, and I were all received into the church through the RCIA process of becoming a Catholic at the Easter Vigil in 2004. After going through the RCIA process, my wife and I started working with the RCIA team. Vickey was the hospitality coordinator, while I was a sponsor/godparent coordinator. We volunteered in this ministry for seven years. During the time I was working with the RCIA program, I started attending Mt. St. Mary’s Seminary Lay Pastoral Ministry Program. I attended the seminary every weekend for three years. In 2012, I completed my studies and graduated from Mt. St. Mary’s LPMP program. Once I had completed the LPMP program, I applied and was accepted to the diaconate program. I began classes in the fall of 2013. My calling to become a deacon stems from the gratitude I felt towards St. Thomas More for all that the church community had done for me and my family. I felt the need to give back what I had received when I came here 13 years ago. I look forward to serving the parishioners of St. Thomas More and, as Jesus said, “I am here to serve, not to be served.”

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Paul William Feie, Guardian Angels Parish, Mt. Washington.

Family: I am married to Mary Beth Feie. We celebrated our 41st wedding anniversary last year. We have two grown, married children: Emily McKeen and John Feie. We have one granddaughter, Cynthia, and are expecting our second in mid-June. She will be my first baptism.

Education: I received an associate degree from the University of Cincinnati.

Professional/Ministerial Background:  I am a professional surveyor. I am involved with St. Vincent de Paul, RCIA and the Father’s Team at the parish.

How and when did you experience your call to the permanent diaconate and what are you looking forward to the most about your ministry as a deacon? Before I seriously considered the diaconate I had been approached by many parishioners about the prospect. However, I was at Mass, and the deacon was reading the petitions. One of the petitions was for his own mother who died two days prior. Seeing him at the altar asking for prayers for his deceased mother struck me in such a way that I felt something I had not experienced before. From that moment on, I was inspired to discern the diaconate. This discernment culminated in my ordination on April 30.

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Thomas Michael Gaier, St. John Fisher Parish, Newtown.

Family: My wife is Mary Pat Nurre and we have been married almost 43 years. She works for Catholic Charities.  We have one son, Michael, who is attending Mount St. Joseph University.

Education: BA in political science, University of Cincinnati; J.D. University of Cincinnati College of Law; and MA in pastoral ministry, Athenaeum of Ohio.

Professional/Ministerial background: Lawyer/shareholder in the law firm of Robbins, Kelly, Patterson & Tucker with an emphasis on estate planning and adoptions.  I finished my 40th anniversary as an attorney.

How and when did you experience your call to the permanent diaconate and what are you looking forward to the most about your ministry as a deacon? Many times God calls us through others in our life.  For me, that call came through service to handicapped during college ,and in serving on not-for-profit boards for cerebral palsy and day care.  It also came from, among others, Ray Egan (former executive director of Catholic Charities), Jesuit Brother Robert J. Schneider from St. Xavier High School, my friend Al Castellani, our parish men’s group, Father Giles Pater, Father Steve Walter, our parish youth group, and some Baptist clients. I am looking forward to serving the needs of our parishioners and others in whatever way God calls me to do. The key is being open and vulnerable to what God says and trusting His whispers to me.

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John Bernard Homoelle, St Ignatius of Loyola Parish, Monfort Heights.

Family: Wife, Diane; three sons, Brad (Angela), Doug (Mercedes) and Greg (Shannon). Five grandchildren, David, Rose, Michael, Same and Nathan.

Education: Roger Bacon High School, MS in chemistry from University of Cincinnati, MA in pastoral Ministry from the Athenaeum.

Professional/Ministerial background: RCIA catechist, spiritual care volunteer for Hospice, mission trips to Kentucky, Worship Committee, CRHP.

How and when did you experience your call to the permanent diaconate and what are you looking forward to the most about your ministry as a deacon? I first experienced this call probably as far back at 1992, but the confirming call came to me in October of 2012 while at Mass and the story of rich man coming to Jesus, asking Him what he needed to do to enter the Kingdom of heaven was read from the Gospel of Mark. I realized then that the most precious gift that I had to give to God was not my wealth, but the rest of my life. I think that it was then that God was telling me “Now!” whereas before He had been saying “Not Yet!”

I am looking forward to just being present to serve the community in whatever manner I am asked. But, most of all I look forward to being where God has ultimately called me to be. This lifelong quest has finally come to fruition. And yet, a new journey now begins!

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Thomas P. (Paul) Jabs,
St. Columban Parish, Loveland.

Family: Married, 38 years. Wife, Ann; children: Alexandra, Adam and Aidan

Education: St. Thomas Seminary, Bloomfield, Conn., AA; St. Anselm College, Manchester, NH, BA; University of Hartford, West Hartford, Conn.: graduate work, no degree, sociology; Athenaeum of Ohio, Lay Pastoral Ministry Certificate.

Professional/Ministerial: Divisional senior vice president, Great American Insurance Company, Cincinnati; taught religious education, usher/greeter, Stephen Ministry, spiritual care, Cincinnati Hospice, extraordinary minister of the Eucharist, ministry to the sick and homebound, lector.

How and when did you experience your call to the permanent diaconate and what are you looking forward to the most about your ministry as a deacon? The Mass and my faith have always been important in my life and entered the seminary after high school to discern a call to the priesthood, which was not to be. My vocation was marriage and family, and with it, my faith and love for the church continued to grow. We relocated several times, and it was not until our family settled down in Loveland, that the call to the diaconate was realized. Witnessing the service and commitment of our deacon community, involvement in ministry and encouragement from family and friends led me to answer the call of the diaconate. The diaconate ministry is a gift and with this gift I look forward to my mission as Christ’s servant to His church. For me, the call to the diaconate is summed up by bearing witness to Christ’s love for us by returning that love to Him, through service to others in our parish and community.

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Phillip Kenzora, St. Teresa of the Child Jesus, Springfield.

Family: Single; three brothers and four sisters.

Education: BSISE; MSISE; MBA; MSMM; Certificate Lay Pastoral Ministry;

Professional/Ministerial background: Retired after 34 years of business experience in all aspects of manufacturing management; taught third and/or fourth grade CCD classes; extraordinary minister of Holy Communion to patients in the hospital and at a local senior citizens care facility; lector and server at Mass and a member of various parish committees.

How and when did you experience your call to the permanent diaconate and what are you looking forward to the most about your ministry as a deacon?

My consideration to pursue the diaconate was initiated by the former pastor at my parish, Father Ed Gearhart. Basically, just a casual comment that initiated my signing up for the Athenaeum’s LPMP program. I suspect that the ease with which I agreed to begin the process was the result of the Holy Spirit at work in me due to my daily participation at Mass. Once I started down the path, it just seemed like the right thing to do, to continue, the culmination being Ordination on April 30. What an awesome day! As a deacon, I pray that I will be able to serve God and the people with joy and zeal, all for the honor and glory of God and that as a result we will all grow closer to God. Modeling Jesus, the role of the Deacon is to serve and as Jesus said to the Father in the Garden: “not my will but yours be done.”

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Mark James Machuga, Our Lady of Victory Parish, Delhi.

Family:  Wife, Julie. Married 36 years; son, Jonathan, engaged to be married in October to Kristin Eisenhardt; daughter, Jennifer, married to Matt Reinkemeyer. They have one daughter, Isabelle, and were expecting a second child at press time.

Education: BS from Youngstown State University; master certificate in project management from George Washington University,Washington, D.C.; MA in pastoral ministry from the Athenaeum of Ohio.

Professional/Ministerial background: Employed as a project manager with Hewlett Packard Enterprise. I have served my parish in many ministries, including the chairman of the Pro-Life/Pro-Family Commission, extraordinary minister of Holy Communion, lector, and liturgical emcee for solemn feast days.

How and when did you experience your call to the permanent diaconate and what are you looking forward to the most about your ministry as a deacon? I have been considering the diaconate for many years now. One of our former deacons first approached me about 25 years ago and told me that he thought I should consider becoming a deacon.  It planted the seed in me, but the time wasn’t right back then. But God works in mysterious ways. A former employer laid me off after 22 years of service, and I was forced to do some soul-searching about what I wanted to do with my life.  I found another job, but that was the spark that re-ignited my journey into the diaconate. The most profound honor I will have as a dacon, and that to which I am most looking forward, is serving at the table of the Lord in the celebration of the most Holy Eucharist.  I am humbled that God has called me to serve Him and His people in such a special way.

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Michael Herman Meyer, St Remy Parish, Russia.

Family: Wife, Carla, and six daughters.  Janel (Peter) Slonkosky, 28, Krista (Ryan) Schmitmeyer, 27, Alissa, 24, Becca , 21, Claire, 14, and Anna ,11. We have five grandchildren: Ezra Schmitmeyer, Bella Slonkosky, Rosalie Schmitmeyer, Hans Slonkosky, and Jude Schmitmeyer. We are expecting our sixth grandchild in July.

Education: Graduated from Ft. Loramie High School in 1980. Attended Bowling Green State University for two years with a computer science major, 1980-82. Quit college in 1982 to farm full time with my father.

Professional/Ministerial background: Farmed full-time until 1996. I am the full-time youth minister at St. Denis Catholic Church in Versailles and Holy Family Catholic Church in Frenchtown. I have been in this position the past 20 years. I remain active in grain farming.  Currently, I Farm 300 acres. I drive school bus for Russia Local Schools. In addition to youth ministry, I have directed youth choirs at both St. Remy and St. Denis until I entered the deacon formation program. I have also been involved in the adult choir at St. Remy, as well as serving as a lector and eucharistic minister.

How and when did you experience your call to the permanent diaconate and what are you looking forwardto the most about your ministry as a deacon? I experienced the call to the diaconate around the year 2000 when I started the Lay Pastoral Ministry Program, which I completed in 2003. However, my daughter, Claire, was born in May of 2001, and my daughter, Anna, was born in October of 2004.  I discerned that I need to put the diaconate on hold because it would be very difficult to balance the demands of deacon and formation with my ministry to my family.

In January of 2013, I bumped into a friend who had been accepted into the formation program and he being aware that I felt called to be a deacon, and asked me if I was going to apply.  It was like a nudge from God, and everything fell into place. I am both humbled and excited about receiving the sacrament of Holy Orders, and being empowered to serve others in their journey of faith. The ministries that I am most looking forward to are the liturgical duties of the deacon at Mass, Baptisms, and preaching.

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Patrick Michael Minnich, St. John the Baptist Parish, Maria Stein.

Family: Wife, Ashley Chaezell;
sons, Michael Landon, 11, Ashton Richard, 9, Xavier Daniel, 6, daughter,  Jolie Elizabeth, 5.

Education: Parkway High School; Rockford, Ohio; BA in education, University of Dayton; MA in education, University of Phoenix; masters plus 30 credit hours in education, Drake University; Lay Pastoral Ministry Program, University of Dayton; Deacon Formation Program, Athenaeum of Ohio; certified logistician, Army Logistics University.

Professional/Ministerial background: I am a commissioned officer in the U.S. Army and I am a school teacher for both high school and collegiate levels. My ministerial background is rooted in catechetical education with a focus on serving on religious education committees, which develop catechetical curriculum. The first four years that I served in the Army I fulfilled the roles of a chaplain assistant and I was successful in serving my God and country, all the while caring for the spiritual needs of my brothers and sisters in arms.

How and when did you experience your call to the permanent diaconate and what are you looking forwardto the most about your ministry as a deacon? My call to the permanent diaconate was initiated by the prayer for vocations that was written by Archbishop Schnurr and has been recited at every Mass within my parish from its conception in 2010.  I reflected on this calling as my wife and I participated in the “Why Catholic” program.  But the greatest factor that led to my calling to be the youngest ordained permanent deacon in the history of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati was the ever shrinking number of ordained clergy.  I am willing to give the rest of my life for the ministry to church to ensure that God’s children do not have to experience restricted liturgies that are being offered. I am looking forward to baptisms and weddings.  But I must admit that the one thing that I am looking forward to the most is being able to bring the good news of the Gospel to God’s children and in turn I will be bringing God’s children to Him.

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Michael Joseph Montgomery, Our Lady of Immaculate Conception Parish, Dayton.

Family: Wife, Elizabeth; Children Jacob, Daniel and Kathryn.

Education: BA in philosophy, University of Dayton; MA in pastoral ministry University of Dayton.

How and when did you experience your call to the permanent diaconate and what are you looking forward to the most about your ministry as a deacon? As a child I felt called to serve in the church.  I was an altar server through high school.  During this time, I felt called to something more. My family, my parish priests, CCD, and religious awards in scouting nurtured my faith and my calling.  At the University of Dayton, I pursued many ministry opportunities.  The Marianists joy at UD drew me to live in community. My discernment led down a different path, yet the brother’s prayer and love for Christ and Mary stayed with me. After completing my MA, I began 20  years of parish work in religious education.  At St. John Neumann, Iministered with three deacons, the call stirred again. The formation at the Athenaeum helped bring the discernment to fruition.  I look forward to serving at liturgy, celebrating baptisms, and presiding at weddings. The diaconate will also support my chaplaincy at Good Samaritan Hospital in Dayton.

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Charles W. Roemer Jr., Sts. Peter and Paul, Reading.

Family: Married with two adult children and two grandchildren.

Education: Xavier University, BSBA; Athenaeum of Ohio MAPM

Professional/Ministerial background: Retired quality assurance manager.

How and when did you experience your call to the permanent diaconate and what are you looking forward to the most about your ministry as a deacon? After LPMP and my field education work at Mercy Franciscan Terrace I was encouraged by my mentor to continue  chaplain ministry. I took chaplain training at Christ Hospital and then worked part time as a hospice chaplain and enjoyed it; something I really did not see myself doing. I also enjoyed teaching in our parish RCIA program. As a server I loved being around the altar so three years after LPMP I felt a call to be more active in parish life and to focus my skills/training within the parish where the need seemed to be the greatest. I entered the diaconate program in 2013 and after one semester decided I needed to retire from my day job and focus on family, parish, and the diaconate program.

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Johannes (Hans) Schade, St. Maximilian Kolbe Parish, Liberty Township.

Family: Married 32 years to wife, Dory; three children: Stephanie (married to Peter), Cassandra, and Christopher (married on 5/21 to Katie); granddaughter, Madelyn.

Education: Doctorate in Engineering from University of Toronto, master’s in pastoral ministry from Athenaeum of Ohio.

Professional/Ministerial background: 26 years with AK Steel (formerly ARMCO), currently run Research & Innovation organization. Long time cantor and extraordinary minister of the Eucharist at home parish, past president of Pastoral Council and of Worship Commission.

How and when did you experience your call to the permanent diaconate and what are you looking forward to the most about your ministry as a deacon? Some may find it hard to fathom, but in 2009 I heard a voice say “it is time.” I clearly remember its tone, inflection, and warmth. It took me a little while to decipher the message, but after some reflection, it became obvious. It was time to say “yes” to the call to the diaconate. The journey to today has been amazing. God placed me here for a definite purpose. Even with the challenge of fighting cancer, the path I discerned to walk on was always clear, and by His grace I am here now. I look forward to serving our church in many ways, with my first plan centering on ecumenical dialogue and a joint prayer service in January 2017 during the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.  As for the time question, I remind all I meet we can be called anytime … just be ready to listen.

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John Martin Schaefer (Jack), Our Lady of Sorrows Parish, Monroe.

Family: Married to Linda for 39 years

Education: BA Miami, Oxford OH 1977; MBA St Mary’s, Moraga, Calif, 1995; MAT Miami, Oxford OH 1999; MAPM Athenaeum of Ohio 2012.

Professional/Ministerial background: Analytical chemistry instrumentation business 1977-1997; education (high school chemistry teacher and parish DRE), 1999-present.

How and when did you experience your call to the permanent diaconate and what are you looking forward to the most about your ministry as a deacon? After completing my MA in Pastoral Ministry at the Athenaeum I had no intention of pursuing the diaconate. Since pastoral regions are a new way of being church, I saw that my home parish was in need of a deacon to keep his focus on one parish faith community. As a disciple of Jesus, a long-time volunteer and a member of the parish staff, I felt the calling of my Lord, my parish community and my pastors to the diaconate. It was a natural step in my faith journey. Deacon formation for me was a movement from the intellectual knowledge in my head to the spiritual depths of my heart. I am looking forward to my new roles in serving the people of God through liturgies, in apostolic teaching and in animating and affirming the charitable works of our parishioners as an ambassador of God, my archbishop and my pastor.

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John Arthur Schuler, Saint Mary Parish, Hyde Park.

Family: Married (Marisue Naber); four adult children; three grandchildren

Education: McNicholas High School, Xavier University, MBA ’82.

Professional/Ministerial background: Banking, senior vice president, Cincinnati Federal Savings. Various ministries at St. Mary’s

How and when did you experience your call to the permanent diaconate and what are you looking forward to the most about your ministry as a deacon? It really came over time through personal invitation and, of all things, music. Our director of religious ed was the first to approach and ask if I had considered the diaconate.   I was honored that she asked. Later, the second personal invite came from our deacon. He helped me with the question of “worthiness.” [None of us are, but God works through all of us] Subsequent to that was our pastor, who also asked if I had considered the diaconate. After I heard knocking three times, I thought I had better open the door. During all that time, the hymns at Mass asked the questions: if not you, then who? If not now, then when? It was then that I inquired about the diaconate. I look forward to the baptismal ministry and attending to new life and, hopefully, kindling new enthusiasm for our faith.

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Thomas Michael Sipniewski, Church of the Ascension, Kettering

Family: Married to Patricia for 43 years; two adult children (daughter Angela, 38, and son, Matthew, 36) and four grandchildren.

Education: High school graduate; Lay Pastoral Ministry Program; Deacon Formation Program.

Professional/Ministerial background: I work for a printing company in the Dayton area. I am a member of our RCIA team and I have been a lector and Eucharistic minister for many years.

How and when did you experience the call to the permanent diaconate and what are you looking forward to the most about your ministry as a deacon? I first experienced the call to be a permanent deacon about eight years ago. It was like a gentle nudge from God that slowly grew stronger and became more persistent. Discernment with lots of prayer began and was an ongoing process that continued through two years of the LPMP and three years of the formation program. What I am looking forward to the most about my ministry as a deacon is serving the Church and my parish as best I can with God’s help.

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Matthew Raymond Skinner, Our Lady of the Rosary Parish, Greenhills.

Family: I am the son of Raymond (deceased) and Mary Skinner. I have two older brothers, Peter (Margie) and Thomas (Cindy), an older sister, Carmela (Rex), and a twin brother, Clement. I have many nieces and nephews.

Education: Roger Bacon High School, 1983; University of Cincinnati, A.S. Cum Laude, 1985 B.S. Cum Laude, 1987; University of Dayton School of Law, Juris Doctorate Cum Laude, 1991; The Athenaeum of Ohio, MA in pastoral ministry, 2012.

Professional/Ministerial background: Senior associate counsel, The Cincinnati Insurance Company, Fairfield.

How and when did you experience your call to the permanent diaconate and what are you looking forward to the most about your ministry as a deacon? My journey to the diaconate began with a parish retreat where, like the disciples on the road to Emmaus, Jesus was made known to me in the breaking of the bread. It was thereafter that I began cultivating a relationship with Jesus Christ and learning more about my Catholic faith. I enrolled in the LPMP at the Athenaeum for this purpose and God went to work on me. It was during my studies that I experienced the call to the permanent diaconate. I cannot pinpoint a particular moment or time frame– it was a gradual process of discernment and formation. I am excited about finding out what God has planned for me in my ministry as a deacon. I am looking most forward to preaching; service at Mass; service to the people of my parish, pastoral region, and the community; and spreading the Good News of Jesus Christ.

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Michael Anthony Trimpe, Cathedral of St. Peter in Chains.

Family: I have been married to my wife, Giovanna, for 36 years. We have three sons. Anthony is married to Anna Maria and lives in Columbus. Sean is married to Cheryl and lives in Harrison. Alex is single and lives in Columbus.

Education: I have a BS. in forensic science and have worked at the Hamilton County Coroner’s Crime Laboratory for 36 years and I am currently the Crime Lab director. I received a master’s degree in pastoral Ministry from the Athenaeum of Ohio before entering the diaconate formation.

How and when did you experience your call to the permanent diaconate and what are you looking forward to the most about your ministry as a deacon? My faith has always been most important to me and wanted to be a priest until I met my wife in high school. I love to “pray unceasingly.” I pursued the master’s degree to teach religion at Elder where I coached golf for 23 years.  While waiting many years for an opening at Elder I kept having priests (my wife cooked for) ask me to become a deacon. I received many nudges from Fathers Bramlage, Seger, Larger, Snodgrass, Sunberg, Schnipple, Westerhoff, Peterka, and Archbishop Pilarczyk. Finally, when Father Barry Windholtz asked, I prayed over it and felt at peace knowing the Lord is pulling me to a life of service to His church. I look forward to being led by the Holy Spirit in serving my pastor, and the apostolic successor, and hopefully guiding souls toward eternal life.

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Paul Leo Timmerman, St Michael and Sts Peter and Paul Pastoral Region

Family: Wife, Patty of 38 years; three married children: Mark and Angela Timmerman, Joyce and Aaron Albers, Keith and Jodi Timmerman; and 12 grandchildren

Education: Certificate degree Edison State Community College.

Professional/Ministerial background: I am employed at Clopay Building Products, Troy, as an office supervisor of our Commercial Garage Door Departments. I am active in our pastoral region as facilitator of adult faith formation, lector, prayer leader, a founding member of our local St Vincent DePaul conference. I completed 5 years of service as a trustee of the Greater Dayton Conferences of SVDP. I am a member of our sister parish team and with the parish of San Cristobal in El Salvador. I will be traveling there the first week of June. I will also visit with my Unbound sponsor child while there. I am now beginning my ministry as an ordained deacon.

How and when did you experience your call to the permanent diaconate and what are you looking forward to the most about your ministry as a deacon? As a facilitator of the Why Catholic? Journey through the Catechism program, some of the participants encouraged me to consider becoming a deacon. I did not think much of it until my pastor, Father Steve Shoup, had a Called by Name where parish members could submit names of others in the parish who were deemed as possible candidates for a vocation. Some of the Why Catholic? members submitted my name, Father Shoup contacted me, and the journey of discernment began. In my ministry I am looking forward to serving God by serving His people as a deacon at the Mass, and ministering the sacraments of baptism and marriage. I enjoy working with people to help them make a difference in their lives. I am looking forward to working with the homebound, those in the hospital and those in need, whatever that may be. It is very fruitful knowing you are helping people build a stronger relationship with God.

 

This story first appeared in the June 2016 print edition of The Catholic Telegraph.

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