CATHOLIC HERALD STAFF
What was it like growing up in such a large family?
For me, it was normal. That’s what I knew. It was bigger than most of my friends but we weren’t the only big family around so it wasn’t that crazy. We still get together very frequently. It’s a tribute to my parents, who instilled that in us: that family is important. At least once a year we have a family picnic, where everyone comes home.
Is there anything you learned growing up in a house with so many people?
You learn that you’re not alone in this world. You have a sense that you have to watch out for each other, and that extends beyond the family. That’s the main thing. You have to prepare for what others are feeling. You learn a sense of responsibility for more than just yourself.
When did you begin to consider the diaconate?
I first considered it when my kids were pretty young, but at that time, my wife thought we should hold off. It didn’t seem like a good time. We waited until they were a little bit older. I thought, let’s see if it’s still bugging me, later on. And that little voice in the back of my head was still calling me. That would have been 1994.
What was that little voice? Where did that come from?
I’ve always had that itch to serve. The field of education is a field of service, most of all, and you’d be amazed by how many of even the public educators are Catholic. To serve just seemed natural to me, and the diaconate was a way I could continue to do that. I was always involved at the parish — again, something I learned growing up. My involvement just grew into looking at the diaconate as well.
In your free time, what keeps you busy?
I like to do a lot of reading but I’m also a puzzle nut — I like all kinds of word games and puzzles, like Sudoku. I like sports, but I’m more a sports watcher than a sports player.
Do you have a favorite sport?
All the Milwaukee and Wisconsin teams — the Brewers, the Packers, the Bucks. Baseball is probably my favorite. I do miss it right now. My wife and I actually went down to Scottsdale this year for spring training, so we got to see a little bit of that, but we had to come back early because of the pandemic.
Who is your biggest hero?
Well, from baseball, Henry Aaron. I actually did get to meet him once. His son was teaching for me at Rufus King, and when he got married he invited me to his wedding. I met him at the wedding — I was thrilled to meet my boyhood hero. But if I could sit down and have dinner with somebody right now, it would either be Martin Luther King Jr. or Gandhi. Their whole notion of nonviolence has always intrigued me.
What do you think you would ask them?
How they came to their philosophy, their way of dealing with the injustices in the world. How do you turn the other cheek?
What has been the most unexpected thing to happen to you as a deacon?
The most pleasant thing was being able to participate in my kids’ weddings and my grandchildren’s baptisms and First Communions. But also, probably, an unexpected thing is — I got to go with Fr. Dan Pekarske, SDS on a six-week mission to Tanzania about 10 years ago. That was really an eye-opener for me, just to be in that part of the world, and to see how the people live. We spent time in villages with no running water, no electricity — but people are all taking care of each other. It was amazing to watch, to see — even though we would think of them being poor, nobody goes hungry in those villages because if somebody doesn’t have food, their neighbor shares with them. To watch that was amazing.
What is a Scripture verse that really speaks to you?
The Story of the Prodigal Son. The unending, almost unexplainable mercy of the Father. You can read that story so many different ways and it doesn’t ever seem to get stale.
What’s your favorite movie?
Field of Dreams — for obvious reasons.
What’s your favorite dessert food?
Anything with dark chocolate. My mother used to have a Vienna Torte — I can taste it now. I haven’t had it for a long time, at least not the way she made it.
What’s your favorite TV Show?
The old “Andy Griffith Show.” I think Barney Fife was the greatest character on TV.