Give Us Shepherds

Was your faith always as important to you as it is now? 

When I look back, I see that the biggest thing that happened to draw me closer to God was meeting my wife, Mary. I’d come from a faithful Catholic home but seeing her deep faith and getting to know her family — her parents in particular — I wanted that. My faith blossomed as I got to know her. The whole experience of meeting the person I wanted to spend my life with and seeing who I could be with her, it made me better; it made me yearn for God in a way I hadn’t before. I owe a lot of the growth in my relationship with God to the woman and wife and mother that Mary is.

Where did you spend your career working as an engineer? 

At MU, I studied electrical engineering and then went on to complete a master’s that was kind of in mechanical engineering. I worked on my master’s thesis at Argonne National Labs near Chicago and then went from that into a corporate research group at Eaton Corporation. I spent the first 20 years of my career in that corporate research group doing all sorts of things related to electronic packaging. I quickly got into project and technical management. I was part of a restructuring layoff in 2001 and, after a six-month search, took a position in project and technical management at a medical device manufacturing company in Madison.

Did your family move at that time?

No, I spent seven years driving to Madison from Brookfield. While I enjoyed work that was closer to product development and manufacturing, the company had seven different presidents in the time I was there. While I was driving, I had a lot of time to pray and talk to the Lord, and I realized there had to be more to life than this. As the years went by, I explored other things God might be calling me to.

How did you explore those things? 

We had joined St. Anthony at about the same time I started at the company in Madison. Prayer and getting more involved at our new parish were key when I began to explore a new calling. I was appointed to the parish council at St. Anthony and from there, just had an amazing faith development experience. After a few years, the other deacon at the parish, Mike Finley, asked me if I’d ever thought about the diaconate. At first, I didn’t think so.

What changed that for you?
Well, I started talking to my wife and we prayed together and began to feel a calling. I’d started looking to come back to the Milwaukee area to work. The process came to a head when, just as we decided to apply for the diaconate, I got a new job at Rockwell in Mequon. I felt like God was showing me the way.

You mentioned messages God sent you that helped you make your decision. What were some of those?

It was a sequence of God moments. At the time, our daughter was in grade school and took dance classes every Saturday. Our first barrier was trying to figure out how we’d get her to dance. We also were concerned about her being alone all Saturday. As we got closer to applying for the diaconate, all the things we thought were obstacles began to lift away. There was a girl in our daughter’s school who took dance at the same place and her parents were happy to take our daughter. We also realized, and Laura later showed us, how much she liked to be alone on those days; she was a voracious reader and loved the time to herself. Everything that we thought was preventing us from being able to attend the program evaporated. It was a total moment of seeing God work and answering his call.

What has surprised you most about being a deacon?

The thing that initially surprised and scared me was that there were a lot of things that I ended up doing as a deacon for my family. For example, my first funeral service was for an uncle. And my very first baptism was of our first grandchild, Charlotte. The experience of doing liturgical things for my family when I wasn’t very experienced was scary, but I began to see how the Holy Spirit was always there for me. I needed that.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve been given? 

During early formation, I remember hearing that in our lives the priority is first God, then family, then work, then the diaconate. There was a corresponding message of how, ultimately, as a deacon, you integrate those things into your life. Looking back now, what I see is that God is at the center of everything and all other things surround that. It really is about serving God and knowing that everything begins with that. The other piece of advice that’s really gotten me through this past year is really the importance of prayer and theological reflection.

In your formation, you were encouraged to take part in ministries that didn’t necessarily come easy to you. Can you tell me where that work took you? 

I spent the first seven years since my ordination working as the liaison for our parish with Common Ground, a social justice advocacy organization. It was difficult for me, but I enjoyed the people. And at least two good things happened at our parish because of it: Parent Cafes, where parents meet in small groups to share and solve parenting issues, and a Substance Abuse Prevention and Education Team. The parish went in a different direction for social justice and advocacy shortly before I retired, and I am currently exploring other ways of serving in this area.

What do you hope people take away from their interactions with you?

I hope that they see how important marriage and family are. They certainly are central to everything that I do. I hope people look at me and are better able to see Christ because they know that I’ve experienced both the joys and the sorrows of family life and how God has always been there for me. I hope people see that my marriage and my family, and my devotion to them, are central in me bringing Christ to others.