Give Us Shepherds

Do you have a favorite childhood memory?

Our family had some land in southern Illinois that had woods on it, and we would go tromping around in these woods several times a year. That was really memorable because I grew up in a subdivision, and to be able to be out among the trees and creeks and nature — it was just a real treat. I still like getting outside as an adult both walking and biking in nature.

How did you and Catherine meet?

I went to college and got my engineering degree, and moved to Midland, Michigan, to work for Dow Chemical. I moved there in 1982 and in March 1983, I met Catherine, my wife, for the first time — at church, of all places, introduced by her father, of all people.

How did you come to discern a vocation to the permanent diaconate?

After our fifth anniversary, Catherine and I went on a Marriage Encounter weekend. From there, through Christ Renews His Parish and Cursillo retreats, our spiritual lives really grew. I also got heavily involved in RCIA in the parish. Before we moved here to Wisconsin for my job, Catherine had been accepted to a lay ministry formation program in our old diocese, so when we moved here, she and I went to an open house at the seminary to check out their formation program for lay ministry, which, at the time, was combined with the program for the diaconate. After the open house, I told her, “Don’t be surprised if in 18 years I ask you for your support in pursuing this.” At the time, we were expecting our fourth son and I was fearful of overloading family life. But come 2012, I just felt this nudge from the Holy Spirit saying: “It’s time; look into this.”

Tell us about your job.

I work in new product development, in research and development, mostly for consumer packaged goods. We spend a lot of time understanding the needs of our users and to know what we would need to invent — what’s the technical problem to solve? I lead projects with really good chemists and engineers to solve those problems.

What is it that you like about that?

I like that I’m at the interface between the engineers and the people who need and use our product. I like being the translator — being able to talk both languages: listening to and understanding the consumer while translating that to the engineers. I also like being able to point to products on the store shelf and know that I had a hand in getting it to market.

What is something you’re not good at?

My father was very handy, as well as my brother and my stepfather. They can fix anything. I’m not like that. I can mow the lawn but I can’t fix the lawn mower. But that’s OK. I am much more comfortable preaching a homily than they would be.

What’s your favorite TV show?

Catherine and I really like two different series on BBC. We used to watch a lot of “Sherlock Holmes,” but more recently, we’ve enjoyed the “Fr. Brown Mysteries.” Fr. Brown is a Catholic priest in 1950s England, and he’s a detective while he’s a pastor. Probably one out of every three shows has an overt calling to repentance, to forgiveness. It’s also very entertaining.

What is the most interesting place you have ever traveled?

As a college student in 1979, I got to visit Soviet Russia. I was there for six weeks learning Russian. This was before the Berlin Wall fell, so it was an intriguing time. It was a Communist economic system, which was really different. There were no billboards advertising products. Just red signs exhorting you to work longer and harder. Also, until COVID, this was the longest time I had ever gone without Mass. There were just no Catholic churches easily accessible.

What has been your biggest joy in the diaconate?

Back when I was allowed, I loved to go to the nursing home or hospital to visit Catholics there and give them Communion. Sometimes they were not really very responsive, but if I suggested saying a prayer together, the joy kicked in — even if they didn’t seem very articulate in conversation, there is something about the Catholic prayers. They would start to pray out loud with me. I just felt like God had me there to help them pray the way they can still pray. And it would touch my soul anytime that would happen. It was like, “Wow, God. I’m just here, but you’re at work.”