How did you meet your wife?
We met in a football chat room. I’m a Dallas Cowboy fan and we were arguing about who was better, Brett Favre or Troy Aikman. I thought she absolutely didn’t care for me but we got to talking and, the next thing I know, I moved to Wisconsin. We were married Sept. 1, 2001, and have three boys.
When you were learning about your faith and the Church in RCIA, did you have a deep connection to it?
Yes I did. It made me feel like I was part of a bigger family than my family and my wife’s family. I really got to know my wife better and my mother-in-law, who was my sponsor. It’s funny because I remember the two of them saying that they learned more about their faith than they’d known before.
What were some of the things that you didn’t know that you learned?
For me it was everything. I just didn’t know much about being Catholic. When I first went to church with my wife, I was thinking, “What is all this standing up and sitting down?” It looked like everyone was a third base coach. I remember looking at my wife and asking what it was. When we got married, my mother-in-law asked if I would get confirmed. I was happy to do it for her. It was a life-changing event for me.
In what way?
It made me want to do more things with the Church. It was one of the first times in my life that I felt really accepted as a person.
When did you feel a call to the diaconate?
I had just moved on from teaching and I was looking for something, and didn’t know what it was. My wife got me into teaching religious education at St. Leonard (the parish I’m assigned to as a deacon). It was wonderful, but something else was calling out to me. The other deacon at St. Leonard gave a homily on being a deacon and that’s when the light came on.
What was the biggest hurdle you had to jump over to become a deacon?
Public speaking wasn’t my strength at the time and when I told my wife that I was thinking about becoming a deacon, she looked at me and said, “You know you’ll have to stand in front of people.” I told her that I knew but I had to find out if this was my calling. She was totally supportive of it. I don’t know if she was 100 percent sure I was going to get through it, but I wasn’t either.
How did you overcome that fear?
It was a lot of practice and patience through my pastor and all the professors through formation. It was mostly a lot of prayer, I prayed a lot. I told him that I am willing to do this but I needed his help. It always seemed like I got that help. Now it’s almost second nature. I can get up there and I’m OK.
How do you think overcoming your fear is an example to others?
It’s funny what God calls you to, and how he asks you to step out. In those moments, you know that it isn’t you getting through it: it’s him through you. I firmly believe that I’m an example of God equipping you for what he wants you to do. I was as far away from being a public speaker as you could possibly be.
Do you enjoy it now?
Yes, I do. It isn’t my most favorite thing to do but I like it.
What do you enjoy preaching on?
I like to tell a story and connect it to the Gospel, and use a human aspect to connect the Gospel with what’s going on in today’s world. I did one a couple months ago talking about how if we want to change others we have to change ourselves. It made me look at myself and ask what I can do differently. If I’m preaching for others to change, it needs to start with me.
How has your ministry changed because of COVID?
I’ve gotten very used to the livestream cameras. We did a lot more together as a family. The boys and my wife watched Masses online, and that really brought them close together. My youngest helped me talk with some of the nursing home residents who we weren’t able to go do communion for anymore.
What have you learned about your own faith since becoming a deacon?
It’s gotten so much stronger, being at two different parishes and seeing so many people who have so much more struggle than I’ve ever had, and seeing their faith. They always believe that God is with them and it’s made me see how he’s always with me.
What do you want to be known for?
I hope they will look back on me as a genuine caring person who cared about the people in the parishes I worked in.