Give Us Shepherds

Growing up you served Mass with your father at church; what did that experience teach you? 

Some of my earliest memories of the Church are doing that alongside my dad. I saw how important church and faith was to him and I picked up on that, realizing it needed to be at the center of my life, too. Serving together was something that bonded us and started planting the seed in my mind that made me think about a possible vocation and ask myself if I was being called to the priesthood.

How did you discern the priesthood? 

I went to St. Lawrence Seminary in Mt. Calvary for a year in high school but ended up transferring back to my old high school in Manitowoc. I felt a call to serve the Church but I didn’t know what that meant for me; it’s something that takes a long time to unpack. After being in seminary high school, I knew then that it wasn’t the priesthood, but I couldn’t imagine what it was.

Why was faith so important to you? 

I had the opportunity to live across town from both of my grandparents, and I saw how important it was to them. It was part of everything they were. If you went over to visit them at 6:30 at night, they’d be doing their rosary on the radio. It’s those kinds of things that you don’t realize at the time, but they make such a difference later.

When did you begin to explore the diaconate? 

My wife and I got married, and I started thinking about it then. The answer that I got from the archdiocese was to focus on my married life and my family, and if the calling is still there, I should go back and talk to them. I was probably a little disappointed but honestly it was the best advice I was ever given, as looking back on it now, I wasn’t ready then –and it showed me too that God can be very persistent and patient. If he calls, he will wait.

What were you striving for career-wise at the time? 

I’ve spent my career in corporate finance. Corporate life takes up a lot of time, and asks a lot of you – we were moving across the country every two years and, although those investments were paying off, my wife and I realized that wasn’t what we wanted in the long term. When we moved to Illinois, I started getting involved in the Knights of Columbus and focusing on community and service, and it was the service focus of the Knights that made me realize I needed a better balance of work and service in the Church in my life.

What made you think about the diaconate again? 

In 2007, my dad passed away. I remember feeling challenged by the question, “Todd, what do you want to be remembered for?” My dad worked at UW-Oshkosh heading up the internship program in the college of business, and at his funeral, I had people coming up to me and telling me all of these stories about how my dad helped them get their first job, practiced interviewing or reviewed their resume. I felt like I was standing in a place, saying goodbye to him and making a choice about who I wanted to be. Did I want to be someone who climbed the corporate ladder, or did I want to be someone like my dad, who made a difference?

How did your wife approach you being ordained? 

When a man is ordained a deacon, it has to be with his wife’s full support. If she doesn’t give her consent, he can’t be ordained, so in many ways my ministry has always been hers, too. We’re doing it together, which is such a blessing. At our new parish, St. Anne’s, we’re teaching faith formation together. It’s something that we’ve never done before but it’s something that we can truly do together.

What did that moment of ordination feel like for you? 

It was unlike anything else. I was ordained by Francis Cardinal George and there were parts of the ordination rite where, even though the cathedral was filled with 2,000 people, he made it feel like it was only me and him. I was given the privilege to serve as the deacon of the Eucharist at the ordination with Francis Cardinal George, and it was one of the most beautiful experiences of my life. The other thing that stands out is the litany of the saints, where all the candidates are lying prostrate on the floor. Hearing the choir sing the litany I truly felt the whole Church praying for me and my fellow candidates. It was a very humbling and moving time of the ordination rite.