Did you grow up in a faithful Catholic home?
Very much so. My mom was a widow who raised my two younger brothers and myself. She was a very religious lady, and I learned a great deal about what it means to be a faithful Christian person by watching her prayer life and watching the things she got involved in. It was difficult for her with not much money and failing health, but she always did all she could and never complained. Her example is the basis for my faith, and Catholic school through eighth grade also really helped.
What made you want to go into teaching?
I’ve always admired the men and women that I’ve had as teachers. They were people that impressed me with the way they did their craft, and the way they were excellent teachers and interacted with students. I was attracted to that and it was really a marriage made in heaven, because it absolutely was the thing God meant for me to do and I enjoyed every moment of it. I never thought about it as a job because it was always something I looked forward to.
When did you begin to hear the call to the diaconate?
My younger brother was a deacon before I was and I marveled at the way he interacted with people. Being a teacher and administrator, I thought it would be something I could do well, and I prayed about it and began to feel God move my heart toward it. The process took about five years for our class and it was very difficult to work it into our schedules with work and everything we had to do. But it was important to me to become a deacon. I knew it was something God was asking me to do for him and his Church.
Who is the one person who had the most influence on you becoming a deacon?
I credit my mom, Alice, and how she lived out her faith. We grew up very poor, she was on welfare and was never healthy. But even to this day, I look back and marvel at all the ways she was able to do so much for her family even though she wasn’t well and there wasn’t much money. I have so much respect for her faith and how she interacted with people. I give her a great deal of credit for being the greatest single reason why I am a deacon. I had a younger brother who was also a deacon before he passed away a number of years ago; so of the three of us, two were deacons. I think she’d be proud of that, and I think it’s absolutely to her credit.
Is there any one thing you learned during your five years of study that you carry with you in your ministry today?
I have two bible verses I really like a lot: Luke 4:16-19; and Matthew 25, the passage, “I was hungry and you fed me, I was thirsty and you gave me a drink.” I meditate on them both often. I really feel that both are a call to all Christians to emulate the life of Jesus Christ. That command is never easy and, for some of us, it is extremely difficult and challenging, but we have to push through and try our best to be like him. To me, that’s been the draw: that in Jesus’ life he was so focused on the least of those during this time; so surely we should be, too. We absolutely and desperately need to focus on those individuals today, there are so many of them, and so many needs that must be addressed.
How do you work to help the poor in your ministry?
I’ve been part of the group that has gone to our sister parish, La Sagrada Familia in the Dominican Republic, for the last 15 years. We’re not going this year tragically because of the COVID-19 situation, but the experience in previous years has changed my life. Visiting our sister parish has given me a great affinity for the people of that area, their welcoming attitude, and the generous way they live their lives. They have very little but they’re so very generous.
I also work with the St. Vincent de Paul outreach for our parish, providing financial support to those in need in Kenosha. Those are the two biggest responsibilities I have in my ministry, along with preaching once a month and doing baptisms and marriages.
What have you learned from the people at La Sagrada Familia?
So many struggle so mightily over such a long period of time. I don’t think that if I was in their situations I would be able to have such tenacity and effort and strength to continue to struggle. I’m very impressed by how they try to better themselves even though it’s difficult for them to do that. I’m amazed at the resilience of some of these people.
How has your service to the poor changed since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic?
We’re blessed because the SVdP Kenosha Council has supported us and our parish has supported us, but there’s always more need than there is money to cover it. We’re always struggling to find enough money to continue to do the outreach month to month, especially now. It’s more difficult now than it’s ever been, and it’s going to get worse before it gets better. There are so many people right now that are struggling and need help. I feel like I never have enough to give away. There’s never enough, but it’s comforting to know that Christ is.