Give Us Shepherds

What is one detail about you that might surprise people?

I am an Elvis Presley fan as well as enjoying anything Irish – especially the humor. I am co-chaplain for The Ancient Order of Hibernians, an Irish Catholic fraternal society that actively supports several inner-city Milwaukee Catholic schools. I also love craft beer, and checking out microbreweries.

Why and how did you get into your current line of work?

My college majors of geography and sociology didn’t open a lot of doors, other than I don’t get lost in crowds, but I could get a job out of college as an insurance adjuster. So, I did. After almost 30 years of investigating health insurance fraud, I retired. Being young enough to offer advice to young doctors, I worked at Froedtert and the Medical College teaching them how to do things the right way. From there, I was hired by QuadMed to guide their provider staff. I hope to retire for keeps next year. One must “bloom where they are planted” and, in many ways, I find myself living out diaconal ministry in the workplace without using (too many) words. Many in healthcare have a strong faith and wonder at the awesomeness of God’s creation.

What is your favorite topic to preach on?

I can’t help myself – letting the assembly know that God loves each one of them, wants the best for them, will always be with them no matter what, and encouraging them to live out that love in outreach to others.

Are you a coffee or tea drinker?

Flavored coffees – nothing fancy – but I do like the current autumn roasts.

What’s the most interesting place you’ve ever traveled?

I’ve been to Ireland three times. Last year we experienced Hurricane Lorenzo; he caused us to spend the day sheltered in pubs – darn.

What’s the best advice anyone has ever given you?

A former boss told me to “learn something new each and every day.” That is my daily goal.

Is there anything about the ministry of a deacon that has surprised you?

This past July, I did a stupid thing and fell off my roof onto a brick patio. I broke 14 bones and had a punctured lung. Holy Orders didn’t remove my humanity. I received hundreds of cards and well-wishes from parishioners letting me know they were praying for me. It is very humbling to know so many cared about my well-being; to be loved by my St. Anthony on the Lake faith community is both a surprise and a great blessing. I am sure it was prayer and the Sacrament of the Sick that resulted in my speedy recovery.

Do you have a favorite craft beer or favorite microbrewery?

I don’t have a favorite because I relish the different flavors and I admire the individuals that take the time to start up these businesses and try to make a go of it. But I’d have to say IPAs are so popular right now, but they’re my least favorite. That and light beers. I like the dark and heavy beers. If I had a favorite type, it would be the Scotch Ale, especially a Bourbon Scotch Ale.

What do you like about visiting microbreweries?

I like the atmosphere of the places. It’s friendly, (and) you meet good people with a common interest. And ministry can even happen there — it can happen anywhere, because there’s no place God isn’t, which means that ministry is everywhere.

Tell us your vocation story.

The obvious answer, of course, is the Holy Spirit prompting, but the seed was Norm Thoresen more than anyone. We were friends in the mid-1970s and kept in touch, and along the line, when I was in the Air Force, he became a deacon. I thought that sounded fascinating. I got out and I asked him, “How do I become one?” He said, “Well, first of all you have to be 35.” I was maybe 20-something and it seemed so far off. But I don’t think I ever lost sight of that big example from Dcn. Norm Thoresen. He and his wife Dorothy were tremendous witnesses to me. Time goes on, I got married and had a family and kids, and it was one Sunday morning, just at the end of Mass, there was a little 30-second announcement about an informational meeting on the permanent diaconate. I thought, “I’m going.”

So it percolated for a few years before you really decided.

I think in the real world that’s how the Holy Spirit tends to work. It’s wonderful to have a-ha moments and we all hopefully are graced with those, but the reality is it’s in the everydayness of life — it might only occur for five seconds, and it’s gone for another year. But it keeps sparking and suddenly the time is right.