2) How were your parents impacted by your vocation?
Actually, my mother died three years before I even knew about the diaconate formation program I would eventually join. I had been thinking about the diaconate on and off for about 14 years at that point, but without any clear direction to follow, nor any commitment on my part. But, apparently, God knew better (He always does), and so one of the final times I visited my mother in the hospital as she was coping with the aftermath of breast cancer and Alzheimer’s Disease, I told her that I was going to become a deacon someday, although I don’t think that I had ever mentioned it to her before that. That was three years before I was in the diaconate program, and six years before I was ordained. Did my mother really understand what I told her? Somehow I think she did. Really.
My dad was alive for two years after I was ordained. He basically understood that I was ordained a deacon, but he lived in the Boston area while I and my family lived in Oregon, where I was ordained, so he didn’t really get to see me functioning in my ministry. That was until I was asked to baptize three of my nephews’ sons at a church near Boston and my father was there to witness it all. I think he felt good about what it all meant and was pleased with what I was doing.
3) What is a good hint to vocation/signs to look for other than paying attention? How do you know what vocation is speaking to you? How do you know that you have been called?
Be aware of that “inner voice” that we can often hear but oftentimes ignore. You really don’t usually just happen upon a vocation, or calling, though maybe sometimes that does happen. Mostly, you just really do need to pay attention. You have to pay attention to what’s really important to you. You have to pay attention to the people and experiences that come into your life. You need to focus on what’s truly real, and not plastic, temporary, or transitory. As far as knowing that you have truly been called, you just have to go with the best information you have, after you have learned as much as you can about what you think is really interesting and important for your life ahead. And, at some point, you need to just trust and move ahead with what you feel you’re being called to in this life.
4) Do you get paid a lot? Not to be rude…
Deacons who do not work directly for the Church – which is most of us – do not get paid by the Church. Permanent deacons (those not going on to become priests) are generally married, with a family, and are employed in a secular occupation. As such, we are expected to be able to support ourselves and our family.
5) What is your favorite ice cream flavor?
Strawberry! But a good strawberry ice cream (real strawberries, etc. – maybe like Tillamook Oregon Strawberry).
6) Just wondering, what is the church’s view on marrying someone with a different religion? It is allowed?
It is allowed through provisions in Church law when certain criteria are met. The reality is, however, that the preference is for a Catholic to marry a Catholic simply because that compatibility of faith/religion is going to be a very important factor in the marriage. It doesn’t mean that if you marry a non-Catholic that things probably won’t work out, but it can mean that things will be more difficult at times in practicing your faith, especially in bringing up your children in the Catholic faith, which is something that the Catholic party has to agree to, and the non-Catholic party has to acknowledge. That difference in faith/religion is not something to be taken lightly, nor can you just think things will be okay because you love each other. There’s more to it than that.
8) How many siblings do you have?
I’m the youngest of four in my family. My brother died in August 2011, my next older sister died in March of this year, and my oldest sister is very ill and probably close to being called home by the Lord. All from the Boston area.
9) How do you deal with the fears that come with commitment?
The short answer is through prayer and trust, but here’s a little more….
Once when I was offered a very good job, but felt that I was somewhat over my head in it, I was a bit panicky about the situation and called a friend/mentor who told me I was building bridges to problems that were not even there yet. I often thought about that in relation to similar situations when fears about something would come into my mind. “Building bridges to problems that are not even there yet” is extremely unproductive, and distracts us from much that we can accomplish.
In relation to my ministry as a deacon, when I was first ordained, I would sometimes get a bit nervous when it came time to preach the homily. Shortly after that, I read about a priest who had to give a talk to a group of men in his community, and he just became totally terrified at the thought of standing up there to speak to them. Finally one time, he heard a voice saying to him, “You’re looking for a performance; I’m looking for an act of love.” That is what I thought of after that each time I got up to give the homily – and I still do. It’s not that I’m still nervous about preaching anymore, but it simply gives the right focus for me now when I’m called to share God’s Word. It’s not about me, it’s about Him.
10) How can I, if at all, make my own vocation? Can our vocation change?
I’m not sure we can “make our own vocation,” but rather we can make a vocation our own by believing in it, wanting it because we see it as God’s direction for us in our life, and because we find fulfillment in what it means for us and for others by what we do. Can it change? Sure. And sometimes it should change if we find we’ve perhaps made the wrong decision. Changing a vocation doesn’t mean failure, but rather it shows a measure of wisdom in knowing that you realize perhaps you’re called to something else in life. There’s no shame in doing what eventually is going to be the right thing for you.
12) Did you ever doubt that your vocation wasn’t actually right for you?
No, I never did. And I thank God for that.
13) Father Kevin: What is the most embarrassing thing that has ever happened to you?
14) How come you can’t get married if you’re a nun or a priest?
15) What sacrifices did you have to make for your vocation?
Any vocation will mean sacrifices will have to be made at some time, in some way. The important thing is to keep your priorities straight through it all. With the diaconate (as with other vocations), your area of concern is enlarged and you very naturally are drawn to help others. In doing that, sometimes your time commitments are stretched or challenged beyond what’s comfortable, or even sometimes beyond what’s reasonable. And in the end, you do what you need to do. In the case of the diaconate, my first sacrament is my marriage, and secondly, the diaconate. Because of that, my family obligations come first…and the Lord wouldn’t have it any other way.
16) What was the most helpful thing you heard/ did to grow your own Catholic faith?
I never gave up on Christ, and Christ has never given up on me.
17) What is the point of life?
St. Augustine perhaps explained it best when he said, “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.” Everything else that goes on is about our restlessness and our search for God in this life. Restlessness, however, does not mean uncertainty. In fact, we’re restless because we know our God through His Son, Jesus, and we recognize the point of our living as living for and with our God in the eternal life promised to those love Him and one another.
19) Sister Chris: I feel like I’m called to be a nun—what should I do?