By Rosie Barton
For The Catholic Messenger
The five-year journey through the deacon formation program has been an enlightening experience for our entire family. The most obvious impact is with my husband, Steve, as he studies the theological concepts and how to apply them in his service through Word, sacrament and charity.
Throughout the program, I’ve witnessed his growth in knowledge as he’s achieved his Master of Pastoral Theology degree. I’ve also observed a deepening in his spirituality and compassion as he’s worked in his liturgical and field ministries.
As he returns from various activities such as serving at liturgies, taking Communion to the hospital and homebound, helping at the food bank and working with the impoverished, he frequently has a touching story to share exemplifying the presence of God. It may be through the tears of joy and awe as a hospital patient prays with Steve and receives Communion. Or it may be seeing the hand of God in the many actions that miraculously happen at just the right time.
When we started on this path, I was fully supportive of Steve’s discernment to the diaconate but was unsure of my role as a future “deacon’s wife.” We were told early in the program that there isn’t a prescriptive role for the wife of a deacon and it becomes what we make of it. Reflecting on my involvement in the deacon formation program, I find that I have also experienced growth. Through my attendance at many academic and formation sessions, I have gained deeper knowledge and understanding of Catholicism, which has resulted in a much richer appreciation of the liturgy and sacraments.
We’ve been married nearly 38 years, and while I feel we have a strong marriage, it has been enriched through the classes, retreats, discussions and shared experiences of the deacon formation program.
I never prayed the Liturgy of the Hours until we started the program. Now Steve and I frequently pray this prayer of the church together. Even saying Grace before meals has become a more shared experience than individual, whether it’s the two of us or family and friends with whom we share a meal. In general, I’ve observed that since we began the program, we more openly and consistently share our faith on a daily basis.
The deacon formation program has also impacted many life decisions in our family. A few years into the program, Steve decided to retire from his engineering career and work in a non-profit organization. This freed up time to devote to his study and service and gave him a much deeper understanding of the plight of the homeless and impoverished.
Being in the program was also a factor in my decision to retire earlier than planned. While it wasn’t the only reason I chose to retire, it contributed to my desire to focus more on parish and community service. For example, retirement has allowed me to expand my music ministry from cantoring to also joining the adult choir and funeral choir in our parish and to be more involved in the community through Women United.
Our journey has also influenced our three adult sons and their families. Our daughter-in-law completed Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) and was initiated into the Catholic Church one year ago. Another son’s fiancée is planning to start RCIA this fall. Sacraments with family have also become more special and meaningful through Steve’s vocation. He was able to assist at our grandson’s baptism and plans to preside at our son’s wedding after ordination.
We’ve been very blessed in the journey of discernment and preparation for the diaconate, and are excited for the next stage of service to the church. We look forward to continued spiritual growth through the grace of God.
(Rosie and her husband, deacon candidate Steve Barton, are members of St. Paul the Apostle-Davenport. He will be ordained July 8.)