By Barb Arland-Fye
The Catholic Messenger
Deacon Mike Snyder plans to visit every parish in the Diocese of Davenport that does not have a deacon assigned, hoping to inspire other men to consider a call to the diaconate. Almost half (35) of the diocese’s 74 parishes do not have a deacon assigned, said Deacon Snyder, director of the Diaconate for the diocese.
The visits this summer and fall also serve as an invitation to eligible Catholic men interested in the diaconate to attend one of the information/orientation sessions across the diocese, beginning Aug. 1 at St. Patrick Parish in Ottumwa. (See https://www.davenportdiocese.org/class-ix for specific details.)
“I want to help men discern whether the Holy Spirit is calling them to this vocation. I realized how difficult it might be for men to recognize that call if they don’t know what a deacon is,” Deacon Snyder said. He will give the homily during Mass at each parish he visits and stay afterward to answer questions. “In my homily I talk about vocations in general before I start talking about the vocation of the diaconate. It is one of many important vocations, including marriage, consecrated life, single celibate life and priesthood.”
His message is intended for everyone because they may recognize good traits in someone else who might have a call to the diaconate, Deacon Snyder said. He asks his fellow deacons to “help the men in their parishes to discern their call.”
Information sessions will be offered in English and Spanish. The next class (IX) will begin formation in August 2022; both an English and Spanish track will be offered, said Deacon Frank Agnoli, director of Deacon Formation for the diocese. “My hope is that the classes will meet together on some occasions, for retreats or social gatherings but formation will take place separately.”
Applications to the Deacon Formation Program will only be distributed at the information sessions, which will run from 1-5 p.m. Other sessions will be held Sept. 26 at St. Mary Parish in Grinnell (English); Oct. 24 at St. Patrick Parish in Iowa City (English); Nov. 21 at St. Joseph Parish in DeWitt (English); Dec. 19 at the Chancery in Davenport (English); Jan. 16 at St. Anthony Parish in Davenport (Spanish); Feb. 27 at St. Patrick Parish in Iowa City (Spanish); and April 3 at St. Mary Parish in Ottumwa (Spanish).
Information sessions begin with an introduction and prayer, three separate presentations separated by breaks and a Q&A and a review of the application. Please contact Deacon Agnoli at (563) 888-4257 or agnoli@davenport
diocese.org for more information about participating in the information sessions.
Several candidates from Deacon Class VIII, anticipating ordination a year from now, shared their thoughts about the call to the diaconate and advice for men who might consider that vocation.
Gary Johnson of Divine Mercy Parish in Burlington/West Burlington entered the Catholic Church after 16 years of marriage to a lifelong Catholic. He participated in numerous parish activities, such as Bible studies, a men’s prayer group and service on the parish Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) team. His involvement led him to ponder, “If I might have a call to the diaconate. Even though at that time I could not imagine myself giving a homily, it seemed that the only way to answer the question of a possible call was to enter the formation program. I knew there would be challenges, but also I felt that it was something I needed to try.”
He encourages other men who think they may have a calling to the diaconate to “pray for guidance, and share your thoughts with your spouse if you are married. You might then discuss it with faithful friends and your pastor.
They can offer perspective on what you might be thinking. If you are unsure, but still feel drawn to the diaconate, begin the steps of joining the formation program. Whether you become a deacon or not, you will learn about yourself and grow in knowledge of God and the Church during your time in formation.”
“I have always had a sense of calling to service,” Andrew Reif of St. Mary Parish of Dodgeville, said. “I’ve been involved in the church for a while but never did any work outside of what I was already comfortable with. However, entering formation helped me see how the deacon is called to service not only at the liturgy but in word and charity. That’s what was missing for me. God was calling me to more than I was and is still calling me to go beyond what I am comfortable or familiar with.”
He advises inquirers, “If God is calling you to discern the diaconate, pray about it. Talk to your family and to friends about it. Take some time to think about it. God may be calling you to more than you think you are capable of doing.”
Angel Hernandez of St. Patrick Parish in Iowa City said he came back to his faith in his mid-20s. “I completely fell in love with our faith and my relationship with God grew stronger and stronger. Father Rudolph Juarez was the one to ask me if I ever thought of discerning a call to the diaconate. He guided me to pray about it and to this day I pray and I seek out God’s call for me.”
Hernandez was inspired by the different ways to read Scripture and how “our God is the God of the poor and the marginalized, the forgotten. In our baptismal promises, we are called to be priest, prophet and king. To serve and not be served, to welcome the stranger. To be there for God’s people.”
He advises inquirers “they have nothing to lose and everything to gain. If God is truly calling you, I say answer it. The people you meet, the support you receive is incredible, and I am very thankful for everyone who has guided me in this journey and continues to guide me.”
Kent Ferris of Ss. Mary & Mathias Parish in Muscatine, said, “As a Catholic for the past 35 years, and in turn a Secular Franciscan for the past 31, I have been inspired by the words of St. Francis of Assisi: ‘Praise and bless my Lord and give Him thanks and serve Him with great humility.’”
This so closely resembles Pope Francis’ recent comments that, “Deacons remind the Church that it should have ‘a heart that burns with love and serves with humility and joy.’”
“I am forever indebted to the diocese for the Deacon Formation program. It has been invaluable in every facet of my life, on my faith journey.”