Eighteen men who were ordained to the permanent diaconate for the Archdiocese of St. Louis were called upon to be witnesses of Christ, always pointing to Him in the ministries that they fulfill for the salvation of God’s people.
Archbishop Mitchell Rozanski presided at the June 4 ordination at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis.
Even though the needs of the world have changed over the centuries since the origins of the diaconate, “the ministry of deacon remains primarily of service, bringing the word and presence of God to a people who hunger for the care of Christ and His Church,” Archbishop Rozanski said in the homily. “It is into this service that our brothers are being ordained today, pledging their lives to follow in the example of Jesus who came to serve and not to be served, to seek the lost and to bring back the sheep into the fold.”
He called on the men to be creative and dynamic in responding to the needs of the world, likening their sacrificial ministry to a grain of wheat that falls to the ground to die.
“Our brothers are to take this imagery of the grain of wheat as they exercise diaconal ministry in the Church, dying to self in order to allow the Kingdom of God to grow here on earth,” he said.
Sacrament of Holy Orders
Deacons share in the sacrament of Holy Orders with bishops and priests. At the ordination Mass, the 18 men declared their willingness to undertake the responsibilities of the diaconate, as well as obedience to the archbishop and his successors.
One of the highlights of the rite is the Litany of Supplication, also known as the Litany of Saints, in which the men lie prostrate on the floor of the sanctuary, and the congregation prays for the intercession of the saints for God’s grace and mercy for those to be ordained.
Archbishop Rozanski also imposed hands on the heads of each ordinand, conferring the power of the Holy Spirit through a prayer of consecration. He then said the prayer of ordination, asking for each man to be configured to the person of Christ.
Afterward, the new deacons are vested with the stole and dalmatic, vestments that symbolize their office within the Church. The deacons’ wives presented the vestments to priests and deacons who were chosen to vest the new deacons.
The role of the deacon
The work of the deacon is defined as a ministry of liturgy, Word and charity. Their service at the altar is a sign of the Church’s commitment to those in the parish and the community. The deacon endeavors to turn the Word into deed in his daily life.
In the Archdiocese of St. Louis, deacons take part in a five-year program of formation, often juggling secular careers and family life along with it. There also is a three-year period of post-formation.
Typically, deacons serve the Church by assisting pastors at their home or nearby parishes; they assist at Masses and serve as needed for baptisms, weddings, funerals, communion services and the like. Some also serve in other ministries, such as prisons, hospitals, outreach to the homeless and people in need, ministering to divorced and widowed people or in advancing pro-life causes. And some receive faculties to preach homilies at Mass.
Following God’s plan
Just one step at a time.
Mark Markowski is a carpenter, so sometimes that translates literally into his work. It’s also the way he’s learned to follow God’s plan for his life over the years.
For Markowski, learning to place full trust in God was a process. He enjoyed a 25-year career in fashion retail before being among the hundreds laid off when the St. Louis Macy’s office closed in 2007. Not quite sure where to go next, he started taking on small carpentry projects for friends and eventually built those projects into full-time work.
Even then, though, he was searching for more.
“I know that God has given me gifts. I know what some of them are. But I still feel as if something is missing in my life,” Markowski recalled feeling at the time.
After unexpectedly pivoting careers, he felt called to surrender every part of his life to wherever God wanted to use him.
“I basically told Him, I’m not going to tell you no anymore,” Markowski said. “I’m going to let you lead.”
Within a month, a fellow parishioner at St. Gerard Majella Parish told him he would be great at teaching PSR. Before, he would have brushed it off, but true to his word to God, Markowski signed up. He taught upper-grade PSR classes for the next five years, inspiring more male teachers to join him along the way.
Markowski kept looking for the next way to say yes to God’s will, and through the help of a spiritual director, he discerned his call to the permanent diaconate.
“God takes you down all these paths, and you never know where you’re going to go,” he said. “But at some point, you just have to trust and go, ‘This is all gonna work out.’”
Over the years, he’s never run short of ways to use his gifts for God and others. His carpentry expertise can be seen in the craftsmanship of the ambry and a missal stand at St. Gerard Majella Parish; most recently, he built an altar for the tabernacle at St. Francis of Assisi Parish, given as a gift to the parish from newly ordained Father Donald Morris.
He likes working with teens, so in addition to his time teaching PSR, he and his wife, Joyce, have volunteered at Steubenville Youth Conferences for the past several years. During his diaconate formation, he started serving as a Communion minister at St. Luke’s Hospital, a ministry he plans to continue after ordination.
“I’m there to bring Communion to people, but while I’m there, people will tell you a lot about themselves,” he said. “I’ll be there for two hours or better, just talking, sitting, listening to people.”
After ordination, Markowski is looking forward to whatever plans God has in store for his ministry, inside the parish walls and among the larger community.
“When I go to the hardware store, I’ll be the same person I’ve always been,” Markowski said. “They’ll just know that now, I’m a deacon.”
“There’s no separation between between the community and the Church in who I am,” he said.
Meet the new class of permanent deacons
Parish assignment: St. Paul in Fenton
Family: Wife, Teresa; sons, Matt and Tommy
Career: Director of Security for Drury Hotels Company, LLC; retired U.S. Secret Service
The Call: I have always felt a desire to serve the Church in a visible manner, but for one reason or another I would say to myself, “now is not a good time.” Teresa and I even went to a diaconate information night a few years after I transferred back to St. Louis, but I didn’t go through with the formation application. Over the next several years, I continued to have this desire to serve as a permanent deacon. In early 2017, Teresa and I went on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. The group was on a boat, and I was daydreaming looking at the shoreline. As if someone was standing behind me, I heard a voice say, “it’s time.” I turned to see who was talking, but nobody was behind me. I took that as a pretty convincing sign that I should at least explore a calling to the permanent diaconate. So when we returned home from the pilgrimage, I applied for and was accepted into the formation program. The last five years have not only strengthened my faith and increase my desire to serve, but have confirmed that voice when it said, “it’s time.”
Parish assignment: Holy Infant
Family: Wife, Karen; children, Colin, Maggie, Kevin, Kiera and Caitlin
The Call: I am a cradle Catholic whose faith came alive after my first CRHP retreat in 2003. Since then, the Lord led me on a journey with many hills and valleys, slowly but surely moving me from a life centered on me to one centered on Him. In late 2016, a series of events led me to consider a call I had been putting off again and again — that of serving the Church as a deacon. After attending an information night for the permanent diaconate with my wife, Karen, our hearts felt that peace only God can give, and from that moment, we have been all in.
Parish assignment: Immaculate Conception in Arnold
Family: Wife, Carol; daughters, Paula, Audrey and Peggy
Career: Operations manager, refrigeration
The Call: My call to the diaconate was though prayer and discernment in desire to serve God and the church more. Six years ago, a prayer group that Father Larry Huber started at Immaculate Conception in Arnold that has now become the Community of Transcendent Men was the inspiration of my decision to commit to the diaconate.
Parish assignment: St. Charles Borromeo
Family: Wife, Cristina; children, Juan, Daniel, Melissa and Fernando
The Call: My family and I attended an ordination years ago, and seeing that scene during Mass got me thinking about the diaconate in my life.
Parish assignment: St. Elizabeth, Mother of John the Baptist
Family: Wife, Amy; children, Levi, Elijah, Gianna, Isaiah and Isabel
The Call: After serving as a U.S. Marine, where one of my jobs was a religious lay leader, I felt called to continue service to the Church. Participating in different Catholic organizations such the Knights of Columbus, our parish youth group and social justice committee, I continued to form my faith and strengthen the calling to serve the Church. Our parish deacon spoke after Mass encouraging men to consider diaconate formation. This is where I started to really hear and feel the Holy Spirit was nudging me toward the permanent diaconate. I realized all callings are different. Mine was subtle, quiet and over many years, but God knows individual motivations and and speaks to us each uniquely through these gifts.
Parish assignment: Assumption in O’Fallon
Family: Children, Brian “Bud”, Adam “AJ”, Sammantha Jo “Sammi”
Career: Teacher at St. Dominic High School
The Call: God called me while at church in May 2016. He asked me to do more! I met with the archdiocese and agreed that the diaconate vocation was the right answer. I entered the program in August 2017.
Parish assignment: Basilica of St. Louis, King of France (Old Cathedral)
Family: Wife, Phyllis
Career: Memorial planning advisor for Catholic Cemeteries
The Call: It was a gradual calling that started in 2003 when I experienced a reversion back to the Catholic faith of my childhood. I found myself happiest when I learn and share this one true faith with others. The diaconate calling to serve those in need joyfully fulfills my desire to partake in this mission of the Church.
Parish assignment: St. Gerard Majella
Family: Wife, Joyce; children, Tim and Samantha
The Call: Being called to the diaconate took time and discernment. God gives each one of us gifts and I had to put much thought on how I could use those gifts. Prayer, listening and reflection leads us places that we thought we could never go.
Parish assignment: Good Shepherd in Hillsboro
Family: Wife, Lisa; children, Jamie and Tyler Palitzsch, Kevin and Sarah Mattler, Tracy and Matt Ritter, Jerry and Nicole Mattler, Danny Mattler, Leslie and Mohammed Razzaghian
Career: Retired electrician
The Call: It was a call to service and helping others in their journey to find God. After assisting in RCIA for a few years, I felt the call but brushed it off. My deacon friend later asked me if I thought about being a deacon. After discerning, it became very clear to me that I was being called. Six years later, I have been ordained to serve God and others.
Parish assignment: St. Charles Borromeo
Family: Wife, Becca; children, Sakari Ishetiar, Gabriel, Jadon, Marymichaelle
Career: Program manager for NTT Data (IT company)
The Call: I love to volunteer at our parish. Over the years, several people have asked if I felt called. I started with the class of 2018, but due to family demands, stepped away. While I was on a mission trip to Honduras, I felt called to reapply for the class of 2022.
Parish assignment: Sacred Heart in Valley Park
Family: Wife, Michelle; sons, Jonathan and Ryan
Career: Journalist, The Center Square
The Call: Deacon Ken Potzman’s pastoral care for my father when he entered hospice was a tremendous blessing. He cared for my father and family more than 26 years ago. Ken’s service played a role in my father becoming a Catholic a few weeks before he died. His devotion and loving care inspired me to enter formation to become a permanent deacon. I pray daily the Holy Spirit will guide me and strengthen me to serve with the same devotion and love.
Parish assignment: Epiphany of Our Lord
Family: Wife, Cori; children, Dru, Brody, Carleigh, Ruby, Clarence and Silas
Career: Physical therapist
The Call: I have always been involved in the Church throughout my life and despite that, there was always a feeling that I could or should do more. More specifically, God spoke to me through multiple individuals, on separate occasions, over the span of several years who all said the same thing: “You would make a good deacon.”
Parish assignment: St. Francis Borgia
Family: Wife, Barb; children, Ellen and Matthew
Career: Logistics manager
The Call: In 2003, I felt a calling to the diaconate but did not act upon the calling due to our children being very small. Then, five years ago, the calling that was dormant reawakened. I’m very blessed and humbled to serve.
Parish assignment: Immaculate Conception in Dardenne Prairie
Family: Wife, Janice; children, Jacob, Hailey, Grace and Thomas
Career: Vice president of engineering
The Call: Similar to the prophet Elijah’s experience, I didn’t hear the voice of God in powerful winds, earthquakes, or fires; rather, I heard God whisper gently. God used people to put this whisper in my ear. These people weren’t necessarily telling me to seek out the diaconate, but they asked probing questions and made me question how I can serve Christ more fully. My discernment took a number of years for me to finally say yes to Him. Most of those years were spent with thoughts as to why I shouldn’t be a deacon. It was only after a number of months of constant prayer and probing of my heart did I run out of excuses and finally surrender to God. Once I said yes to His calling, it seemed like every path opened up for me and He led me by my hand to the diaconate program.
Parish assignment: Our Lady of Providence
Family: Wife, Judy; son, Andrew
Career: Business manager at Jesuit Community Corporation, Saint Louis University
The Call: After completing the three-year archdiocesan lay formation program I was asked by my pastor to assist with RCIA formation. On Holy Saturday morning, while preparing the men and women for that evening’s liturgy, I felt a call to serve the church as a deacon. After prayer and discussing this with my family, I decided to attend an information night with my wife.
Parish assignment: Holy Infant
Family: Wife, Linda; children, Christopher, Brian, Jonathan and Michelle
Career: Sales and marketing, strategic planning and leadership
The Call: The seed was first planted back when I was in kindergarten and my brother Nick discerned to enter a Franciscan seminary in Chicago for high school. Years later, with God’s help, and the encouragement of family and several close friends, I decided to enter diaconate formation minimally with the goal of better understanding our Catholic faith. It was during our hospital practicum that I heard God’s call to me to serve His people. Now I pray that seed, with God’s blessings and grace, and watered and nurtured over my lifetime by many many folks, will continue to grow and develop in my ministry as a deacon.
Parish assignment: Sts. Joachim and Ann
Family: Wife, Ivonne; daughters, Alyssa and Charity
Career: IT business analyst
The Call: God has been calling me to service since my youth. I entered college seminary, but after college got married. From the beginning, my wife and I discussed my vocation to the diaconate to discern if and when would be the right time. Until I actually applied, we as a couple and family served our Church in various ministries, all of which helped to prepare me and form me for entering into this vocation.
Parish assignment: St. David
Family: Wife, Dawn; children, Rebecca, Marguerite, Joshua, Daniel, Elizabeth and Olivia
Career: Sheet Metal Worker
The Call: I was assisting with the Triduum liturgies, and I fell in love with the sacraments and the faith. The week or so before, Deacon Jerry Pollite was telling my daughter to tell me I need to be a deacon. I was approached by two other parishioners about it also. I looked into it, and the rest is history.
The vocation of the permanent diaconate
The work of the deacon is defined as a ministry of liturgy, Word and charity. Deacons are assigned to a parish, assisting at Mass, baptisms, weddings, funerals, Communion services, RCIA or other parish programs. Many also serve outside the parish in hospitals, prisons or other outreach efforts.
The origins of the diaconate are found in the first century, when the early Church was being established and a need for catechesis and service to others was recognized. After flourishing for 400 years, the diaconate declined and became little more than a transitional step to priesthood. The Second Vatican Council, held from 1962-65, restored this ministry of service to its original purpose.
In 1972, Cardinal John J. Carberry started a permanent diaconate formation program in the Archdiocese of St. Louis. Cardinal Carberry ordained the first class of 12 men on Jan. 29, 1977. Today, there are around 200 active deacons and 100 retired deacons in the archdiocese.
Interested in the permanent diaconate?
The archdiocesan Office of the Permanent Diaconate will next hold information sessions on the diaconate in September and October, with the next formation cohort beginning in September 2023. The program takes five years to complete.
To learn more, visit archstl.org/permanent-diaconate or contact Deacon Dale Follen at [email protected] or (314) 792-7433.