Deacon Anthony Shipp, an MRI technologist at SSM Health St. Joseph Hospital in St. Charles, helped Ryan Frazier feel comfortable during the procedure that would help doctors treat Frazier’s injured wrist.
They connected on a couple areas, chatting about family and baseball, especially Frazier’s role as a catcher with the St. Charles Community College team and their admiration of St. Louis Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina. Their shared Christian faith also was a brief topic when Deacon Shipp noticed Frazier’s “Psalm 23” tattoo. “The Lord is my shepherd,” Deacon Shipp said, referring to the psalm.
Permanent deacons are known for having one foot in the workplace and another in ordained ministry. They go into the world to bring people back to sacraments.
Deacons also are called to serve, and those who work in health care do that naturally.
Deacon Shipp, who was ordained in 2020, began his career at Missouri Baptist Hospital in 1999, then moved to SSM Health DePaul Health Center before landing at SSM Health St. Joseph Hospital in 2016. In his role, his aim is to treat everyone as a child of Christ.
Co-workers sometimes tell patients of Deacon Shipp’s role as a permanent deacon. It happened once with a patient who challenged him about a misperception she had about the Catholic Church. When he clarified it for her, she thanked him and told him no one had ever taken the time to do so.
He often comes across patients who are frightened or going through a rough time. Many times they are caregivers for a loved one and are worried that their health condition will impact that care. Deacon Shipp carries rosaries that he’s gifted people. Once, a patient noticed a rosary he had and commented on it. Deacon Shipp gave it to him and later realized it was a rosary that was a third-class relic of St. Faustina. “I thought, he probably needs it more than I did,” Deacon Shipp said.
It’s important to unite suffering and sickness with the suffering of Christ on the cross, he said. “Of course I don’t go into all of that with my patients, but I do try to see their suffering — I ask them about their family, so they knows someone cares — and I try to acknowledge and go through it with them.”
Working at St. Joseph Hospital, especially during this Year of St. Joseph, has an impact on Deacon Shipp, who refers to the saint as “near and dear to my heart.”
One reason is because Jesus’ earthy father was not His biological father. Deacon Shipp and his wife have two children they adopted. The Shipps were foster parents of nine children between 2010-13.
“We saw it as being a positive influence on children who at that time of their life ended up in foster care and needed someone to take care of and love them as their own,” he said.
The children took interest in his routine of reading Scripture and asked him to read to them. When he and his wife had a foster group of four siblings, the youngsters would beg him to read their favorite, the Bible story of Daniel and the lion.
Deacon Shipp’s typical day includes getting up early for morning prayers and then assisting at a morning Mass at his parish, St. Paul in Fenton. He’ll then go to work and often has duties in the evening such as meetings of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul conference, where he serves as spiritual advisor; taking part in a homily preparation group; or helping with adoration or, during Lent, the Stations of the Cross.
In discerning his call to the diaconate, he talked to the deacons and priests at his parish after prayer and a yearly retreat at White House retreat. It was a gradual discernment as he looked to where God wanted him. The formation process then took five years.
Deacon Shipp explained that many other deacons also are examples of bringing their faith to their workplaces. Several work in health care. Deacon David G. Ewing, for example, is a CT tech at Mercy Hospital in Washington. And Deacon Dale Follen, associate director of the Office of the Permanent Diaconate, is a former supervisor of the MRI Imaging Department in Radiology at St. Luke’s Hospital in Chesterfield.
>> Permanent Diaconate
The Office of the Permanent Diaconate recently held diaconate information nights, but men who are interested still may inquire by contacting Deacon Dale Follen at (314) 792-7433 or [email protected]
Deacons share in the sacrament of Holy Orders with bishops and priests. The work of the deacon is defined as ministry of liturgy, word and charity. Their service at the altar is a sign and symbol 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. And the ministry of love and justice is the heart of the diaconate.
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 prison, hospital, outreach to homeless and needy people, ministering to divorced and widowed people or in advancing pro-life causes.
The archdiocesan Office of the Permanent Diaconate describes their service well: “A deacon’s response is not to move away from the secular world, but to become more involved in it. His daily dress is not different, but his manner of living demonstrates a caring for others and a living expression of the Gospel of Jesus.”
For information, visit www.archstl.org/ permanent-diaconate.