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New deacons come from all walks of life

Class of 2007 includes 33 men

ARCHDIOCESE - They come from all walks of life: business owner, lawyer, teacher - you name it - to serve their church as permanent deacons in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati. This, the second largest class of permanent deacons for the archdiocese, will be ordained Saturday, April 28 at Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception Parish in Dayton.

The order of deacon - with its origin in the earliest days of the church when deacons were appointed to assist Christ's Apostles - is made up of a man, married or single, who assists priests in liturgical, administrative and pastoral roles. The deacon is especially commissioned to serve the needs of the poor, to be their voice, and to work for the dispossessed in and to the church community.

There are 33 men being ordained to the permanent diaconate this Saturday. Following are brief accounts of how they came to discern this special vocation.

Deacons from Cincinnati-area deanieries

Donald Gloeckler

"It's interesting how God calls people in different ways," said Donald Gloeckler, 53, reflecting on his journey to the diaconate.

Deacons from the Cincinnati area include, from left, front row: Tony Gagliarducci, Dennis Edwards, Richard Gallenstein, John Gerke and John Quattrone; second row: Gerald Flamm, Larry Day, Walt Hucke, Jr. , Jeff Merrell, John Convery and Mike Mignery.
Gloeckler and his wife, Linda, who serves as pastoral associate at Our Lord Christ the King Parish in Cincinnati, have been married for 31 years and have four children, Geoffrey, Adam, Stephen and Molly. A Middletown native, Gloeckler has worked for Procter & Gamble for 29 years and currently manages media research for North American.

He is a convert to Catholicism, who, inspired by his wife's faith, took part in RCIA at the same time his oldest son was preparing for first Communion. Gloeckler also participated in Christ Renews His Parish, an experience that "lit the fuse" and led to a period of discernment and enrollment in the Lay Pastoral Ministry Program with the intent of becoming a deacon. "I told God, 'If you want me, here I am.'"

The formation program was "pretty amazing," Gloeckler admitted. "We formed a level of community that no one expected, especially from a group of guys that's so diverse. It was an education for me that God calls each of us to different things depending on our skills and gifts."

After ordination, Gloeckler is looking forward to assisting with baptisms and weddings, along with serving at Mass. He also hopes to stay involved with the parish's contemporary music group. "I'm mostly just going to let ministry happen and not approach it with a big agenda," he said.

John Convery

A desire to be of service to his parish and the church as a whole led John Convery to the diaconate. A member of St. Thomas More Parish in Withamsville, Convery said, "I went to the pastor and asked, 'What do you need? I'd be glad to help in any way I can.'"

A retired environmental engineer, Convery, 65, has been married to his wife, Gail, for 41 years. The couple has five children - Kristyn, John, Brian, Kathleen and Matthew and numerous grandchildren. Convery currently serves as director of the Tom Geiger Guest House, a home for homeless women who are victims of violence or have a permanent disability. He also teaches a quantities business class the University Cincinnati, as well as an adult faith formation class at the parish.

The deacon formation program has led to both personal and spiritual growth, Convery said. "I find that I'm more loving, patient, caring and concerned for others. Basically, I've grown to be more Christ-like. I'm still a work in progress, though, and have a long way to go."

Once ordained, Convery is looking forward to giving more time at the parish through sacramental and administrative functions. "The ministry of charity that a deacon does and the ministry of the word are also important to me," he said.

Crook and his wife, Leah, are the parents of Sara, 20, and Bobby, 18.

Larry Day

Cincinnati native Larry Day, 52, has spent most of his life in a different ministry: as a teacher. With undergrad degrees in English and Spanish and a masters in education from Xavier University, he has taught, coached drama, served as a high school principal and today develops and directs an educational program for at-risk students in Winton Woods schools.

But along the way, there were people who influenced him to listen to his calling to ordained ministry. Among these are Deacon John Corson and Father Jim Meade, both from his parish, Corpus Christi in New Burlington; Mary Sue O'Donnell, former head of the Lay Pastoral Ministry Program; Father Rob Jack, his spiritual adviser; Sister of Notre Dame Ruth Lubbers and Lutheran minister Rev. Tim Kuenzli.

"Over the last six years at the seminary, I have found myself truly blessed by people and experiences," says Day of his formation experience. "The staff knew their students as people on spiritual journeys. The seminarians are superb examples of the true heart of the church, and will lead all of us in style and grace."

He hopes to make the focus of his ministry parish work, catechesis and prison chaplaincy.

Richard Gallenstein

The desire to be of service to others has everything to do with Richard Gallenstein's decision to answer a call to the diaconate.

A native of Cincinnati and active parishioner at Good Shepherd Parish in Montgomery, Gallenstein, 61, said his involvement in the parish men's group led to his enrollment in the lay pastoral ministry program and, ultimately, the deacon formation program. "Several people asked me if I'd ever thought about the diaconate, but I didn't see it at first. Then, I realized how good and blessed my life has been and thought it was time for me to give something back because I've been very fortunate."

Gallenstein, a flooring contractor by profession said his wife of 25 years, Kathleen, has been extremely supportive of his decision. The couple has two children, Eric and Stephanie, and six grandchildren. As a Air Force veteran himself, Gallenstein, who has completed two units of clinical pastoral education, has been active in reaching out to fellow veterans at the Cincinnati VA Medical Center. For him, the Deacon Formation Program was the opportunity to learn, grow and build community with a group of "truly intelligent and very spiritual men."

Once he is ordained, Gallenstein is eager to embrace the sacramental duties of a deacon, along with outreach and pastoral care. He is also interested in being involved with RCIA and ministering to returning Catholics.

Kenneth Dehanes

After a contracting a virus that nearly cost him his life, Kenneth Dehanes, 61, had a conversion experience which led him to "totally surrender to our Lord."

Cincinnati area deacons also include, from left, Front row: Ron Risch, Amado Lim, Ron Stang, Michael Thomas, Don Meyer Jr., Robert Staab Jr. and George Schmidl; second row: Jerry Sasson, Kenneth J. DeHanes Sr., Don Gloeckler, Gregg Rose, Paul Leibold and Dave Meyer.
Through that experience, along with much prayer, listening to God and taking part in Eucharistic adoration, Dehanes discerned that the next step on his spiritual journey was to apply to the Deacon Formation Program. "It was the Lord's will whether I was accepted or not," Dehanes said.

He was, and found the formation program to be an "unbelievable experience," especially the opportunity to grow spiritually and camaraderie among the candidates and their families. "We developed such a strong bond with each other, personally and spiritually," he said. "Our desire to serve the Lord just grew stronger and stronger throughout formation."

Dehanes is currently active at the Holy Spirit Center and as a volunteer at Old St. Mary's Pregnancy Center, holding Bible study classes and meeting with clients. In addition to sacramental ministry at his parish - St. Elizabeth Ann Seton in Milford - Dehanes also hopes to become involved in at the Clermont County Jail.

He credits the encouragement of his wife of 30 years, Mary Jane, with seeing him through journey to becoming a deacon. The couple has three children, Kenneth, Bridget and Tyler.

Anthony Gagliarducci

A native of Springfield, Mass., Anthony Gagliarducci, 66, did a six-year stint in the Army following college, then spent 25 years as a construction manager. For five years, he worked as a residential counselor with BoysHope/GirlsHope in Cincinnati, and it began to move him toward ordained ministry. But he credits his wife, Virginia, and God, with having the most influence on his calling,

And "with God's permission, I would like to work with young adults," he says. Gagliarducci will serve St. Ignatius Loyola Parish in Monfort Heights following ordination.

His seminary formation was nothing less than inspirational, he says. "God gathers His people (the deacon candidates) and, although strangers to each other at the outset, I have seen and felt how His incredible power can form and fashion them into one body in Christ. He then sends them out, through Holy Orders, with that same understanding of 'body' to be present in His name to other 'strangers.' Praise be the name of Jesus!

Gagliarducci and his wife have five children: MaryBeth, 27, Dana 31, Andrea 28, Darrin 38 and Michael 37.

Paul Leibold

When Paul Leibold is ordained to the diaconate, he will be thinking of his great-uncle and namesake, the late Cincinnati Archbishop Paul Leibold.

Leibold was in grade school when his great-uncle died suddenly, but he has always maintained a close connection with the late archbishop.

"Certainly, I feel his presence throughout my entire life," Leibold said. "I know he's been watching out for our family since the beginning."

Leibold's road to the diaconate began in the early 1980s. He began studying at the seminary, but eventually quit and ended up getting married. He became a pharmacist.

Still, the calling never left him.

"I've always had a feeling I was called to serve in God's church," he said. "The lack of priests in our deanery...prompted me to get stared and get involved in the diaconate at this point in time."

Once ordained, Leibold, 43, will let God lead him in his ministry.

"I'm very open to where God takes me," he said. "I do have an interest in hospital ministry. If I'm called to that, that may be something I'd be interested in."

Leibold and his wife, Patti, have three sons Aaron, 16, Johnny, 9; and Matthew, 8, and one daughter, Molly, 10. They are parishioners at St. Mary Church in Hillsboro.

Amado Lim

Amado Lim had barely retired after 31 years as a global information technology executive at Procter & Gamble, when he was recruited by his pastor at All Saints Parish to serve as pastoral associate. Going from the corporate world to parish ministry was a big adjustment, but ultimately rewarding. "Most rewarding is being able to comfort people, to be present to them," said Lim, 58.

Born and raised in the Philippines, Lim was transferred to Cincinnati in 1985. He and wife, Lourdes, who will be married for 39 years in June, have two children, Rachel and Les.

His call to become a deacon was motivated by "an immense desire to do something for God," explained Lim. "I felt an overwhelming sense of being loved. I wanted to give something back, not out of a sense of obligation, but of love."

The Deacon Formation Program "changed his life," said Lim. "I used to see the world as full of stuff, but now I see the world as full of blessings. That's the biggest change."

After ordination, Lim will continue with his work as pastoral associate and ministry as a hospice volunteer. He is also looking forward to performing baptisms and weddings. "After 31 years at P&G, I thought I could relax," he said, "but God didn't think so. That's fine with me, though, because this is exciting!"

Gerard Sasson

For Gerard Sasson, the call to the diaconate came from the example of others, including his wife of 36 years, Marilyn. "I've been surrounded by people who have really encouraged me and affirmed me for who I am," said Sasson, a school counselor and psychologist at St. Gertrude Parish in Madeira. "These same people have been wonderful role models for me and it was just natural to see in them the face of God and that turned to the deaconate."

Sasson, 60, also spoke of the support he has received from Father Larry Tensi, his pastor at St. Columban Parish in Loveland, where he is looking forward to assisting liturgically after ordination. He will be continuing in his position at St. Gertrude's on a part time basis and hopes his role as an ordained lay minister will be an example to the students. Having recently completed training in Stephen Ministry, Sasson hopes to "be available to people who are struggling with life's trials and tribulations."

"More than anything else, I want to be open to whatever needs are out there and be ready to serve," he said. "I feel an awesome gratitude that God has chosen me to serve in this capacity."

Sasson and his wife are the parents of three grown children, Jenny, Brian and Kevin. They have three grandchildren.

Ronald Stang

Dayton native Ronald Stang, 58, refers to himself as a "professional student," who took classes at the Athenaeum of Ohio for many years before entering the deacon formation program. Along the way, he earned a master's degree in pastoral ministry from the lay pastoral ministry program, driven by the desire to discover "why" Catholics believe what we do.

Stang, a teacher in the New Richmond School District for 35 years, is an active member of St. Peter Parish and has been involved in parish council, RCIA and served as a lector, greeter and catechist. It was the encouragement of several pastors over the years that "put a bug in his ear" regarding the diaconate.

Stang expressed his gratitude for the sense of community that developed among the deacon candidates during their training, along with the opportunity to discover one another's gifts. After ordination, his duties at the parish will include serving homebound parishioners. Stang also hopes to develop a social justice program at the parish and community level. "I hope to be able to help high school kids and families put their faith into practice, to demonstrate Christianity rather than just talking about it."

He and his wife, Mary Ann, have been married for 34 years. They have a daughter, Katie, and son Mark, who is deceased.

Michael Thomas

Ordained ministry has been a lifelong dream for Michael Thomas, pastoral associate at St. Thomas More Parish in Withamsville for the past 11 years.

As a deacon, said Thomas, 57, he is looking forward to "continuing my work for the church in a new and exciting way and being of greater service to the people of the parish. I have been called forth for them."

His ordination as a deacon will be the culmination of a journey of faith that began with his parents, Robert and Mary, and sister, Marianne, who are now deceased. "My parents were my first, best teachers of the faith," said Thomas, "and my sister, who was an invalid, taught me to accept the people that society doesn't want to accept."

He described the deacon formation program as "an awesome, grace-filled spiritual journey. To be part of such a fantastic group of men and their wives has been such a blessing for my wife, Mary Kay, and me. We formed a very tight-knit community." The couple has a son, Mike, who lives in Florida.

Thomas previously worked in telecommunications and said he would take the advice of a retired priest friend to heart as he begins his ministry as a deacon. Those words of wisdom were to "never stop loving the people of God."

Gerald Flamm

Calling his experiences so far in the discernment process and formation for the permanent diaconate "great", Gerald Flamm, 64, a parishioner at St. Gabriel Parish in Cincinnati said that he has enjoyed "an incredible journey. I have been extremely satisfied." Flamm has been joined in his journey of faith with his wife, Claire.

Much of that satisfaction has come from his long-term plans for becoming a deacon, a decision he made while planning on how to create an "active" retirement. As Flamm is ordained this Saturday, he will be within range of his retirement from many years of dedicated service as an educator and industrial project manager.

"When I asked myself what I wanted to do, the answer I found was that I wanted to give back some of the love that I have for the church."

Trained as a teacher, Flamm notched several years in front of high school and college students before working in industry as a project manager in flexible automation.

When ordained, he said he plans to get involved in hospital ministry, carrying out some pastoral associate duties and work closely with retirement communities that are interspersed throughout Glendale.

Greg Rose

A religion teacher at Roger Bacon High School, Greg Rose, 51, of St. Teresa of Avila Parish in Cincinnati, said that his close connection to the Franciscans and other religious orders have helped propel him into the diaconate.

"I think I received my call to the diaconate in 2000, when Roger Bacon High School sent me to Assisi on a pilgrimage. I was on a bus late at night as we were returning to the Rome airport, and I was wondering what the experience there (in Assisi) had meant, and I remember hearing a voice saying, 'don't be afraid.' I took that to mean don't be afraid to serve God."

Working with Deacon Mike Davenport at St. Teresa, Rose said he was blessed with support from all corners in his life: his "Roger Bacon" family, his wife, Peggy, and their two sons, and his parish.

"Mike Davenport gave me plenty of great advice, but what I found most helpful was his counsel to take it slow. Don't over-commit. Do things right. That's the best advice he's given me in serving others.

Rose said he looks forward to assisting his pastor with weddings and baptisms on the weekends

"We attended the ordination of deacons from the Diocese of Covington, and from that ordination this struck home: We are entering life as joyful servants of the church." That, he said, is what he hopes to achieve in his newly chosen vocation.

Walter Hucke

As long as Walter Hucke has been an adult, he has had a keen interest in the Catholic Church, a dedication he says dates to his enrolling in a Christ Renews His Parish program about 30 years ago.

"That's what I would have to say was my initial calling, my spiritual awakening. Hucke, 53, who runs his own transmission repair shop on the west side called Walt's Transmission, noted that he has spent the better part of the past 15 actively engaged at the parish in a wide variety of roles, beginning with lector, Eucharistic minister and eventually culminating in positions on the parish council at Our Lady of the Rosary Parish in Greenhills.

His calling to the diaconate "had to be something that was meant to be, because everything fell into place for me right at the last minute," he said. "I was the last one to enroll in the Lay Pastoral Ministry Program before this current diaconate class; same for the deacon class. It was meant to be."

Hucke said he is grateful that through the formation process at the Athenaeum of Ohio, he now has a "final understanding of the theology of the church. That has been the most rewarding thing for me throughout the whole process. Hucke, and his wife, Karen, will continue to work at various marriage-related ministries at the parish, including their role as heads of the FOCCUS program their. Hucke said he also looks forward to "doing weddings and baptisms" and engaging in other ministries at the parish.

Michael Mignery

A teacher for many years, Michael Mignery, 59, a parishioner at Queen of Peace Parish in Millville, said his calling to the diaconate has been something of "an incessant thing. Where was it, in Samuel, the call kept coming? A call that's hard for many of us to explain, but points us in this direction. That has been the case for me."

Mignery said that he has relied on the wonderful example of deacons and priests who have been examples for him.

"There was Deacon Bill Brunsman who was a wonderful man, and before him I was inspired by Father Norb McCarthy, a great example of a priest who gave it all."

With connections to Queen of Peace Parish for most of his adult life - Mignery and his wife, Josie, were married there more than a quarter century ago - the former Edgewood High School teacher and Miami University instructor said he looks forward to not only baptisms and weddings, he also wants to become more actively engaged in social justice issues and adult education at the parish and beyond.

"I'm retiring in June, and I've been a union laborer for 38 years, so I may do some labor-related ministry work as well," he said.

Dennis Edwards

Joining the permanent diaconate was a natural extension of the faith and dedication of Dennis Edwards, 49, a long-time parishioner at St. Mark Church in Cincinnati. The gifts of being involved in the deacon program, he said, were especially poignant as they related to getting to know his fellow candidates.

"The journey was especially interesting because of the unique experience of getting to know each other. We all discover that everybody is different."

A supervisor of instrumentation for the City of Cincinnati for nearly a quarter-century, Edwards and his wife, Portia, have five children, and they have long been active in various ministries with their parish and nearby faith communities.

"I've been blessed and guided by the Holy Spirit in this journey," Edwards said. "This is not something you do on your own; you do it with prayer and lots of support."

Edwards said that he has a strong desire to be part of the evangelization efforts at his parish, and indeed, throughout the archdiocese. "I can see myself being involved with bringing people to the church," he said. "I also have a great desire to perform baptisms, the anointing of the sick. But I especially want to bring people to the church."

Edwards, whose journey included being raised at St. Clement parish and going to Roger Bacon High School and then the University of Cincinnati, notes that one of his concerns is that young people don't have a full understanding of their faith, and that is something he would also like to address as a deacon.

"The challenge here, I think, is to convince young people that the Scriptures pertain to their lives. I really believe that, as Catholics, we need to know the Scriptures as well or better than our Protestant brothers and sisters."

David Meyer

The road to the permanent diaconate has been a rather long one for David Meyer, 54, a lifelong member of Guardian Angels Parish. The environmental engineer said that he first heard the calling to the permanent diaconate about 12 years ago, when he first entered the LPMP program and enrolled into the three-year deacon formation program. But then, at the completion of the deacon's program, Meyer said he stopped short of being ordained for family considerations.

"Family took first priority," he said. Meyer and his wife, Sandy, have two children.

After dealing with those issues, and then enjoying a brief sojourn in California, Meyer and his family returned to Cincinnati and Guardian Angels, where he said that people began pushing him back towards the diaconate.

"I have to trust that all that pushing was God's way of getting me back" into the deacon program. He entered the formation program last December as a sort of refresher to the prior three-year course of study he'd taken before, and now he joins 32 other men on Saturday for ordination.

"The deacon formation program is a time when you come in and find out how different people look at our faith and their experiences in unique ways," he said. "You gain an appreciation of that; it opens your eyes to see God in places you've never looked before."

Meyer said he has been deeply influenced by social justice ministries he's experienced over the years, where "it is such an eye-opener to see people who have absolutely nothing (materially) give all they have. I saw people who were suffering and moving towards death, and they were in fact ministering to me as I walked out their door. What I can tell you is that having heard so many stories, you understand that God is out there, everywhere. All you have to do is look."

Don Meyer

It would be easy to say that Don Meyer, 54, a parishioner at St. John the Baptist Parish in Harrison, was greatly influenced by Archbishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador in his journey to the diaconate. And, although, indeed, Archbishop Romero means much to this attorney and former seminarian, he also credits his son, T.J., a former lay Maryknoll missioner who worked for many years in Central America.

"Actually, all my kids have served as inspiration for me," Meyer said. He and his wife, Kathy, have three children.

Meyer said that there are many similarities between working in the law as well as the diaconate, especially in light of the work in helping people through troubled times in their lives.

"In terms of the diaconate, I sense that I'm an advocate for the Lord as much as I am for clients throughout the day. Lawyers work for justice; that's what God wants for the world. I feel a lot of connection there."

Meyer said he hopes to model his ministry after Archbishop Romero, noting that his prayer that recognizes "you can't do everything, but we can plant seeds and water them," is an additional inspiration.

Another element of inspiration is the fact that Meyer will be the first deacon for St. John's. "I hope to be a model so that people can see what hopefully a deacon is all about, and what he can be. I hope that I can inspire other people to do the same. I hope to be a model for the kids as well, and I want to be able to be there for them."

John Gerke

John Gerke's call to the diaconate goes back at least 30 years, "when I was very much influenced by the Franciscans," said this parishioner at St. Clement Church in St. Bernard. "In fact, my wife, Colleen and I both made professions as secular Franciscans a couple years ago."

Gerke, 48, noted that he tried to explore Franciscan spirituality as much as he could, even attending the Franciscan seminary at Duns Scotus in Detroit for a couple years as a youth.

"But I realized that my calling was to be married. We've been married 25 years this summer. It has flown by, believe me."

Gerke, a third-generation electrician who runs his own business, Gerke Electric, added that he tries as often as he can to give his time and talent where it is most needed. In fact, he has traveled to New Orleans at a Franciscan parish there - St. Mary of the Angels - where he has done a variety of electrical work, from roughing in wiring to finishing work.

"I've had three job offers down in post-Katrina New Orleans," he quipped. "Two were for electrical work, and one was as a pastoral associate. I intend to keep going down and helping out as much as I can."

Gerke said that his primary interest as a deacon is to conduct youth ministry at St. Clement Parish. "I know I still need some training, but that is what I think I'm called to do. I've been teaching junior-high and high-school CCD for about five years, and I'd like to continue to do that, where I can help kids get involved in service activities as well as the classroom work they do."

Jeff Merrill

A relatively new parishioner at St. Maximilian Kolbe Church in Butler County, Jeff Merrill, 46, has had the benefit of working through two distinct formation programs on his journey to the permanent diaconate.

"I started out in Shelby, Ohio, in the Diocese of Toledo in their deacon formation program," said Merrill, director of purchasing and estimating for Miami Systems. "But the calling really started when I was a kid, as a Methodist, when growing up I think that I always had the desire to share the word of God."

Merrill said that while teaching high school religious education with his wife, Jannett, he discerned that the diaconate was something he really wanted to pursue.

He enrolled in the program in Toledo, which while having some similarities, also provided some different approaches to learning, such as an intensive hospital pastoral ministry training program that, in Cincinnati, is gained through the lay pastoral ministry program and not diaconate formation per se.

Then, when he and his family moved to the Cincinnati area in 2005, he was welcomed into the deacon formation program, where he thrived as well.

Now he looks forward to working as deacon at St. Max, "where, because of the size of the parish, there will be many liturgical responsibilities as well as opportunities to work with our 65 formal ministries.

"Really, I hope to provide a presence here as I am needed."

John Quattrone

Cincinnati transplant John Quattrone says he fought the call to the diaconate for a long time.

"But I didn't feel comfortable not answering it," he admitted. The former pastor of St. Ann Church in Groesbeck, Father William Kennedy, challenged him to take one course through the Lay Pastoral Ministry Program to see what would come of it.

"I went and took the course . . . stood aside . . . took a few more, and the next thing I knew I was going through the program," Quattrone said. "The Spirit works in its own way."

A native of Steubenville, where he attended Catholic Central High School and the Franciscan University, Quattrone, 66, earned a degree in psychology and chemistry and had a long career with a pharmaceutical company. Since retirement, he has been helping at the parish with hospital ministry and nursing home visits, and says he will be involved in whatever ministry Father Tom Denneman, his pastor, wants him to take on. "Right now it's primarily visited the sick and disabled," he said.

He and his wife, Mary Lynn, have three children, Frank, John and Lori Seta, and 10 grandchildren - eight of whom will be present at ordination.

He credits the late Father Chuck Mentrup, who was at one time a weekend associate at St. Ann's, with greatly influencing his vocation. "He really worked with me for quite a while and was so much of an influence - he kept telling me I couldn't be at peace until I answered the call and went into it. I could always drop out, he told me. But he said I needed to follow the call," Quattrone remembers.

And so he did.

Ronald Risch

West side native Ron Risch, 63, attended Holy Family School and Elder High School and had a long career in mortgage and finance. He and his wife, Brenda, have two daughters, Susan and Kristin, and seven grandchildren.

Risch credits Deacons John Gobbi and Pat Palumbo with influencing his decision to study for the diaconate, adding "they continue to be role models."

"I am especially grateful to Father Steve Kolde (pastor of St. John Neumann Church, where he will minister following ordination) for his personal support and prayers," he said. "My entire seminary formation experience was personally gratifying and spiritually fulfilling - God certainly has blessed the seminary and the church with the finest directors and instructors."

Risch adds that his classmates and their wives "became a sign of the Lord's presence in our formation. I proudly call them brothers and sisters."

He will celebrate his first Mass at St. John Neumann on May 6.

George Schmidl

George Schmidl, 69, says he will miss the prayer time on Saturday night that he shared with the other 37 deacon candidates over the past few years.

"After 14 hours of class, a group of men and some wives would meet in the chapel to pray together and for each other," he recalls. "If anyone was sick, experiencing a difficulty, had someone they knew who'd dies - whatever was happening in their lives - we prayed." The camaraderie and brotherhood that developed within the class was outstanding, he added.

Born in West Virginia, Schmidl operated a dental lab for 33 years until retirement. He and his wife, Kay, are the parents of Theresa Wood, Paul, Mark, and twins Jane Barnes and Joan Bellman.

He credits the late Fathers Don Tenoever and Al Lauer with influencing him to consider the diaconate, as well as Glenmary Father Jim Kelly and Father Brian Connolly.

Following ordination, he will serve St. Joseph Parish, North Bend.

Robert Staab

Robert Arthur Staab Jr., 60, is no stranger to the seminary: as a high school student he completed two years at Elder and then entered a program at what was then called St. Gregory Seminary to complete his last two years of high school.

"As was customary before my class in 1963, students used to enter the seminary after the 8th grade. It was decided to allow the student to attend "outside" high school for two years and then enter the seminary the last two years," he remembers. "During this preparatory program, the student would attend weekly meetings with clergy moderators and grow spiritually and discern this vocation."

After continuing with his college studies at the seminary and at Xavier University, he came to see that his vocation was not to the priesthood. For 33 years, he worked in customer service for the U.S. Postal Service and today is a Special Deputy Sheriff for Hamilton County. He and his wife, Susan, have three children: Daria, Brian and Kevin, and four grandchildren.

"It was most enjoyable celebrating sung Evening Vespers, during the diaconate formation period," he said. "It was a pleasant recollection of my earlier seminary life."

At Assumption Parish in Mt. Healthy, the focus of his ministry will be the parish community, Staab said.

Reprinted from online version of the Catholic Telegraph. Copyright (c) 2007 The Catholic Telegraph.

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