Preparing for ordination as a permanent deacon is stirring up many of the same feelings Jerry Martin had before he proposed to his wife, Cheri.
“It feels like I’m getting married again,” Martin of Williston said. “It is saying ‘yes’ to another vocation. You’re looking forward to it . . . there’s excitement, you know it’s right, you know it’s your calling to do.” Martin said what he is feeling now is “the same spirit that gave me the courage to ask Cheri to enter into the vocation of marriage. . . The same kind of excitement, but also the same butterflies,” he said.
Martin, Loren Kordonowy of Belfied, and Randy Schmidt of Bismarck will be ordained permanent deacons for the Diocese of Bismarck by Bishop David Kagan on Nov. 17 at 3 p.m. at Cathedral of the Holy Spirit in Bismarck. The men have completed a 5-year program of formation to prepare them to be servants of the Catholic Church through the diaconate. Deacon comes from the Greek word “diakonos” meaning servant. They will serve the parish to which they are assigned, its pastor and future pastors, Bishop Kagan and future bishops of the diocese, and the entire universal Catholic Church.
The vocation of permanent deacon allows for the men to be married. Since marriage is their primary vocation, their wives are involved in the formation program for the diaconate because of the supportive role they will play. They attend the classes, get to know the other deacons’ wives, and learn about the sacrifices the diaconate may require of their husbands, themselves and their families.
Kordonowy and his wife, Wendy, have six children who range in age from 6 to 20 years old. “She’s very supportive. She also believes that it is truly a calling. It’s not just something we decided,” Kordonowy said of his vocation as a deacon. “When you’re married, you are one, and she’s along for the ride. She’s, humbly and graciously, a great support.”
Kordonowy said their experience of beginning their married lives with different faith backgrounds – Wendy as a Southern Baptist and Loren as a Ukranian Byzantine Catholic – helped them both delve into faith. Wendy had a lot of questions about Catholicism. “It’s so important to be willing to find out the answers to those questions and not just give up,” Kordonowy said. Moving toward a common faith – they are both now Roman Catholic – “was a big struggle and we did it together,” he said. Now, they are taking another step in their faith journey.
For Kordonowy, the road to the diaconate began in prayer with “that voice in my head that I need to be considering it,” he said. “I told myself ‘Not me’ for years.” Through further prayer and spiritual direction, Kordonowy knew he had to explore the vocation.
Randy Schmidt’s first thoughts about the vocation of the diaconate were prompted when a woman asked him “the simple question – ‘Have you ever considered becoming a deacon?’” His answer was “no”. He hadn’t thought about it yet at that time. A year or so later, after serving as a lector and Eucharistic minister for his niece’s wedding, his godfather asked him, “So when do you get ordained a deacon?” “So my answer changed from ‘no’ to ‘what?’” Schmidt said. A short time after that, a priest asked him, “Randy, are you praying?” “Yes, Father, I am,” he responded. Then the priest asked, “Are you listening?”
Those gentle nudges and the prayers of many people were all gifts from God, he said. They helped him to give up control and to pray, “Okay Lord, I need you to show me. I don’t need to drive this time . . . just show me what you need me to do’. And he did,” Schmidt said.
The men appreciate the format of the formation process for the diaconate. “I like the program the way they have it. It gives you the time . . . for good proper discernment,” Martin said. “You grow in your spiritual life as well as who you are as a person.”
Schmidt explained that the first two years of the program are called the aspirancy phase, followed by three years of candidacy. He and Susan participated for two years, then took two years off to continue discernment. They returned for the final three years of formation.
Through the process, they have come to know deeply the power of prayer. When his wife had cancer recently, people from their parish, their family, the diaconate program and religious orders prayed for them. “That power of prayer . . . gave us the courage, strength and hope to walk that journey,” Schmidt said.
When asked what he’s most looking forward to as a deacon, Kordonowy said, “All of it. I’m very much looking forward to being able to help bring Christ to anyone who’s ready and willing to accept him.”
Martin, who will be serving under Father Russell Kovash in the rapidly growing community of Williston, encouraged others to be open to the vocation of deacon. “If there is that inner calling, no matter how gentle that voice is, contact David Fleck,” he said.
Fleck is director of the
Office of the Diaconate
for the Diocese of Bismarck. He can be reached at 701-204-7210 or
. More information about the program can be found by
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