In some ways, ordination hasn’t changed Dcn. Tony Smith. He still continues his role as master of ceremonies for the weekly televised Mass from Ss. Simon and Jude Cathedral and other key liturgies such as the Easter vigil.
He is a markedly different man though. Dcn. Smith has grown in compassion — even for people he will never get the chance to know. It won’t be an official part of his ministry, but Dcn. Smith will continue to regularly attend indigent burials at the White Tanks Cemetery. It’s something he experienced during formation.
“That’s just something I’m drawn to,” the deacon said, describing how several inmates, while still in chains, stand guard over the casket and ultimately lower it into the ground.
He’s seen them go from very tough to gradually joining in with each “Our Father.” The burials are for people who had no other surviving family or whose family couldn’t afford a burial of their own.
“It’s such a pleasure to be a part of that,” Dcn. Smith said.
His deep respect for others began with a gentle tug on his shirt when his daughter, now 22, was a toddler. “But papa, papa, why can’t we go to church?” she would ask. They had gone occasionally, mostly with his mom, “a very faithful Catholic” who never stopped praying for him. At the time, Smith was “spiritual but not religious.”
“What do you say? The next week we were in church. That was someone speaking to me through her,” Dcn. Smith said.
He and his wife, Diana, still had concerns about the Church, despite getting married in it. Online research clarified their misconceptions. Contraception was the last hurdle. A series of Christopher West videos convinced them to learn Natural Family Planning and become NFP instructors. A deacon and a priest at an NFP luncheon ultimately encouraged Smith to discern the diaconate.
Other parish ministries had the future deacon supporting Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish in Glendale as lector, extraordinary minister of Holy Communion and the parish council. The Smiths moved to Ss. Simon and Jude Cathedral because it was closer to home. That’s where he took note of the adult altar servers.
“It’s one thing to be in church — the presence of our Savior is in the tabernacle. But being in the sacristy, His presence is that much closer to you,” said Dcn. Smith, who began arriving half an hour earlier just to be in that presence.
Dcn. Smith has been serving there with his son, now 18, for the past seven years and credits God for keeping his children rooted in the Church. Even as adults, they still go to Mass with him Sunday evenings.
“I may serve all day long, but that’s our family Mass,” Dcn. Smith said.
He’s excited to see what ministry he and his wife are called to next. She has long championed his efforts through prayer. The couple enjoys teaching baptism classes.