Dcn. Roy Anderson spent nearly a century serving in the Lord’s vineyard until he was called home Jan. 11. He was 98.
His faithfulness put him at two parishes in as many dioceses before retirement. Dcn. Anderson began serving at St. Daniel the Prophet in Scottsdale in 1995. Debbie Venezia, parish manager, arrived shortly after that and described him as a strong and joyful person.
“I always remembered him for his smile,” she said.
That smile and the gentle wisdom behind it likely lit up many lives beginning in the Diocese of Joliet, Illinois. Dcn. Anderson was ordained there Sept. 12, 1987 and was the third new deacon at St. Joseph Parish in Downers Grove in as many years.
Dcn. Roy Anderson
Born: Aug. 21, 1919
Ordained: Sept. 12, 1987 for the Diocese of Joliet, Illinois
Service in the Diocese of Phoenix
St. Daniel the Prophet in Scottsdale, Beginning Aug. 1995
Died: Jan. 11, 2018
His titles included director of volunteers and development, parish council member and faithful member of the parish’s St. Vincent de Paul outreach — alongside his wife, Jean. The two were also Stephen ministers, which had them reaching out to people facing an array of life challenges not necessarily within the scope of St. Vincent de Paul’s services.
Dcn. Anderson introduced Small Christian Communities to his Illinois parish and later brought it to St. Daniel. The deacon grew up Lutheran. It was when Jean was in a complicated labor with their first of seven children that Dcn. Anderson hinted at conversion.
“Dad bargained with God that if He brought Jean and the baby through this, that he would become Catholic,” Karen Rohan, his middle daughter explained.
Shortly thereafter, the new dad walked a few blocks up the street to the Catholic church and asked the priest for help becoming Catholic. Six months later, on Christmas Eve, Dcn. Anderson had his First Communion. He ultimately had seven children including four boys.
“My Dad believed in the family Rosary. He’d pull all seven kids in to pray the Rosary,” Rohan said. The pair worked the beads through their fingers in the deacon’s final days too.
Dcn. Anderson spent the years in between as a mechanical engineer and draftsmen, moving on to property management later in life. He also spent four years in the Marine reserves and three with the Navy’s Seabees.
As a deacon in Scottsdale, he was a homilist — sometimes impromptu — led communion services and performed marriages, baptisms and graveside services. All of that still didn’t prepare the deacon for one particular encounter when an elderly man bent down and kissed his hand after Mass.
“He was a very humble fellow” Rohan said of her dad, “so he took this man’s hand and kissed him back.”
She identified her spirituality as the greatest gift her Dad gave her, “which I believe he modeled to me daily in how he treated people and how he trusted in God.”
Rohan now serves as a spiritual advisor for St. Vincent de Paul’s District 9 in the Diocese of Phoenix. It’s a role her dad once held in the same district.
“He had a lot of charisma and empathy for people. He was very loving and caring,” Rohan said.
In his own time, Dcn. Anderson could be found carving 3-D wooden statues of birds. In his later years, he was identifiable as the elderly man on a tricycle.
St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital
P.O. Box 50
Memphis, TN 38101-9929
(in honor of his brother who died as a young teenager)
The Society of St. Vincent de Paul
420 W. Watkins Road
P.O. Box 13600
Phoenix, AZ 85002-3600