When he was given his first assignment, Dcn. Christopher Giannola dove into his work taking on not one, but three northern Arizona Catholic communities: St. Francis of Assisi Parish, Seligman, St. Joseph the Worker Parish, Williams, and St. Anne Mission, Ask Fork.
“We live 17 miles off the grid, in a log cabin on a ranch (in northern Arizona), and I am able to drive through the forest and take the back roads,” Dcn. Giannola said. “From my front door to St. Joseph is 35 miles.”
He said he doesn’t mind the trek along Interstate 40 to serve the three communities because the journey gives him an ideal opportunity for prayer and reflection.
His ordination into the diaconate after five years of study came at the perfect time in his life. He retired last May after 31 years working in the Flagstaff Unified School District (FUSD) as a special education teacher, high school wrestling and football coach, and six years as the administrative assistant at Holy Trinity Catholic Newman Center in Flagstaff.
Originally from Michigan, Giannola moved to Arizona and met his wife, Mary, at a prayer meeting at All Saints Newman Center in Tempe. They have been married for 32 years and have 26-year-old triplets, William, Joel and Regina.
“Chris is a quiet leader,” Mary said of her husband.
She said that having worked with him in the FUSD, she was able to see him interact with people, and watch them seek out his support and guidance.
“The one thing that is interesting about Chris is that people are attracted to him and his wisdom and his foresight. He thinks things through — he is not a quick decision maker. They know he has always been there for them.”
The couple together participates in Marriage Encounter, Cursillo, and the charismatic renewal.
Dcn. Giannola said he was inspired to explore the diaconate through the examples of his father-in-law, the late Dcn. Bill Griffin, as well as the many deacons in his parish. Mary said that she was not surprised when her husband was called into the diaconate as well.
“It was the next step to serve his community and God,” she said. “God has always been the forefront in his life.”
Though he loved his time serving the Newman Center, he said he was happy to begin his latest life chapter a little farther west.
“It is a good feeling to go where there is a need,” Dcn. Giannola said. “They are very prayerful communities, all three, and that is attractive.”
Giannola describes the three parishes as “rooted in prayer” under the leadership of their pastor, Fr. Kilian McCaffrey. “I can really learn under Fr. Kilian’s guidance,” Giannola said.