Years, if not decades, of public service to the Church came full circle for 11 men.
On ordination day, they found themselves at Mass and a special reception with their wives and bishops. A similar picture developed, literally, at the Diocesan Pastoral Center April 25 as both bishops and key leaders in the Office of the Diaconate celebrated the official retirement of 11 deacons.
A group photo of the new retirees and their wives formally concluded the midday gathering rooted in prayer and fellowship among the nearly 80-member retired diaconate community. Some of the diocese’s other retired deacons who were healthy enough and able to attend joined in the celebration along with a handful of widows.
“The widows of our deacons are so faithful to our ministry of intercession,” Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted said during brief remarks.
He also praised a deacon’s witness of marriage and fidelity to the general community. Dcn. Chuck and Sandra Shaw so happened to be celebrating 59 years of marriage that same day.
“It was very nice of you to throw the party,” the deacon quipped in his permanent New York accent.
Dcn. Jim Trant, director of the Office of the Diaconate, called the day’s festivities “a small way” of celebrating years of service to the people of God.
“Deacons serve in every ministry in the Diocese of Phoenix,” he continued, “because of your efforts, you become the hands, the feet and the eyes of the bishop.”
During Mass, Auxiliary Bishop Eduardo A. Nevares, reminded his “brother deacons” of words from the ordination rite, particularly those of being a “herald” of the gospel. That commitment remains first to their wife and children, then any secular job and finally the Church. He also thanked the deacons and wives for their generosity of time and talent then touched on humility, something evident in the first reading.
Deacons need great humility as a husband, dad, provider and ordained servant, the bishop said. “Your servant heart is involved in all of those roles and responsibilities,” Bishop Nevares said. “You present yourself in front of your bishop and say, ‘Here I am. I come to do your will.’”
That’s essentially what Dcn. Don Crawford said when he found himself inside a Mesa parish three years before he converted to Catholicism. He knew then he was being called to the diaconate.
The then future deacon, who is also a computer science guy and a fifth-degree black belt in aikido — an “ethical martial art” designed to protect the attacker and yourself — briefly sat alone after Mass at St. Timothy one day while his future wife finished her ministry duties. She came back to find her date in tears.
“She said, ‘What’s wrong?’ and I said, ‘I’m home!’” recalled the deacon who grew up Methodist. He converted in 1995 and was ordained in 2000. Dcn. Crawford served at St. Timothy until 2008 and the remainder of his ministry at St. Andrew the Apostle in Chandler, providentially the site of his ordination Mass.
He plans to continue his ministry there and at Queen of Heaven Cemetery and Funeral Home in Mesa. Dcn. Crawford leads a lot of funeral services there: 21 so far this year, 66 of them last year including 10 involving miscarriages and one abortion and 75 services in 2016.
“The couple discovered it was a mistake,” the deacon said. “It’s a ministry of evangelization because most of the time, it’s people who aren’t connected to the Church. If I can be warm and welcome, maybe I can bring them back to the Church.”
The conversions Dcn. Nick Bonaiuto has seen during his 12 years in the Diocese of Phoenix — six others in Memphis — came about differently. Beyond liturgical ministry at St. Henry in Buckeye, Dcn. Bonaiuto spent years as an annulment minister for the diocesan tribunal and in prison ministry for the women’s unit in Perryville.
“The last few years we’ve had about 30 women receive their sacraments,” Dcn. Bonaiuto said. He plans to continue offering religious services twice a month there plus weekly classes for those wishing to finish their sacraments or convert.
It was a pulpit call in 1995 that drew the corporate tax manager to the diaconate. He assured his wife she had “veto power.” Recognizing that the diaconate is a vocation and a call from God, just like marriage, she opted not to use it.
The Office of the Diaconate recognizes the following deacons and their wives for their faithful service to the Diocese of Phoenix:
- Joseph and Maria Terese Badame, St. Clare of Assisi in Surprise
- Santino and Socorro Bernasconi, Our Lady of Guadalupe in Guadalupe
- Nick and Sheila Bonaiuto, St. Henry in Buckeye
- Don and Marilyn Crawford, St. Andrew the Apostle in Chandler
- William and Mary DeMarco, St. Francis Mission in Ak-Chin
- Tom and Christine Glenn, Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Tempe
- James Hostutler, St. Patrick in Scottsdale
- Herve and Marianne Lemire, Our Lady of the Angels in Scottsdale
- Dennis and Sarah Luft, Ss. Joachim and Anne in Sun City
- John and Margaret Mickel, St. Helen in Glendale
- Wayland and Jaqueline Moncrief, St. Germaine in Prescott Valley