So…how did we get from planning Jim’s retirement to him applying to become a Permanent Deacon? I think The Beatles said it best…the long and winding road.
Jim was raised in the Catholic Church and I was raised Baptist. To make a long story short, we “met” in what we considered to be “in the middle.” We were married in the United Methodist Church and until about ten years ago, were active members.
One day at work, I suffered what they call a “Thunderclap Headache”, which they believe happened due to unexplained low spinal fluid pressure. This lead to me being hospitalized for weeks at a time at various specialist while they tried to determine the cause and cure. I was unable to return to work and most of our social life skid to a halt.
One effect was that the migraine headaches, which I had endured most of my life, went from occasional to acute, from a monthly occurrence to a daily one. I couldn’t stand bright lights or loud sounds, among other things. During this time, while I was unable to attend church, Jim would either stay home with me or attend the St. Theresa Catholic Church, which was one block down from our house.
When I was able, I would go with him. I found such peace going there. When an opportunity came for us to buy Jim’s parents’ home in Mt. Carmel, we jumped at the chance. We began attending St. Mary’s with them and I soon found myself hungering to learn more about the Catholic faith.
While we attended the Methodist Church, Jim and I were both active in Sunday School, attending and leading small groups and we were both certified lay speakers. I always felt like Jim had a real gift of speaking and sharing his faith. So it was no surprise that those feelings carried forward with us when I joined St. Mary’s.
There were two opportunities that Jim had to speak that caused others to reach out and share their opinion that Jim had a calling. One was the funeral for our brother-in-law, John Farmer. The other was at the funeral for his father, Norman Keepes.
As we began to pray about it more and share our thoughts with Fr. Zwilling, it became clear that this was the path God was showing us. Like Samuel, Jim said, “Here I am.”
In December of 2017, we attended our first meeting at the Belleville Diocese to find out more. To our delight, we learned that I would be able to attend all the classes with Jim, if he were accepted into the five-year program. Belleville is one of the few dioceses that encourages the wives to be as active and participate as much as possible.
As Jim says, they didn’t scare us off, so we went back in January to a second meeting. This time, we were handed a thick packet that contained the application and all the paperwork we needed to fill out. We gathered transcripts from his schools, baptismal and confirmation certificates, marriage and birth certificates to name a few. Jim also needed twenty-five personal letters of recommendation and another twenty-five names of people the committee could contact. We had essays that we both had to write. Jim joking said that the first test to become a Deacon was not being scared off by the application.
It took about a month, but we got all the information gathered and returned to the Belleville office. In May, we had our interview with members of the Deaconate Committee and our interview with the psychologist in St. Louis. And then…we waited.
On August 11, we had a letter in the mail from Bishop Braxton, letting us know that Jim had been accepted in the program. We are so grateful for everyone who lifted us in prayer, sent notes of encouragement and gave us the hugs we needed. Our first formation will be Saturday, September 8.
One of my favorite quotes has always been Jeremiah 29:11. I’ve leaned on the promises there for years and know I will continue to. We thank you for your continued prayers and support. God is so good!