by Gordon Nary
Gordon: You have an impressive background in investments and asset management. Why did you decide to become a deacon?
Dave: Well first, those things are not mutually exclusive. One of the beautiful aspects of the permanent diaconate is to bring God’s presence into the secular world. It was in the death camps at Auschwitz where we began to get those discussions for the restoration of the permanent diaconate. The second aspect is that I didn’t choose to become a permanent deacon. God called me to the ministry, and I humbly followed that call through prayer and discernment. I was not overly enthused about the call because of what answering that call would mean to me and my family.
Gordon: Once you decided to answer that call, what was the reaction of your family?
Dave: My wife was very wise in pointing out that this was my call and not hers but that she would fully support me in the discernment process. Both my sons were supportive as well. It was never a question of whether this was the right thing to do. In reality, it was the only thing to do.
Gordon: Where did you study deacon formation and what was the most interesting course you took and why?
Dave: The Covington Diocese that I’m a part of is across the river from the Archdiocese of Cincinnati. We go through deacon formation together at The Athenaeum also called Mount St. Mary’s in Cincinnati is where we studied. I don’t know that I had a favorite course. They were all so interesting. The one I think that had the most impact on me however was on the social justice aspect of the Church. It opened my eyes to the deep obligation we’ve been given to carry out the mission of Christ into all aspects of life in the world. So often, we live in our own little world and need to be reminded of the greater sense of duty and service to those in need. That class introduced me to aspects of immigration for example, that I never thought about.
Gordon: You were ordained in April of 2013 and began your diaconal ministry at St. Timothy Parish in Union Kentucky. What were some of your favorite memories from St. Timothy?
Dave: I was ordained on April 13th of 2013 which was a Saturday. The next day, I had the great privilege of baptizing my first grandchild, Kinley. I eventually was able to baptize my other 2 grandchildren and that was an awesome feeling. I was also the RCIA Director at the parish and we had an enormously successful program. We averaged 20 to 30 people a year in the class and seeing those folks go through the Easter Vigil just as I did as a convert was always the highlight of the year for me.
Gordon: So, you are a convert to the faith. Did you come from another faith tradition and what drew you to Catholicism?
Dave: Both my wife and I were raised Southern Baptist. As a matter of fact, her parents and my parents went to the same Baptist church. For me, it was the sacredness I felt the first time I went to a Catholic Mass. The bells and the incense and the reverent sense of what was occurring was something I had never really experienced. I knew there was something more here that I wanted to know. A friend of mine who was a devout Catholic began to share some tapes and books with me and it was never a question of whether this was the right choice for me and my family. Both of our parents supported the move, and it has been the most important decision in my life to come into full communion with the Catholic Church. I’ve become a better husband, father, grandfather, and person through this journey.
Gordon: I see now that you serve as a deacon at Holy Spirit Parish. When did you go there?
Dave: I left St. Timothy in June of 2019 not for any other reason than I wanted to grow in my ministry. This was a chance for me to serve in an inner-city parish that has an incredible heart for service. The Pastor there is Monsignor Bill Cleves and he and I have had a long relationship together. He and I lead numerous retreats together as well as a podcast we’ve done called Catholic Soup. It’s been a wonderful experience, but I don’t do a lot in the way of parish ministry because of my work at St. Anne Retreat Center.
Gordon: How did Covid 19 impact your parish?
Dave: Like most parishes, we had to make some adjustments. We moved our services into the gym at what used to be our school. It worked very well and our attendance, while smaller than normal, held up pretty-well. We’ve got a great staff at the parish, and we were able to create a safe and comfortable environment while in the gym. When we came back to the Church, our attendance really took off. We are a rapidly growing parish now and it’s been great to see all the young families coming in now. We’ve got something special at Holy Spirit.
Gordon: You mentioned St. Anne Retreat Center where you serve as the Director. How long have you been there and what is that ministry like for you?
Dave: Bishop Roger Foys appointed me as the Director here in Augusts of 2016. I have my Master of Science in Church Management from Villanova University and he felt that I would be the right person to take on this role. The retreat center is the former convent for the Congregation of Divine Providence. The convent got some recognition as it was the sight of the Wallbrook Institution in the movie Rain Man. The diocese purchased it from the Sisters in 2012 and it has been the diocesan retreat center since then. In many ways, I consider this the most important work I’ve done as a deacon. Covid 19 impacted people’s spiritual life and this place has become a source of renewal for so many. Our schedule has been packed since our return to retreats in September of 2021 and we are booked going forward. The staff here has a heart for service like I’ve never experienced, and the fruits of our labor are being seen in people throughout the Midwest that come here. I tell people I’ve been here almost 6 years and I haven’t had a day of work yet. The Lord has blessed me greatly in this ministry and in my ministry as a deacon. It has its’ up and downs, but it certainly has been worth it. I wouldn’t change a moment of this journey as a deacon.
Gordon: Thank you for a great interview.