By Gordon Nary
Gordon: Why did you become a deacon and what are your primary responsibilities at Our Lady of the Lake Catholic Church in Chapin, SC.?
Deacon Greg: I converted to Catholicism in 1991, it just felt right and felt like coming home. Soon after, I got more and more involved in my faith, becoming an Usher, Lector, and even an Altar Server. At that point, many people starting mentioning that I should become a Deacon, including my Pastor. And he started to insist that I look into the program, so I did. The 5 year formation program seemed excessive to me, but what did I know,
My current responsibilities are starting to wind down, as my wife and I are getting ready to move, we hope. I currently serve at one Mass per weekend, and often do Baptisms after Mass, however, in the past I have run Bible Studies, taught RCIA for nearly 20 years, for nearly 2 years I was the Pastoral Assistant to our previous Pastor, I trained the Altar Servers for many years, and also worked for many years to run network cabling and TV cabling to all parts of the campus. I served on the building committee for our new 650-seat church, and for many years, under our previous pastor who had many medical issues, I performed many Communion Services and many Sunday Celebrations in the absence of a Priest.
In addition to all of that, my wife and I own one of the four Catholic bookstores in South Carolina. The population of South Carolina is only about 4% Catholic, so we serve a large portion of the state's general population because our store is located centrally in Columbia, in the geographical center of the state. Not only do we have the store open 5 days a week, but we often go out to churches and sell on site on the weekends! The store is a challenge all its own, as only 30-40% of our customers are Catholic. We have many Protestants, and even many non-Christians come in the store, sometimes because they want to buy something for a Catholic friend, but also they have questions about Catholicism and they are reluctant to approach a priest. We also support many Catholic and non-Catholic churches in Columbia with church supplies.
When we purchased the store from another Deacon and his wife, we didn't realize that it would become a shining example of evangelization to all, and we try to encourage that. Over the last 12 years we have had many non-Catholics, and even non-Christians, come into the store, asking questions, looking for clarification of what we believe. And we have had many of them come back and tell us they are in RCIA, or that they've come into full Communion with the church. Its really VERY rewarding!
Gordon: What are some of the challenges in the evangelization of new members of the Roman Catholic Church?
Deacon Greg: The many misconceptions taught about Catholicism in many Protestant churches (and even in many Protestant seminaries!), as well as the popular media, make presenting and explaining the truth more than difficult.
Gordon: You also serve as a Police Chaplain. Where do you minister and what are some of the challenges?
Deacon Greg: As a Police Chaplain in Chapin, SC, I ride along with many of our officers during their regular patrol shifts. I also attend our monthly court sessions, as this is the only time all of our police officers are all together in one place. In addition, if there are any prisoners coming in or out of the courtroom, I make myself available to them, as they often want to talk to someone, other than a uniformed police officer.
The department I serve is a small one, only 6 uniformed officers, but they have many of the same problems as the large departments. Our town is only about 1.1 square miles but the area is growing and attracting the kind of folks that tend to be on the opposite side of the law from the department. Drugs, alcohol, child abuse, spousal abuse, domestic violence of all kinds, these all sap the department's energies, making it that much harder for a small department to be a community partner. This is the same sort of problem faced by many small town departments throughout rural America, and there doesn't seem to be an end, or a fix, in sight.
The stresses of police work, even in a small town, take their toll on these officers. I try to be a friend to them, to give them someone to talk to who isn't sworn law enforcement, but is on their side and understands their needs. This department, and many others throughout "small town America", are growing up too fast. As people continue their flight from the urban centers, these small towns often can't keep up with the services needed for the population. For instance, as I said, Chapin is roughly 1.1 square miles, with a population of about 800, however, the town is surrounded by quite a few large developments in the unincorporated county area. The town's post office serves roughly 55,000 addresses and the vast majority of those people drive through Chapin to go pretty much anywhere. Most of them do their grocery shopping in the town, and most of the kids go to the schools in town or in the immediate surrounding area.
Gordon: You are a leading Technology Consultant. What are your primary responsibilities?
Deacon Greg: As a Technology Consultant, we are involved in designing technology solutions for our customers. This typically involves almost anything with a cable on it, from computers to TVs to security cameras and all kinds of computer networking. We also deal with wireless networking, cell phone boosters, firewalls.
Gordon: In closing, could you share a prayer for those incarcerated?
Deacon Greg: Certainly. Dear Lord, we ask that you watch over all those incarcerated throughout the world. Keep them safe until they are released. Give them relief from their torment, give them forgiveness for all their sins, and give them peace in their days. All this we pray through Christ Our Lord, Amen.
Gordon: Thank you for a great interview.