by Gordon Nary
Gordon: When did you attend St. Patrick's College, Mountain View, Ca, what degree did you earn, what was your favorite course, and why was it your favorite?
Deacon Mike: I attended St. Joseph High School and St. Patrick College Seminary from 1965 to 1973 History was by far my most favorite subject. The course of history
fascinated me in all its aspects. I loved studying the patterns of the past and where they led. I ended up with a degree in Humanities with areas of Concentration in Theology
and History. They actually allowed me to take enough history courses to qualify for an additional Major but did not have the right to grant a History Degree.
Gordon: When did you attend University of San Francisco, what degree did you earn, and what is one of your favorite memories while you were there?
Deacon Mike: I began my study at USF in the Fall of 1975. I received my Secondary Teaching Credential in the Spring of 1976 in both History and English.
I continued my studies for a Master's in History and received that in 1982. My main focus was on East Asian History and I fell in love with Japanese history.
In the meantime, I was married in 1976 and worked full time at the Teachers Exchange, an educational materials store in SF.
Gordon: When were you co-owner of the Educational Exchange and please provide an overview of your work there?
Deacon Mike: After working at the Teachers Exchange while studying, my wife and I purchased the store and re-named it Educational Exchange. We sold supplemental books for classroom use that could also be used by parents. We supplied classroom decorations, rewards and educational games. It was great fun matching what the teacher/parent needed for the students. It was especially enjoyable when teachers or parents returned telling us how well various items worked. Since we owned it for 35 years, we even had students returning to teach their children and grandchildren. We always told the customers we would be there to help their children and grandchildren, but would not be there for any great grandchildren.
Gordon: When did you decide to be a Deacon, with whom did you first discuss it, and what was their advice?
Deacon Mike: My wife and I met in church and have remained active in the church. We raised four children and volunteered at our parish. I taught Confirmation classes, and
worked trying to encourage vocations at the school. I was on the Parish Council, the School Board and coached basketball and track for 25 years. Around 1998, I began to
sense that I was being called to do more. But I couldn't understand what direction that would take. My good friend and classmate, Padre Mateo Sheedy, asked me to come and pray with him after he was diagnosed with cancer. I did and would visit him about every two weeks. During one such visit, I expressed my frustration with this vague
feeling of being called. He said: "George (my nickname), I think you're called to be a deacon." I laughed and said that call was ended when I left the seminary. Mateo kept
insisting and eventually I began listening more closely to the call. I talked it over with my wife who simply said: "It's about time." She has always been quicker on the
uptake than I am. So I approached my Pastor Wil Smith and asked how to apply.
Gordon: What training was required to be a deacon?
Deacon Mike: The course of studies and discernment was five years, but they passed in the blink of an eye. Wives are encouraged to attend the classes and my wife
enjoyed them with me. We studied Theology, Scripture (Hebrew and New Testament), Christology, Church History, Moral Theology and the practicum of various rites
(Baptism, Marriage, the Mass etc). My favorite class was homilectics --- the art of preaching well. We had a truly amazing instructor -- Fr. Dave Pettingill.
And I am forever in his debt and still consult with him. We also ministered outside our parish and in various areas of diaconal service: soup kitchens, jails,
ministry to the home-bound, and many others. I chose to work with Special Needs children receiving the Sacraments. It opened my eyes to the endless possibilities
of diaconal ministry. I was ordained in 2005 and vested by my wife and children. It remains a very special memory.
Gordon: Where re you serving as Deacon and what are your primary responsibilities?
Deacon Mike: I was moved from the parish where I applied to the diaconate (they already had two deacons), and I was sent to Our Lady of Mercy a short distance away.
Not only was I welcomed by the parishioners, but my whole family was welcomed as well. The Pastor, Fr. Bill Brown, encouraged me to begin preaching almost immediately.
he also directed me in work with the homebound and Pastoral Council. I was blessed to have him as my first Pastor and we remain friends until this day. After ordination,
I was placed in the Baptismal rotation, I preach at all the Masses once a month, prepare couples for their wedding, teach RCIA, and act as facilitator for our Pastoral
Council. In 2014, I was also asked to become the Director of Diaconate Ministry and Life and organize the deacons in the Archdiocese of San Francisco. In this role,
I plan the Annual Retreat as well as other get-togethers for the deacons and their wives. It is a very humbling experience. The vast majority of deacons and wives are
holy people dedicated to the service of others. I am honored that they allow my wife and myself to be part of their community.
Gordon: What is your favorite activity as a deacon?
Deacon Mike: I thought I would enjoy preaching as the best of my ministry. I do like preaching, but baptizing children is my favorite activity. Watching families gather in excitement, guiding them and the new comer to the Sacrament --- that is a moment of complete joy. And as Teilhard de Chardin said:
"Joy is a sure sign of God's Presence."
Gordon: Thank you for an inspirational interview.