Catholic Courier

Posted: May 2, 2016

Last Updated: August 31, 2016

Deacons mark many years of ministry

This year, nine men are celebrating anniversaries of ordination to the permanent diaconate by Bishop Matthew H. Clark at Sacred Heart Cathedral. The 30-year jubilarians were ordained on June 7, 1986, and those celebrating 25 years were ordained on June 1, 1991.

30 years

As a young man, Deacon Leo Aman had studied at Rochester's St. Andrew’s and St. Bernard’s seminaries to become a priest. Instead, he logged a 30-year career in accounting while raising a large family. Yet, by becoming a permanent deacon, he finally fulfilled his vision of serving as an ordained Catholic minister.

After ordination, he logged parish assignments at St. Anthony of Padua, Rochester (1986-91); St. Mary, Honeoye (1992-94); St. Charles Borromeo, Greece (1995-99); and St. Pius Tenth, Chili (2001-07).

"I enjoyed the unique culture of each of the parishes where I was privileged to be assigned," he said.

In addition to parish duties, Deacon Aman ministered at the Monroe Developmental Center in Rochester and served for eight years as Catholic chaplain at Nazareth College -- an experience he fondly recalls for "the incredible energy and spirit of the students and staff" as well as the annual trips that he and other Nazareth students would take to serve the homeless at Clairvaux Farm in Maryland.

He also did prison ministry at Groveland Correctional Facility and participated in a Food for the Poor mission trip to Jamaica.

Deacon Aman said he regards his diaconal service as having been "filled with opportunity to witness and connect with families and communities growing closer to God."

He reached senior status in 2007, but in recent years has assisted at his longtime home parish of St. Charles in Greece.

Deacon Aman and his wife, Marian, have six children and 15 grandchildren. He is a 1991 retiree of Eastman Kodak Co. and served in the National Guard from 1959-65.

At 64, Deacon Gregory Kiley was the youngest deacon in his ordination class. He retired two years ago from his longtime post as chaplain at Five Points Correctional Facility in Romulus, Seneca County, but continues to serve in parish ministry at St. Joseph the Worker Parish in Clyde, Lyons and Savannah.

Deacon Kiley grew up in Scarsdale, N.Y., where he attended Immaculate Heart of Mary School. As a young man he majored in religious studies at St. John Fisher College in Pittsford and later completed his diaconal studies at St. Bernard's Institute. During this period of formation he embarked on what he expected to be two months of field experience at Wayne County Jail.

"I ended up doing it for four years instead of two months," Deacon Kiley mused.

That experience led to a 25-year stint as a full-time prison chaplain, first at Cayuga Correctional Facility and then at Five Points, where Deacon Kiley served from 2000 to 2014. Since his ordination Deacon Kiley also served at St. John the Evangelist in Clyde and St. Patrick in Savannah. He began ministering at St. Michael Parish in Lyons as well when the three parishes clustered in 2007 and merged to form St. Joseph the Worker in 2012.

Deacon Kiley said he's grateful to his wife, Elena, and their six children and 20 grandchildren, for supporting him and making his ministry possible.

"It's been great to have all these years to serve. It's been such a blessing. I'm just looking forward to a lot more years of being able to serve," he said.

Although one significant chapter of his career has ended, Deacon Brian McNulty is looking forward to the opportunities that lie ahead.

In late March Deacon McNulty retired as chaplain at Rochester Psychiatric Center. He had held the part-time position for 11 years, following a 33-year tenure as a teacher at the center.

"It's been my career, my world for 44 years," he remarked. "I'm going to take some time to do some study, some spiritual work, and try to discern where I'm going with my next kind of ministry." 

One priority on Deacon McNulty’s radar is the interfaith community in which he has been active over the years, including service as an officer for the diocesan Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs department. He is married to Episcopal Deacon Lynne McNulty, and in 2015 their son, Sean, was ordained an Orthodox deacon (they have two children and three grandchildren in all).

Deacon McNulty noted that he expects to become more active in Muslim-Catholic dialogue. He also plans to continue assisting his wife in her role as volunteer coordinator for SewGreen, a ministry at 264-268 Arnett Blvd. in Rochester that offers sewing, knitting and needlework as a basis for increasing the self-sufficiency of young people and adults.

Since his diaconal ordination, Deacon McNulty has performed additional ministry at Rochester's St. Augustine Parish (1986-98); Roman Catholic Community of the 19th Ward (1998-2002); and in campus ministry at Rochester Institute of Technology (2002-04). His home parish is St. Monica in Rochester.

At a very young age, Deacon William F. Schmitz said he knew he wanted to join the diaconate.

"I was always interested in being a deacon," he said.

His wife, Erika, echoed those sentiments.

"He had a desire to give back to his faith," she remarked.

A Rochester native, Deacon Schmitz attended Holy Apostles School, Nazareth Model School and Blessed Sacrament School in Rochester before entering Sacred Heart Mission Seminary in Gizard, Pa., at age 12.

"My dad would drive to the seminary from Rochester once a month," he recalled.

After three and a half years in the seminary, he transferred to Aquinas Institute and later enrolled at St. Bonaventure University. After his studies at St. Bonaventure, Deacon Schmitz entered the U.S. Army. After nine years of active duty, he worked in Germany as a cryptologist, helping to identify foreign communications using signals equipment, from 1956-58 and then again from 1960-63. As part of his service, he earned a bachelor's degree in Polish and German from Georgetown University.

After being discharged from the Army, he held several positions at Xerox and retired in 1998 after 31 and 1/2 years.

Following diaconal ordination, Deacon Schmitz served at St. Leo, Hilton; St. Andrew, Rochester; and Our Mother of Sorrows, Greece, until reaching senior status in 2007.

He and his wife have three children and nine grandchildren, and their home parish is St. Kateri Tekakwitha in Irondequoit.

25 Years

In a roundabout way, Deacon Robert Almeter's vocation to the permanent diaconate was sparked by a fuel-oil spill at St. Gabriel Parish in Hammondsport in the late 1980s.

A native of Warsaw, N.Y., Deacon Almeter had attended St. Michael School and Warsaw High School before earning a degree in chemistry from State University of New York College of Forestry at Syracuse University. After college he worked for General Electric in Schenectady before moving to the Southern Tier, where he worked for International Harvester and later Century 21 in Bath. He then served as a county executive director with the U.S. Department of Agriculture for 24 years.

While working at Century 21, Deacon Almeter and his wife normally worshipped at St. Gabriel Parish in Hammondsport, but the aforementioned oil spill forced them to go elsewhere while the Hammondsport church closed temporarily for cleaning. They went to a Mass in Corning and were impressed with the homily given by Deacon Ray Defendorf, whom they at first mistook for a priest. After Mass, Deacon Defendorf spoke with the couple, explaining the role of a permanent deacon, and soon Deacon Almeter discerned his own calling to the diaconate.

He served at St. Mary Parish in Bath before moving to the Syracuse Diocese, where he was assigned to St. Paul and St. Bartholomew parishes in Norwich. He currently lives in the Diocese of Burlington, Vt., and is a certified spiritual director. The Almeters have three children and four grandchildren.

Thinking back on his 25 years in the diaconate, Deacon Larry Casey said he's never been happier than he is right now.

A native of Rochester and cousin of the late Bishop Lawrence B. Casey, who was an auxiliary bishop in Rochester from 1953-66 before becoming Bishop of Paterson, N.J., Deacon Casey studied at Aquinas Institute and SUNY Brockport.

After taking an early retirement from Kodak, Deacon Casey earned a master's degree in clinical social work from University of Buffalo, commuting every day from his family's home in Albion.

At the suggestion of priests in Albion and Rochester, Deacon Casey decided to join the diaconate program in the Diocese of Rochester. Following ordination, he served at Church of Transfiguration in Pittsford for five years before relocating to Blairsville, Ga., in 1996. Since then he has served the people of St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Blairsville as a hospital chaplain and through marriage and addiction counseling.

"I have grown to love the people I serve and their love for me has had the greatest impact on me," he said.

Deacon Casey and his wife, Rita, have 11 children, 29 grandchildren, 20 great-grandchildren and two great-great grandchildren.

Deacon Thomas Cleary said he always felt the call to serve God in ministry, but the first deacon assigned to St. John of Rochester Parish really helped him begin the process.

"Deacon Dan Kinsky ... was very encouraging and urged me to apply," Deacon Cleary recalled.

A Bronx native, he attended St. John's University and worked as an accountant with Lybrand Ross Bros., Singer Corp. and Sybron Corp. He retired in the late 1980s and soon after began diaconal studies.

After ordination, he served at St. John of Rochester, leading the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults program for 15 years.

"Watching the 'new' Catholics become active in the church has been a great joy," Deacon Cleary said.

He also assisted with Marriage Encounter weekends and visits to the sick at St. John of Rochester, and served at St. Joseph House of Hospitality and Monroe Community Hospital. He reached senior status in 2006.

In addition to helping new Catholics, Deacon Cleary also noted baptisms as moving experiences. He said he especially enjoyed hearing from recently confirmed parishioners that he had baptized them.

Deacon Cleary and his wife, Margaret, have two children and three grandchildren.

"Performing the wedding ceremonies of my two children and baptizing their children was a great joy," he added. "The fact that Margaret and I have always done our ministry together in most of the programs has been a gift. It was the fulfillment of our sacramental role as a married couple."

Looking back at his years of ministry, Deacon Michael Mangione said he always found himself working with young people.

He relishes the role he now plays in the Catholic communities at Cornell University and Ithaca College, but noted that college ministry is very different than serving a parish community at a church.

"It's not very hard to get to know a number of people," he said. "The heartache happens when they graduate. Every four years, you've made a friend and now they're gone."

Deacon Mangione grew up in the Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Parish in Rochester. He attended city schools until he was a senior in high school, when his family moved into Rush-Henrietta School District. He went on to Indiana State University but returned to the Rochester area to help his family at 19 when his father died. A few years later, he joined the U.S. Air Force in which he served for four years. During that time, Deacon Mangione got married, had a son and was stationed in northern Thailand during the Vietnam War.

Upon returning to Rochester, he worked for the Rochester Telephone Co. and then embarked on a career in insurance. He and his wife of 38 years, Sharon, who died in 2003, first lived in Irondequoit and attended St. Salome Church. A career move took them to Addison in Steuben County, where they then lived for 23 years.

Deacon Mangione said he decided to get more involved in his new parish and was serving as a lector when the pastor suggested he become a deacon. Soon after, a friend said the same thing, and he decided to join the diaconate program.

"All I can say is I was elated all the time I was in the program," Deacon Mangione said.

After ordination, he served at St. Catherine Church in Addison for a year, St. Mary of the Lake in Watkins Glen (1992-94), St. Anthony/St Patrick in Elmira (1994-2001) and Elmira Psychiatric Center (2001-12). His parish work centered primarily on marriage preparation or the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults.

And although he retired from the insurance business in 2006, Deacon Mangione said his ministry keeps him active and young at heart. His wife, Joan, thinks he might be a little too active, he said. The couple married in 2005 after receiving a papal dispensation from canon law that prohibits marriage after ordination, he said.

"My wife thinks I'm busier than I need to be," he joked.

Even though he's celebrating 25 years in the diaconate, Deacon Patrick Shanley said he's been doing "church work" for 44 years.

Deacon Shanley grew up in Rochester and studied psychology and religion at St. John Fisher College in Pittsford. Prior to becoming a deacon, he served as pastoral associate at Holy Apostles in Rochester from 1984-91.

Following ordination, he served as pastoral associate (1991-96) and later as pastoral administrator (1996-99) at the former Holy Family Parish in Rochester.

He then served as part-time youth minister at St. John the Evangelist Parish in Rochester and St. James Parish in Irondequoit from 1999-2000 and was pastoral associate at St. Boniface Church in Rochester from 2000-06.

In 2006, Deacon Shanley began chaplaincy work and served the residents and staff at St. John's Home in Rochester. That same year he was assigned to St. Jude the Apostle Church in Gates and, in 2010, was assigned to the Gates Catholic Community, which comprises St. Jude, Holy Ghost and St. Helen parishes.

In addition to his ministries with Gates Catholic Community, Deacon Shanley is chaplain at ElderONE in Rochester and Hill Haven in Webster.

He said he's always loved diaconal ministry.

"I enjoy helping people get married and baptizing their kids," he said. "I even enjoy doing funerals. I know it sounds funny, but I love being able to be there for them in the difficult times too."

Deacon Shanley and his wife, Jeanne, have been married for 36 years and have three children and two granddaughters.