Deacon John Brasley recalled a poignant story Deacon John Tomandl once told him that reflected how deeply their fellow permanent deacon, Ed Sergeant, cared about the developmentally disabled community.
Some years ago, Deacon Tomandl was visiting the Finger Lakes Developmental Disabilities Service Office in Newark where Deacon Sergeant served as chaplain. He observed Deacon Sergeant getting right down on the floor hugging people who were so disabled they couldn’t get up — so, Deacon Tomandl followed suit.
"Deacon Ed had tears in his eyes that somebody would think to do what he was doing," said Deacon Brasley, the diocesan director of deacon personnel.
Deacon Sergeant, parish deacon in Our Lady of the Lakes Catholic Community, died suddenly on Oct. 10, 2011, at Soldiers and Sailors Hospital in Penn Yan. He was 68 years old and belonged to the first class of permanent deacons in the Diocese of Rochester.
Deacon Sergeant grew up in Sodus. He received his bachelor’s degree from Empire State College and later his master’s degree in divinity from St. Bernard’s Institute (now St. Bernard’s School of Theology and Ministry.) He was a manager of the Scientific Optics Division at Bausch & Lomb for 18 years.
He was ordained to the permanent diaconate April 17, 1982, and served Church of Epiphany/St. Rose churches in Sodus and Sodus Point for more than 20 years. In 1985 he became full-time chaplain for the Finger Lakes DDSO and served there for more than two decades as well.
"I think my being of service to the people who have disabilities is a tremendous gift God has given me. It’s just a very, very special group to work with — extremely appreciative of whatever you do," said Deacon Sergeant in a 2007 Catholic Courier article.
"His ministry was an embodiment of the servant role of Christ to the alienated, the oppressed and the marginalized," Deacon Brasley said. "His family and friends can take comfort in his long record of faithful and generous service to his clients, his community and his church."
"Deacon Ed Sergeant was an extraordinary minister," remarked Deacon David Palma, former diocesan director of deacon personnel and a close friend of Deacon Sergeant’s. "The great deacon, St. Francis Assisi, exhorted the folks to preach the Gospel always and when necessary to use words. Ed’s life was an eloquent homily."
Deacon Sergeant is survived by his wife of 47 years, Rose Marie; daughters, Karen Rawden and Kristi (Rob Sapp) Sergeant; son, Edward Robert Sergeant II; grandchildren, Nicholas (Diana) Rawden, Kimberly Rawden, Julia Wilchenski and Victoria Sapp; brother, Jim (Dorothy) Sergeant; aunt, Verlyn Sergeant; brother-in-law, PJ (Jean) D’Abbracci; and nieces, nephews and cousins.
Calling hours for Deacon Sergeant will be Thursday, Oct. 13, 2011, from 2 to 4 and 6 to 8 p.m., followed by evening prayer at St. Michael Church, 312 Liberty St., Penn Yan. His funeral Mass will take place at St. Michael Church at 10 a.m. Friday, Oct. 14, 2011, with Bishop Matthew H. Clark serving as celebrant. Interment will follow at St. Michael Cemetery.
Contributions in Deacon Sergeant’s memory may be made to St. Michael School, 214 Keuka St., Penn Yan, NY 14527.