NEWARK — God does provide guidance to those who seek to do his will, but his instructions don’t often come in big chunks, and they’re not typically accompanied by loud fanfare, according to Deacon Peter Dohr.
Instead, they often come in small whispers and quiet hints, said Deacon Dohr, who believes those divine whispers and hints have guided him along the winding path to his current position as executive director of Catholic Charities of Wayne County.
"I think that is almost a lifetime process of becoming open and accepting of God’s will in my life," Deacon Dohr told the Catholic Courier.
A native of Pittsford, Deacon Dohr attended McQuaid Jesuit High School in Brighton and College of the Holy Cross in Worchester, Mass., before beginning what would be a 30-year career in commercial real estate. In 2006 he was an active member of St. Paul of the Cross Parish in Honeoye Falls, which he attended with his wife, Patti, and their three children, yet he felt God was calling him to explore new ways to share his gifts, serve others and do God’s will. His ordination to the permanent diaconate on June 5, 2010, marked the culmination of a four-year process of discernment and formation, a process that he called "tremendous."
"I wish that every person had an opportunity to go through a similar type of experience, an awakening to God’s presence," Deacon Dohr said.
After his ordination, he continued to work in real estate but also served at Industry School in Rush; on the board of directors of Catholic Charities of Livingston County; and at the clustered parishes of St. Paul of the Cross, St. Agnes in Avon and St. Rose in Lima. He enjoyed everything he did, yet he said he felt God was calling him to use his talents in a different way. Eventually he realized that his responsibilities at the real-estate firm had shifted and become more people-oriented over time.
"Somebody would come in and close my door and say, ‘Here’s what’s going on with my aging parents,’ or my family member, or my coworker. I was doing a lot more of that and loving it," he recalled.
Thus, in early 2012 he left his firm and opened his own family consulting business. His reputation spread by word of mouth and most of clients were referred to him by people he knew. Deacon Dohr typically met with clients in their homes whenever it was most convenient for them. Working without an office or a set schedule was a real shift, but it helped him to learn to be flexible enough to surrender his own agenda and be fully present to both his clients and to God.
"When you are able to release that (agenda), you become more receptive to whoever the person is in front of you at the time or wherever you’re supposed to go that day," he said.
Deacon Dohr loved this work, yet once again he felt God was calling him to do something more. He prayed about it, asking God to show him what he needed to do, and shortly thereafter he received a phone call. Jack Balinsky, diocesan director of Catholic Charities, told him about the upcoming opening at Catholic Charities of Wayne County and encouraged him to apply for the job.
Deacon Dohr got the job and spent the first two weeks of October working with the agency’s outgoing executive director, Deacon Timothy Sullivan, who moved back to Oklahoma, where he’d lived before coming to Catholic Charities of Wayne County in 2008. Deacon Dohr said the 18 months he spent in family consulting served as a good transition period, without which he may not have felt comfortable making such a drastic career change. He’s happy with the agency, which he said "feels like a good fit."
Some of his corporate experiences, such as working with boards of directors and homeowners associations, have helped him in his current position, said Deacon Dohr, who supports the agency’s staff and counselors and works with its board of directors. A lot of his work deals with seeking and securing resources and helping his team deliver them to clients. In the future, Deacon Dohr hopes to build stronger connections between his agency and the parishes in Wayne County and surrounding areas.
"I try to be a good spokesman in the community to basically build connections between the services we provide and the people that we serve," he explained.