Callings — most of us experience at least one of these in a lifetime. Depending on our ages, the sources may be parents, teachers, friends, situations, readings, spouses, fellow parishioners and even inner stirring.
My first sense of call came in eighth grade at St. Ambrose School. Sister Rita Marie encouraged all her boys to pray for a vocation to the priesthood. I prayed, but neither heard nor felt a call.
So off I went to McQuaid and there felt the first call in my life. My American history teacher witnessed what it is to be an educator. My decision to be a teacher of history was forged.
When I arrived at John Carroll University, I discovered that my history major and political science minor would include Army ROTC and a de facto third minor in philosophy. So my second call to serve as a commissioned officer in the U.S. Army was also forged. After graduate school and a tour in Vietnam, I married my wonderful wife, Anne (a third calling) and entered the world of an educator at Monroe Community College. It was a marvelous 36-year ride there during which our three blessed children — Larry, Kathy and Justin — formed my fourth calling.
Anne and I were always active in St. Joseph’s, Penfield, as lectors, extraordinary ministers of holy Communion and members of the folk group. The stirring of the fifth calling — the permanent diaconate — came from four sources. First, we were blessed with the witness of three great deacons at St. Joseph’s — Bill Hunt, Ken Scarciotta and Tom Ecker. Further, in the Army Reserve I interacted with another gifted deacon — Gary DiLallo. Second, there was the support of four inspiring priests — Father Mike Conboy, the pastor who encouraged and endorsed my candidacy; Father Joe Hart, my academic adviser for three years; Father John Colacino, the adviser for my last year; and Father Bill Darling, my spiritual director. Third, there were the affirming parishioners at St. Joseph’s. And fourth, certainly not last, my family and friends.
All of these interacted to awaken, nurture and support my sense of calling. Then there were the prayers of so many. As a result, the four years at St. Bernard’s were a whirlwind of faith, ideas, service and opportunities. I was ordained June 9, 1999, and a month later was assigned to St. Salome’s Parish and to the duty chaplaincy at Rochester General Hospital.
The six years and 11 months since ordination have been profoundly rewarding. With the support of two pastors, Father Darling and Father Richard Beligotti, and the faith commu- nity of St. Salome’s, I have received the marriage vows of 18 couples, baptized 64 children, and presided or assisted at the funerals for 34. All this in the parish which is the mustard seed of the Irondequoit parishes!
At the hospital, I have supported and prayed with patients and families beyond counting. I never cease to be amazed and thankful for how open and candid they are in their time of need. Health emergencies most always bring on a faith crisis. In a perfect world, all patients would have health-care proxies and have received the sacrament of the sick in their parishes before entering the hospital. But this is an imperfect world and provides the challenge for ministerial support in the hospital setting. It also is my privilege to sponsor field-education experiences for deacon candidates at Rochester General, shadowing for diaconal inquirers and mentorship for deacon interns. And in January 2005, I became the chaplain for the Monroe County Office of Probation and Community Services.
Serving as a permanent deacon is a privilege without measure. Whether preparing a couple for marriage or caring for a parishioner who has lost a job, visiting the sick or assisting a family in preparing a funeral liturgy, breaking open the meaning and message of sacred Scripture in a homily or delivering food baskets to the needy — all are manifestations of his love for which you are his agent. Occasionally, you are a channel of his peace. One last note: I can’t begin to describe how it feels to receive the wedding vows of your children and baptize your grandchildren (yes, the sixth calling!).
Deacon Laurence Feasel ministers at St. Salome Parish in Irondequoit and Rochester General Hospital, and is professor emeritus of criminal justice, history and political science at Monroe Community College.