The first cohort of nine candidates to complete the four-year permanent diaconate program of the Regina Archdiocese will be ordained June 15 at Holy Rosary Cathedral.
Ten candidates began their journey in the fall of 2014. They spent ten weekends a year, July and August excepted, over four years to achieve their goal of becoming permanent deacons. “We had about 30 expressions of interest,” said Dr. Brett Salkeld, Director of the program, “and that led to 18 formal applications. Through a process of discernment that included individual candidate interviews 10 were selected for the program.” Four of the 18 withdrew their application, two were rejected, and two others were asked to re-apply when they weren’t as busy with a young family and other activities, explained Salkeld. One of the 10 withdrew part way through because of an emerging health issue. Candidate ages ranged from their 40s to their late 60s, when they began the program four years ago. Nine of the men were married and one was a widower who lost his wife to illness a year prior to the start of the program. Wives were encouraged to attend formative weekends, said Salkeld, and most did unless other commitments interfered.
“It’s a rigorous program that focuses on four main areas of formation as outlined by the Vatican: spiritual, academic (intellectual), pastoral, and human basic maturity (can you deal with life). Salkeld continued, “As we go through the program there are lots of opportunities to learn what it means to be a servant of God and God’s people.” Included are things like developing a prayer life; scripture, and what authority does it have; how to read the Bible; pastoral care; Church history; practical things like working with the priest at the altar, conducting vigil prayers, weddings, funerals, benediction, all the things a deacon can do. “It all has to do with forming the deacon’s identity or what we sometimes call forming the deacon heart,” Salkeld explained. The weekends are usually academic, with lectures, reading of textbooks and some workshops and discussions. Guest lecturers often come in to present specific themes. “David Sax of Catholic Family Services, for example, talked to us about being with people who are hurting.” Dr. Salkeld is the primary instructor but several current permanent deacons who are living the life spoke to the group as well as several priests who spoke on specific subjects. Chancellor Reverend James Owolagba lectured on Canon Law and Director of Liturgy Ron Andree talked about Liturgy.
The diaconate program is a voluntary giving of expertise, time and effort to the Church. Deacons are not paid for their service and as a volunteer all deacons must have an independent source of income to support their families.
The following are brief profiles of each candidate:
David Hagel, farmer/rancher from Cabri, SK has a herd of pure bred Limousin cattle that he cares for. He was widowed after 20 years of marriage, no children. He has always had a desire in his heart to provide some form of service in the Church. As a layman, he felt there was something more and the diaconate program fit the bill. He had some difficulty with the academics, but overall, he acknowledged, “it’s been a very positive experience deepening my faith and understanding of the Church.” He is assigned to his home parish of St. Joseph in Cabri. He expects to be involved in hospital ministry, long term care facilities, and visiting the sick.
Kevin Harty, lives in the Windsor Park Regina. He retired as a Human Resource Officer for Canada Post in Saskatchewan. He is married to Terry and they have two adult children.
"My walk with the Lord has been a slow, gradual progression,” said Harty in explaining his route to the program. He also “fell in love” with scripture as he sponsored and accompanied his wife through the RCIA program. Harty is a 4th degree Knight and his wife is a member of the CWL. Besides his liturgical responsibilities at his assigned parish of Resurrection, he feels his calling is evangelization, leading people to the Lord.
David Hudy has a farm just northeast of Melville but considers himself semi-retired. He has been married to Bev for 35 years and they have one adult daughter. He volunteers at hospitals and nursing homes and twice a week brings residents to church for the recitation of the rosary. That, and other activities, made him think he could represent the Church more as a deacon and it all came together in what he felt was a calling for the deaconate. He said he found the academics challenging to the point where he questioned his choice but with the support of his wife and the help he received from Dr. Brett Salkeld, he got through it. “I learned to trust God more, to leave things in God’s hands,” he said of the program. He is assigned to St. Henry’s Parish in Melville. He expects that, as an ordained deacon, he will continue to do much of what he is now doing as a lay volunteer.
Harper Boucher had a 40-year career with the RCMP that took him to posts all over Canada including one as Commanding Officer of Depot Division in Regina. His last posting was to the United Nations in New York as a special representative of Interpol working with countries developing anti-terrorism programs. Married for 45 years to Rose Ann and they have two adult children. They now live in Deer Valley, near Lumsden, SK. He is a full-time Provincial Court Justice. He felt a calling to the priesthood as a youth and attended university with that intent, but life got in the way; he completed university, joined the RCMP, and married. “When I saw the opportunity to apply for the deaconate program, I jumped at it.” He and his wife always gravitated to the nearest Catholic Church at every posting and became actively involved in the church community. He is assigned to St. Peter’s Parish in Lumsden and St. Jerome in Regina Beach. Following Ordination, he expects to work with the elderly, perhaps help develop some programs for the elderly at the church. “I’m at that stage now in my life where I have lots of experience and I believe I have something to offer.”
Arron Polk retired from the RCMP after a 25-year career and now works as a civil servant in RCMP recruiting. He and his wife Lisa will celebrate their 25th anniversary in August. They have two daughters, one still in high school. “I began thinking about being a deacon about seven years ago but there was no program here. I prayed and talked to Father Bill, (his parish priest) about it.” He and another man explored the possibility of, with the Archbishop’s permission, going to Edmonton’s Newman College, but then it was announced a program would open in Regina. “It’s the answer to your prayers, Father Bill told me.” Following ordination he expects to continue with Friends on the Outside, a prison ministry that meets with released inmates as a community support group as well as Indigenous relationship building. He is assigned to Our Lady of Sorrows, Fort Qu’Appelle, and other nearby churches in the valley, as well as parishes on surrounding First Nations Reserves.
Dennis Ziegler, married to Karen for 37 years and they have a family of five adult children. He is assigned to his home parish of Holy Child in Regina. He is a business product developer with Sasktel. Accompanying people on their faith journey through the ALPHA program at Holy Child parish and in the Spiritual Direction program led him to the diaconate program. “I really enjoyed working with people on their faith journey and began wondering if there was something more I could be doing,” he said. Discussing his calling with his own spiritual director, he decided to apply and was accepted in the program. Going through the program has changed him, he said. There’s been a lot of personal growth. “It’s amazing how God works to bring me to this point. I’m not thinking of myself so much, I’m not as selfish.” Following Ordination, he will continue training other Spiritual Directors. He and his wife also volunteer with an inner-city group that works and mentors First Nations youth and gang members.
Eric Gurash has been married for 29 years to Melissa, and together they have two adult children. He is Coordinator for Lay Formation and Evangelization for the Archdiocese of Regina. “I always had this feeling during my faith journey that Christ had a little more in store for me. I just didn’t know what it was.” He tried several things including Spiritual Direction which eventually led to the diaconate program.” The program has given him a deeper call to service, “to bring the faith of Christ to other people, to be that icon of Christ, the servant for others.” He is assigned to Holy Rosary Cathedral for his liturgical ministry. Following ordination, he expects to follow what he calls a strong call to evangelization, but not just for himself; he will encourage lay men and women to take on that evangelizing role and get involved with inner city agencies that work with the poor, the disadvantaged and minister to families with mental health issues. It’s something that has touched their family and they understand the great need in that area.
Norbert Gaudet, and his wife of 39 years, Carleen, have eight children. He retired from his teaching vocation in 2010. He is assigned to his home parish of Sacred Heart, Raymore, and churches in Govan, Quinton, Nokomis, Lestock and several First Nations Reserves in the area. He started thinking about becoming a deacon when he first heard about the program and, after listening to a letter from the Archbishop read in church about Christ the Servant, he thought, “Yeah, I can do that.” He discussed it with his wife and several parishioners encouraged him to apply. “So I started the process thinking if I am not called for this I will be told or someone along the line will tell me this is not for you.” As the process continued he began to feel more and more that there was something specific he was being called for. The course helped him to better understand himself and be aware of his weaknesses and not to fear if God called, “but I knew I needed to be here.” Following Ordination, he expects to continue and expand his volunteer work in senior care homes. “The practicum in the hospital was really amazing and I felt a real call to be present to the sick and dying.”
Lamont Dyck, has been married to Katherine for 17 years and they have one child in Grade 2. He is the Pastoral Assistant at St. Joseph’s Parish, Moose Jaw. Prior to St. Joseph’s, he worked in the Saskatoon Diocese and was in discernment conversations with Bishop Albert Legatt about the permanent diaconate, but the diocese decided to not go ahead with a diaconate program. Then about 10 years ago, he received an invitation to come to St. Joseph’s parish, “I was told the Archdiocese was open to the idea and since then I have been in the process of pestering bishops and priests about this call that I had, five years ago the call was answered.” During his university years he lived with a group of priests and had the opportunity to discern their vocation, close-up. “During those discernment years I found that my particular style of service was not to religious life but to married life. I met my wife there, but I still had this call to work within the church and work with the most marginalized, with people who need help, who don’t have a voice. I felt the diaconate was the best way to share my talents.” Following Ordination, he expects to be at Providence Place, a multi-level care facility in Moose Jaw where he has volunteered for two years. At age 47, he is the youngest in the cohort and his biggest challenge was finding a baby sitter for their young child on weekends.
The nine candidates received their liturgical ministry assignments after consultations with Archbishop Donald Bolen and the Archdiocesan personnel committee. Most are assigned to their home churches