November 19, 2019

My New Friend Carol

St Lawrence Distributing Alms (Fra Angelico)

Sometimes we give into the lull.

Sometimes we focus so much on our own challenges we fail to see the hurt in others.

It is in those times I forget why I became a Deacon. It is in those times I forget that my default response should be prayer. It is in those times I fear while God reminds us he is on our side. It is also in those times the Spirit reminds me to come home…

Being a deacon can be a mixture of reward and sometimes challenge. The reward, of course, is being of service to Christ, his Church and his people. Yet, at times the politics and interactions with clergy who are not enamored with a permanent diaconate diminish the return. Lieutenants do not always like dealing with corporals… In those times we have to remind ourselves of the gift of humility and walk another path. Many are blessed with that gift. I am not. I have a great respect for the Roman collar and love to support truly spiritual men in their vocations. It is the clericalism that sometimes comes along I wish to avoid.

A bigger challenge though is the experience of a deacon in the workplace. Being a deacon means the Church is present wherever I go. In 2017, that is not always welcome. As a manager I have to straddle HR regulations and personal beliefs. I have to shy away from controversial conversations where otherwise I would love to engage. In times of workplace stress, at times I fail to remain a humble servant and become Paul over Peter. I once discussed this with a priest who had been ordained later in life. He told me “I get it Greg. I’ve presided at Mass with people whom I fired in an earlier life.”

As they told us again and again in formation, we must live and present our authentic selves. Some days my authentic self is not as virtuous as I would like.

I mention the earlier challenges for recently I was in a bit of a doldrum in regards to my vocation. I really didn’t notice it at first for I have somewhat gotten used to the experiences that challenge me. Then it happened. I was working at my desk when my cell phone rang. Typically, if I don’t recognize the number I let it go to voicemail. (I am tired of phone solicitors…) That day was different. I saw the area code was local and picked it up.

On the other end a voice cried out – “Is this Deacon Webster?” This took me off-guard, for I seldom use a work number for parish business. “Yes it is.” I responded. “What can I do for you?” The person on the line, who introduced herself as “Carol,” proceeded to ask me if she could “get the sacraments” so my first assumption was that this was a call for joining our parish RCIA program. I asked her what sacraments she had completed and she replied “all of them. I was raised Catholic.” Ok, I thought, why is she calling me at work? Getting the situation in hand I asked Carol how I could help her. She said she wanted me to bring her communion and she wanted to talk with a deacon and receive the” sacraments.” I told her I would be happy to bring her communion but the “sacraments” she was inferring about, anointing and confession, needed to be scheduled with a priest and I could help her with that too if she wanted. Carol said she knew that and we proceeded to schedule me to visit her after work a few days later.

I am assigned to a new and small parish. Being fully employed during the week, I have not gotten any requests for a home visit in my ministry. I was happy at the notion and, a bit nervous.

It was unplanned, but the day we scheduled happened to fall on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception. I was happy to be bringing communion on a Holy Day and knew I had a relevant subject to discuss. With my Pyx and Pastoral Care of the Sick book in hand, I made my way to Carol’s address.

Now being a Minister of Care is not an Uber service – we don’t just drop off Jesus and run. It is a ministry of presence. The Church is visiting her family. Following my GPS I arrived at Carol’s house. Carol and her caretaker were waiting for me. I sat down and Carol proceeded to tell me all about her family. She had ETWN on TV and told me all the shows she watched on her favorite station. Carol’s health is not great; she does not leave the house often. She told me how she loves it when her grandchildren visit and she loves to talk about God with them. She said she was so happy a deacon would come to see her. I told her that is part of our ministry, I was happy to be there. I noted at that moment that I was really happy to be there. I gave them Holy Communion and as I was about to leave she asked for a hug. She said, “Deacon, I need a friend.” Then she also said she wanted the person who gives the homily at her funeral to know her. She said “when you come back, I want to discuss my funeral with you.” I, of course, said “Good. I am tired of talking about the Cubs!” and smiled at her. (Yes, I am a White Sox fan at heart) I told Carol that I would be back next week with Communion. She said “oh you are too busy, it doesn’t have to be that soon.” “Yes it does” I replied. “Now that the parish knows you are here it is our ministry to visit you regularly.” Carol said, “I don’t want them Deacon. I want you.” Wow, I thought. What did I do so right?

I got in my car and smiled. After a stressful work week I felt no stress. I laughed at myself thinking “I didn’t minister to Carol – she just ministered to me.” In a short 30 minutes, my whole vocation was rejuvenated. In that short time I was reminded of a call to serve Christ. The focus was back. The noise I talked about above that had been weighing me down was lost in the background of the honor of bringing Christ to his faithful who could not join us at Church. A ministry of presence for those who don’t feel “present” anymore and a ministry we are all called to from our Baptism. We are to be the arms he uses to give a hug. I think this day God used Carol’s arms for me.

I try to get over to Carol’s routinely now. Some days she cannot get out of bed to see me so I bring her Communion in bed. We pray, we talk and each time she continues to teach me what my vocation needs to be. Carol recently told me she thought she had premonitions regarding an accident her daughter was in. I told Carol to think of happy thoughts – like a premonition of her deacon winning the Powerball! She laughed, we prayed and I was again healed.

Sometimes the Spirit moves us when we least expect it. 

COME, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of Thy faithful and kindle in them the fire of Thy love.

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Written by
Deacon Gregory Webster

REVEREND DR. GREGORY WEBSTER is a permanent deacon of the Archdiocese of Chicago. He was ordained to the Permanent Diaconate by Francis Cardinal George in May 2014 and is assigned to St. Raphael the Archangel Parish in Old Mill Creek, Illinois. Deacon Greg holds a Ph.D. in Analytical Chemistry from Northern Illinois University, M.A. in Theology from Holy Apostles College and Seminary and an M.A. in Bioethics and Health Policy from Loyola University of Chicago. Deacon Greg and his wife have been married more than twenty-five years and are blessed with three beautiful daughters and two pretty cool terriers.

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1 comment
  • Rock on Dr. Deacon Gregory Webster! ROCK ON! Carol is God’s messenger to tell you to keep your eyes on the prize and your feet moving on the ground! Too much work to be done and so few workers! Job well done! Nice mention of the Sox/Cubs!

Written by Deacon Gregory Webster
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