Can you hear me now?

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People have asked me how did I come to be a deacon? Being a deacon is a vocation — a call from God. Becoming a deacon has been an amazing journey. As we all know, hindsight is 20/20. As I look back, I really can see how the Lord has prepared me to serve His people as a deacon. And this goes way back, almost 50 years. 

That was when I met my wife-to-be,Carol. The seed to learn and grow in my faith started to grow. As we dated and ultimately planned to marry, we decided to “Catholic Church-shop,” to find a place where we would learn about and grow in our faith. And then we found St. Stanislaus Parish in Fall River, where we stayed and continued to grow for eight years, learning about our faith and the importance of a Catholic community. In 1978, we moved to Assonet. Why Assonet? We knew absolutely no one there. The only reason I can think of is that it was a God-incidence. We continued to travel back and forth to St. Stan’s in Fall River, but with two kids, one car, work, etc. we couldn’t be an active part of St. Stan’s community. Carol began going to St. Bernard’s in Assonet while I was away on travel for work. She suggested that we make that our parish. Reluctantly, I agreed. Another God-incidence. It was there I found that at St. Bernard’s we could really live in, and participate in, an active Catholic community. We grew in our faith. I was part of parish life, involved with several organizations and the music ministry. Then Carol and I were invited to live a Cursillo Weekend in the early 80s. It was a life-changing experience for both of us — another God-incidence. I can remember a particular session with my Spiritual director. During our meeting I mentioned that perhaps one day I’d like to be a deacon. My Spiritual director laughed! He told me that becoming a deacon wasn’t really my call. If I were to become a deacon someday, it would be because God has called me and I responded to that call. And he emphasized that I would know that God was calling. 

Fast forward to 2003. I was still involved in St. Bernard’s. Loved it there. Loved the people. One Sunday I noticed an announcement in the bulletin. A new deacon class was being formed. Maximum age to apply, 55. My age, 55. I remembered that conversation with my Spiritual director many years ago about God calling. So I prayed. I talked with Carol. I talked with my pastor. I wasn’t really sure if I was being called. I contacted the Permanent Diaconate Office and told them I was interested, but I wanted to know if I would be assigned to St. Bernard’s. I was told that being assigned there could not be guaranteed and that the bishop assigns deacons to serve where they are needed. So, not really sure if I was being called, and not sure if I would be assigned to my parish, I decided not to apply. It wasn’t more than a few months later that I realized that the door was closed. I would never become a deacon. I really felt that I blew it. But there was nothing I could do. So I moved on, but every now and then I would still regretfully think that I had made a bad decision. 

Fast forward to 2008. I noticed an announcement in the bulletin. A new deacon class was being formed. Maximum age to apply, 60. My age, 60. Was God giving me another chance? So I prayed. I talked with Carol. I talked with my pastor. I also talked with a good friend who was ordained a deacon many years ago. I was still concerned with the possibility of not being assigned to St. Bernard’s. He told me not to be concerned because once I had a full understanding of the diaconate ministry it would no longer matter to me where I was assigned. So I prayed some more. And for the next two weeks, I was totally consumed with thoughts of becoming a deacon. I literally thought about it so much that I hardly slept for those two weeks. Then I remembered the conversation with my Spiritual director years ago — that I would really know that God was calling. Aha! Yes, God, I can hear You now! I submitted the application to become a deacon and immediately I could sleep again. I had been given a second chance. I was at peace.

I was accepted into the program and went through a year of discernment and four years of classes without ever doubting my vocation. I was ordained on Oct. 12, 2013. And, I was assigned to my home parish, St. Bernard’s! 

There are times when I wish I had responded to that first opportunity to become a deacon. But then I realize that wasn’t part of God’s plan. I was blessed with an amazing diaconate formation — exceptional teachers — real holy men, and a wonderful class of Spiritual brothers. I am who I am because of all of them. I will be forever grateful for that formation. 

As I look back over the past four-plus years, I could never have imagined the gift that this vocation would be to me, and, as I’ve come to realize, to the people that I minister to. It’s an incredible opportunity to share our wonderful Catholic faith with my family, my parishioners, and the various other places that I have been led to serve. God is so good, and He has an incredible plan for all of us. Listen to Him. 

What is He calling you to?

Paul Levesque is a permanent deacon in the Diocese of Fall River, ministering at St. Bernard’s Parish in Assonet.

This is part of an ongoing series providing information and personal reflections about the permanent diaconate in anticipation of accepting applications for the 10th diaconate class this fall.


© 2017 The Anchor and Anchor Publishing  †  Fall River, Massachusetts