Knights of the Lord’s table

Deacon John Fitzmaurice swings the thurible to incense the altar before the consecration during his Mass of ordination at the Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament on Oct. 3. Deacon Fitzmaurice was one of five permanent deacons - four for the Archdiocese of Detroit - ordained by Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron.

Deacon John Fitzmaurice swings the thurible to incense the altar before the consecration during his Mass of ordination at the Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament on Oct. 3. Deacon Fitzmaurice was one of five permanent deacons – four for the Archdiocese of Detroit – ordained by Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron.

Four new deacons, all Knights of Columbus, bring passion for service to ordained ministry

Detroit — There are a select few who can partake in all seven sacraments in the Holy Catholic Church.

Most Catholics either participate in matrimony or accept holy orders, but five married men at the Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament on Oct. 3 did both — as permanent deacons.

“Today, something marvelous happened, five men received the sacrament of Holy Orders to serve one another,” said Deacon Tom Leonard of Divine Child Parish in Dearborn. “We have a great number of deacons in our Church who’ve laid down their lives to the service of the Church. Today, we’re honored to be a part of that tradition.”

Deacons Leonard, David Drysdale, John Fitzmaurice and Phil McCown will serve various diaconal duties throughout the Archdiocese of Detroit, including assisting with the liturgy, ministry work at prisons, working in soup kitchens and visiting the sick. Deacon Daniel Hall of the Diocese of Lansing also was ordained by Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron.

“Ultimately, it’s God who charges these people for the diaconate office,” Archbishop Vigneron said. “The deacon ritual predates the time of Christ. It’s about listening to God’s work, and adhering to his ministry. The diaconate is an apostolic and loving service of the Word of God.”

Archbishop Vigneron blesses the hands of Deacon Phillip McCown, who along with his three Detroit classmates is a member of the Knights of Columbus.

Archbishop Vigneron blesses the hands of Deacon Phillip McCown, who along with his three Detroit classmates is a member of the Knights of Columbus.

Deacons study at the seminary for many years, mostly completing night classes while balancing full-time jobs and family life.

Deacon Drysdale, 64, of St. Mary, Our Lady of the Annunciation Parish in Rockwood, said his call to become a deacon came after going to reconciliation and wanting to do more to enhance his faith.

“I was away from the Church for almost 25 years, and I felt God wanted me to not just come back but come back in a special way,” said Deacon Drysdale, who is married to Joan and has four adult children and nine grandchildren. “I started to get closer the sacraments, closer to the service as an acolyte, and I felt that God wanted me to do more.”

Part of diaconal training includes practice giving homilies before a congregation, something Deacon Drysdale had little difficulty learning after being a Tae Kwon Do instructor for 38 years.

13-Deacon-Drysdale

Deacon Drysdale

“As an instructor, you get to know and instruct people, you counsel people,” he said. “Besides learning the art of self-defense, you learn discipline and you build a sense of confidence when speaking before people. In the initial stages, a lot of deacons have fear going before a large audience, but Tae Kwon Do teaches you self-control and overcoming fear.”

Archbishop Vigneron thanked the deacons’ wives for assisting their husbands during their studies, noting that many of the wives learned alongside their husbands. Deacon Fitzmaurice, 54, principal of St. Mary/McCormick Catholic Academy in Port Huron, thinks the married life gives deacons a special insight a priest might not have.

“One thing which really sets deacons apart is the sacrament of matrimony,” said Deacon Fitzmaurice, who is married to Susan and has three children. “Deacons bring aspects of society, family members, fathers, being part of the work force through regular jobs, which a lot of people can relate to in the real world. I think people can connect with a deacon a little easier.”

The new deacons’ family members experienced some of the classwork it took for the men to become deacons, often attending classes and reviewing the coursework.

“Tom wanted to be a deacon since his early 30s, it was always in the back of his mind,” said Christine Leonard, Deacon Leonard’s wife. “It was neat to take the canon law classes with him; they were very fascinating. During his time studying, I noticed a deepening of the Church’s outreach past the parish level, and it was marvelous.”

13-Deacon-Leonard

Deacon Leonard

Deacon Leonard, 64, a theology teacher at Novi Detroit Catholic Central, has five adult children.

Ultimately, being a deacon is answering a call to service — the word “deacon” comes from the Greek word “diakonos,” which means “servant.”

All four of the Archdiocese of Detroit’s newly ordained deacons are members of the Knights of Columbus, which to Deacon Leonard seems like a natural transition.

“I believe it is fitting for the Knights to be represented in this way,” he said. “What the Knights do is offer service to others, be it working with the mentally impaired, assisting refugees in the Middle East or being very strong with the pro-life movement, it’s that general service aspect of the Knights that drew me into being a deacon.”

Satisfying the urge to serve the community and deepen their relationship with God drove all five men to become deacons, but their family members said their commitment to serving God and his people was in them long before their ordination before Archbishop Vigneron.

“It feels great seeing my dad take the vows,” said Phil McCown of his father, Deacon Phil McCown, a 59-year-old electrical engineer from SS. Cyril and Methodius Parish in Sterling Heights who is married to Janice and has two adult sons. “He’s been working on this for eight years. I wasn’t surprised when he told me he wanted to be a deacon; he’s always had an interest in helping other people. I was a philosophy and theology major, and we would discuss his coursework. It was a lot of work, but he’s always been interested in healing others and growing in his faith. And that’s what being a deacon is about.”

The new deacons each recieved their parish assignments during the Mass:

  • Deacon Drysdale will serve at St. Joseph Parish in Trenton.
  • Deacon Fitzmaurice will serve at St. Mary Parish in St. Clair.
  • Deacon Leonard will serve at St. Kateri Tekakwitha Parish in Dearborn.
  • Deacon McCown will serve at St. Mark Parish in Warren.

Meet the new deacons

Learn more about the four new deacons ordained for the Archdiocese of Detroit.