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Four deacons ordained for the Duluth Diocese

By Deacon Kyle Eller 
The Northern Cross 

Bishop Daniel Felton ordained four men — Ronald Guertin, William Hafdahl, John Kroll, and Daniel O’Reilly — as deacons for the Diocese of Duluth May 6 at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Rosary.

Deacons William Hafdahl (left), Daniel O’Reilly, John Kroll, and Ronald Guertin pose with Bishop Daniel Felton after their ordination as permanent deacons May 6. (Photo by Deacon Kyle Eller / The Northern Cross) 

The four men will serve as permanent deacons, and Bishop Felton has assigned them to their home parishes: Deacon Guertin to St. Augustine in Cohasset, Deacon Hafdahl to Holy Spirit in Virginia, Deacons Kroll and O’Reilly to St. Andrew in Brainerd. 

Bishop Felton, in his homily, said that being called to serve and not to be served is harder than it sounds because our self-centeredness can sometimes override our Christ-centeredness. 

“You must always remember that you are first and foremost a disciple of the Lord,” he said, and grow closer to him day by day. 

“Because if he is the center of your life, then he will be the center of your ministry as a deacon, and only then can you boldly proclaim that as a deacon I have come to serve and not to be served,” he said. 

That ministry to those in need, those neglected, those forgotten, those who live on the margins of life is intimately connected to a deacon’s liturgical ministry at the altar. 

He added that as the church “mobilizes to mission,” the deacon’s ministry must also “become missionary” and “will call for a nimbler and more flexible approach to how we be and do diaconal ministry,” guided by the Holy Spirit to the mission field that may go beyond the parish.

Bishop Felton prays over the four ordinands during the Mass at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Rosary. (Photo by Deacon Kyle Eller / The Northern Cross)

Deacon Guertin 

Deacon Guertin, who has been married to his wife Rachael for 30 years, has three children and three grandchildren and says he still lives north of Grand Rapids on the farm he was born and raised on, where they have beef cattle. He also works for a local logging company. 

He noted several key points in his faith journey: a bad logging accident in 2008 that increased his prayer life, the diocesan Eucharistic Procession celebrating the diocese’s 125th anniversary, and teaching faith formation and learning more about his faith. 

Deacon Hafdahl 

Deacon Hafdahl started his career as a math teacher before going into accounting and finance. He’s been married to his wife Judy since 1981 and has seven children. He traces his faith journey to college, when he was “evangelized by a charismatic Evangelical.” This led him to accept the famous Pascal’s Wager and return to the Catholic faith he’d been raised in. Shortly thereafter he met his future wife. 

“As we approach forty years of marriage we have been anchors of faith for each other throughout our journey — mostly her for me,” he said. 

Deacon Hafdahl said the call to being a deacon was not always very clear. He would go out with his pastor and a youth minister — now Father Brandon Moravitz — and learned about the difficulties running a parish and wanted to help. But it took entering formation and discerning out and then returning a few years later until he finally understood how God was calling him. 

“And the largest step in spiritual growth was during a five-day silent retreat this past February where I began to experience the warmth of God’s presence more deeply and came to know how he has loved me and guided my life to him over these past 40-some years,” he said. 

He said he’s looking forward to helping his parish provide ways to strengthen marriages and help Catholic families raise their children in the faith. 

Deacon Kroll

Deacon Ronald Guertin receives the sign of peace from Deacon Walt Beier, as the deacon community welcomes new deacons during the ordination liturgy. (Photo by Deacon Kyle Eller / The Northern Cross)

Deacon Kroll grew up in Coon Rapids in a practicing Catholic family. He married his wife Mary in 1988 and has spent his career working in medical facilities, currently as a clinic facility manager. He has two sons and two grandchildren. 

He says he always practiced his faith but “was lukewarm at times.” A key moment was a “Covenant Keepers” men’s conference he attended in the Twin Cities. “I had a conversion, a change of heart and understanding my Catholic faith better and realized how important it was to work at my faith and be involved in the Catholic faith through various activities in the Church and in Catholic retreats,” he said. “I felt called to serve and help others understand the importance of the Catholic faith through different ministries at church.” 

He also felt a tug when the vocations prayer was prayed. He said he found the journey of formation “very challenging and exciting at the same time,” especially the homework after being out of school for many years. “The most rewarding was spending time with my wife at the classes and growing in our faith together,” he said. 

He said his first weeks as a deacon have been joyful and he looks forward to teaching the sacraments, yet he is still discerning exactly how God will use his gifts in diaconal ministry. 

Deacon O’Reilly 

Deacon O’Reilly was born in Brainerd and has attended St. Andrew’s most of his life. He has been married to his wife Theresa for 27 years and has eight children. 

“While growing up I never really strayed far from the Catholic faith but once Theresa and I started raising our children my faith began to deepen,” he said. 

In a particular way, he said having the opportunity to attend the Traditional Latin Mass and assist his children in learning to serve at the altar helped him deepen his understanding of the faith and fall in love with the Mass. 

He describes his vocational call as not a single yes but as “more of a long series of yeses,” as he knew he was called to the path of discernment. “I also feel this process helped me to develop a deeper relationship with my wife throughout,” he said. “Our wives discern this path along with us every step of the way, and it takes an enormous amount of trust in the Lord but also in us as husbands that we are properly discerning his call. That gift of love and trust that she was able to put in me is a gift I will be forever grateful for.” 

Deacon O’Reilly said he feels particularly drawn to ministry with the homebound, in part inspired by seeing how important a connection to the church was for his in-laws in the last years of their lives. “So I am looking forward to being able to help maintain the connection for many people who may have been very active in the church in the past and now cannot be or for those who were maybe not so active and now can start to form a connection,” he said. 

He said he also looks forward to being more involved in the liturgy, which he calls “vitally important to the life of a parish.”