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Four men ordained permanent deacons

Deacons Kyle Eller, Daniel Goshey, Michael Marvin, and Steven Odegard were ordained to the permanent diaconate Sunday, Nov. 26, the Solemnity of Christ the King. A near capacity crowd of family, friends, and faithful filled the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Rosary to witness the sacrament and celebrate.

In his welcoming remarks, Bishop Paul Sirba expressed gratitude for “the great blessing to the local church” that the four new deacons represent. In his homily, he referenced the Kingship of Jesus to draw a pronounced contrast between fallible secular leaders and the example of servant leadership set by Jesus. “We are called to be good leaders,” he said, noting that the newly ordained deacons should not be ”spectators but witnesses to the Gospel.”

From left, Deacons Daniel Goshey, Kyle Eller, Steven Odegard, and Michael Marvin pose with Bishop Paul Sirba following the diaconal ordination Nov. 26. The men will serve parishes in Crosby, Duluth, Hinckley, and Pine River. (Buzzy Winter / For The Northern Cross)

Looking to the words of Ezekiel from the first reading, Bishop Sirba outlined the new deacons’ roles. “Find the scattered sheep. Go to the fringes and find the lost. Help the priests in your parishes,” he said. Noting the rising number of “nones” (those who claim no religious affiliation at all), Bishop Sirba encouraged the deacons to “help them find Jesus.” Referencing Pope Francis’ call for prayers for the immigrant, the refugee, and the downtrodden of our world, Bishop Sirba reminded all of the faithful that [the Gospel of] “Matthew says we will be judged on how we love.”

Acknowledging the essential role that the deacons’ wives and families play not only in formation but as partners in the diaconate ministry, Bishop Sirba thanked them for their faith and support. He asked the faithful to “bless those called to the diaconate” and to pray for them. As he handed the Book of the Gospels to each newly ordained deacon, he charged them with this mission, “Believe what you read, teach what you believe, and practice what you teach.”

From doubt to the diaconate

Deacon Eller grew up in Moose Lake and met his wife of 22 years, Sandy, at Augustana College. They have three children. Deacon Eller has worked for the Diocese of Duluth for 12 years as the editor of The Northern Cross and communications director.

Growing up as a “pretty serious Lutheran,” Deacon Eller fell away from his faith during college, where he became a “committed relativist and agnostic” who was nevertheless drawn to the Catholic faith as he sought answers to his doubts and questions about God, Jesus, and genuine belief in both. He eventually converted and joined the church.

His intermittent thoughts for several years about the diaconate led a spiritual director to encourage Deacon Eller to “discern more formally.” He said he was also inspired by the death of his middle daughter, Anna, at age 14 months. “It was an incredible privilege and grace to be with her,” he says, and it led him to “think about being present in a similar way with others.”

During the formation process, Deacon Eller says that “God made a way” through challenges, and he learned to trust in God and discover joy even when pulled out of his comfort zone.

Although professing to be an “introvert,” Deacon Eller says he looks most forward to “walk[ing] with people where they are and help[ing] them encounter Jesus” through his diaconal ministry. He has the unique honor of being the fourth deacon from St. Benedict’s Parish to be ordained in four years, and he will serve his home parish. “I’ve learned that discernment doesn’t end with ordination; in important ways, it’s just a beginning.” He says he’s experienced God’s presence, healing, and mercy and has eyes and “a heart for people who are on the fringes or maybe seem a little cast off.”

Surrendering to God

As the youngest of 11 children growing up in St. Paul, Deacon Goshey lived a typical “cradle Catholic” life. He received the sacraments, including marriage, at his home parish of the Church of the Holy Childhood in St. Paul, where he attended the parish school until eighth grade and was also an altar server, reader, and choir member. Serving in these parish roles stirred in him the beginnings of a vocational call when he was a teenager, although he was unsure about the priesthood and “had never heard of a deacon.” Although feeling conflicted, he felt the call to marriage and family life was stronger than to the priesthood, and he married his high school sweetheart, Julie, with whom he shares two children. As Deacon Goshey pursued his radio broadcasting career and raised a family, however, “the call to be of more service to the church never really went away.”

After a move to Crosby, Deacon Goshey and his family joined the parish of St. Joseph, where he met Deacon Phil Mayer and began to learn about the diaconate. Through 15 years of conversation, discernment, and spiritual direction from both Deacon Mayer and his pastor, Deacon Goshey entered the formation process, which he describes as “a series of surrenders. First I surrendered my agenda, then my deficiencies and weaknesses, then my sinfulness, then my agenda again, then my personal preferences in life …, then my agenda again, then my fears, then my agenda again.” He described the journey as one of “finding layers of myself that I had been clinging to” and then sometimes loosening his grip on them, and sometimes having God rip them out of his hands. Because of learning challenges, Deacon Goshey found the academic preparation of formation to be quite challenging, and the effort it took to master it contributed to the depth of the transformation he felt. “Life these last five years has been the most difficult and challenging [time] of my whole life, yet I have never been more at peace and joy-filled.”

Throughout the discernment and formation journey, Deacon Goshey credits his wife Julie with the strongest “earthly” support and influence he felt. “Not only has she supported me in this process, and accompanied me through the green pastures and the dark valleys, but there have been times when she was actively leading me where I was afraid to go,” he said. This unwavering support has led to what Deacon Goshey describes as “the greatest gift of all — the transformation of our marriage.” Because wives of deacon candidates attend all of the same classes as their husbands, their role is as crucial to the formation process as all the other aspects of it. Julie’s commitment to her husband’s formation is all the more remarkable because she was not Catholic when he began formation. As the process went on, Deacon Goshey said his wife came to him and said “she was also feeling a call to the church and couldn’t stay away any longer.” Now, they will serve their home parish of St. Joseph, in Crosby and Deerwood, together as a team.

As to his future ministry, Deacon Goshey hopes to help simplify and relate the message of God and his church to those who may find it hard to understand. He says sometimes even the vocabulary used in the church leaves people like him with a ‘deer in the headlights’ look and hopes to use his public speaking skills, sense of humor, and joyful heart to try to connect with people. “The Lord has given me compassion and empathy and a true desire to help others know the love of God.”

Vision for the word of God

In the practice of optometry, Dr. Marvin helps his patients see the world more clearly. As a convert to the faith, Deacon Marvin’s own journey to the diaconate was filled with scrutiny and scholarship, which overcame his doubts and sealed his beliefs. As a newly ordained deacon, he will bring those he ministers to a clearer vision of God’s Word and deeper understanding of the Catholic faith.

Deacon Marvin grew up in Brainerd as the fourth of six children in a close-knit family. He describes his family as “loose Christians” who irregularly attended a Congregational church. After graduation from the University of Minnesota Duluth and then optometry school in Oregon, he married his high school sweetheart Carrie, and started practicing in the Brainerd Lakes-Pine River area, where he continues to practice today. He and Carrie raised four children, all of whom are married, and have six grandchildren.

It was through Carrie and her family, “serious Catholics,” as he describes them, that Deacon Marvin began to learn more about Catholicism. Before his marriage, Deacon Marvin’s father advised him “not to become Catholic just because it would be easy …. Instead, he suggested I should wait and convert [only] when, and if, I truly believed in Catholicism.”

As their family grew and he continued to attend Mass with his wife, he began to take faith more seriously and attended some Promise Keeper stadium events. After experiencing questioning of the validity of Catholicism, Deacon Marvin felt “pushed to the point of needing to determine the true Christian faith as revealed by Jesus Christ.” After exploration, study, and reflection, Deacon Marvin found that “Catholicism was the clear winner,” and he converted to the faith.

At the time of his conversion, Carrie’s mother suggested that he should consider becoming a deacon, which he did, off and on for several years, and then let it go. Then, one day while praying before morning Mass, Deacon Marvin said a “from out of nowhere a thought came into my mind: ‘You should consider becoming a deacon.’” Stunned into disbelief, he and his wife discussed the idea that evening and decided together to “answer God’s call and pursue the permanent diaconate.” In addition to his and his wife’s parents, Deacon Marvin also credits Father Mitch Pacwa and Father Larry Richards as influences on his faith.

Deacon Marvin says he considered the coursework for formation “challenging but rewarding” and says it “dramatically broadened my understanding of Catholicism.” As members of Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Pine River, which is part of the Lakes Area Parishes, Deacon Marvin and Carrie will be serving their parish alongside Father Mike Patullo. Deacon Marvin hopes to assist with RCIA, adult education, marriage preparation, and the homebound ministry.

Divine chain of command

As a military man, Deacon Odegard understood what it meant to respect the chain of command. As a Missouri Synod Lutheran married to a Catholic woman, he began to wonder about which version of Christianity was truly “commanded” by God. After a long period of exploration and questioning, Deacon Odegard found the answer he had been seeking.

Deacon Odegard was born and raised in Pine City. During a five year stint in the Air Force, he met and married his wife, Mary. After leaving the service, Deacon Odegard and Mary moved back to Minnesota, with plans of “staying only for a year.” Five children and more than 30 years later, Mary and Deacon Odegard live on a 12-acre farmstead in Pine City and have recently started a new career in the winery business. After their move, Mary decided that she wanted their children to be “raised in one church,” so she became a Lutheran. She spent 19 years in the Lutheran church and then returned to her Catholic faith, which prompted her husband to question what church was the true church of Christ. Deacon Odegard’s journey to Catholicism was all about the heavenly “chain of command,” a concept he understood from his years in the military. He says when he “realized it was not the congregation” that received the keys from Christ but Peter, his conversion was complete. He entered the church on Pentecost in 2006.

Shortly after his conversion to the faith, his pastor at the time encouraged Deacon Odegard to consider a calling to the diaconate. As he explored the inquiry process with Deacon Daniel Schultz, he says his decision was “solidified.” The formation process was “challenging and lengthy” for Deacon Odegard. He began in 2007, but because of pressing family issues had to pause his formation training for two years. In retrospect, Deacon Odegard says, “it was the best thing we could have done,” as he and Mary were able to attend to their family’s needs and are happy to have them positively resolved. Although the “academics were hard,” Deacon Odegard says he “learned so much about the church and [its] tradition.”

He is looking forward to beginning his ministry, serving with his pastor, Father Joseph Sirba, and Deacon Jim Mostek at his home parish of St. Patrick’s Church in Hinckley, but says he is “patiently awaiting the graces God will give me at ordination so that through me, the Holy Spirit can bring more to Christ.”

— By Kris Jarocki / For The Northern Cross