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Three men ordained permanent deacons

By Kyle Eller
The Northern Cross

Bishop Paul Sirba ordained three men, Gerald Bock, Michael Eisenbraun and John Specht, permanent deacons in a Mass at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Rosary Nov. 20, urging them to help form intentional disciples, rebuild marriage and perform works of service, love and mercy in the church and in the world.

From left, Deacons Gerald Bock, John Specht and Michael Eisenbraun pose with Bishop Paul Sirba following their ordination Mass Nov. 20. (Buzzy Winter / For The Northern Cross)

“As deacons you bridge two worlds,” he said in his ordination homily. “You will serve as Christ the servant in your duties at the altar and as deacons in the workplace, raising families. We need you! As your bishop, I need you. Canon law enumerates the duties of the bishop. Without the Lord, priests and deacons and other collaborators they are impossible to fulfill. I am so grateful to my deacons and their wives to help me shoulder the load.”

After citing the many liturgical and ministry roles of deacons, he added some priorities. “I especially ask your help in rebuilding marriage and family life in our diocese,” he said. He said the fight for religious liberty requires us to witness to God in the public square.

And he echoed Sherry Weddell’s recent call to the diocese in evangelization. “The Kingdom of God demands discipleship. You will become instrumental in helping form men and women from our parishes to become intentional disciples. In our increasingly post-Christian society, we cannot become complacent in our spiritual lives. We are called to dedicate ourselves to prayer, building up our families and our parish communities to bring healing to our broken world.”

Deacon Bock, who serves at St. Andrew in Brainerd, is a native of Brainerd who earlier in life considered a possible call to the priesthood during his time in the Army. That time, serving in Maryland near where St. Elizabeth Ann Seton started her ministry and near the Shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes, was key. “I spent a lot of time at the Grotto during my years in the military,” he said. “My faith life really took off during these years.”

He married his wife Cindy a year after leaving the Army, and they have three sons and one daughter. One son, Jeremy, is to be ordained to the priesthood next year in the diocese and served as the vesting clergy for his father at the ordination. He says his call to the permanent diaconate came with the assistance of another deacon, Mike Koechleler.

Deacon Bock says he is drawn to ministering in nursing homes and bringing Communion to people’s homes, being with people who are grieving, and helping people learn to “pray better so they come to have a relationship with Jesus and to know him.”

Deacon Eisenbraun and his wife Laura are both from South Dakota, where they met at Catholic school in Sioux Falls, O’Gorman High School. They have been married 39 years and have four adult children and a solid foundation as Catholics, he said, with involvement in Marriage Encounter and Cursillo.

The new deacon, from St. James in Aitkin, says his call to the diaconate came from an actual phone call. “I never really thought about becoming a deacon,” he said. “I was very content with my life as it was. However God had other plans. I guess you could say that I was ‘called’ (literally) when an acquaintance that I had worked with on a retreat called me out of the blue and invited me to an informational meeting about the diaconate formation program.”

That began a journey that involved learning a lot more about his faith. He said as “cradle Catholics” they thought they knew their faith, “but boy were we wrong. … The Catholic Church is rich with Traditions and Scripture that have withstood the test of time, some of which we had forgotten or simply did not understand.” And he had not been in school in three decades, and he spent his first three years in formation looking for a sign “that God was no longer interested in me serving in this capacity.” He says his fears and uncertainties were taken away and replaced with confidence in his call last November, when he served at the ordination Mass for the previous class of deacons.

“I look forward serving God in whatever capacity he asks of me,” Deacon Eisenbraun said. “I feel called to minister to the home-centered and elderly, and I hope to share the love that I have for the Lord with all those that I encounter. I want to be ‘the light that shines in dark places.’”

An Eveleth native, Deacon Specht joins a list of recent deacons from St. Benedict in Duluth. He and his wife Debbie have two sons. He comes from a devout family and especially credits his mother and grandmother, “who showed me a great love of the Lord.”

“My journey to the diaconate started while learning the Latin Mass, when Deacon Scott Peters asked me if I had ever considered the diaconate,” he said. “And the rest is history.”

He says formation was a “rewarding and educational time” and that he often did not feel worthy of the calling. “But through the grace of God all the road blocks that I had put up or encountered God has removed for me,” he said.

He continues to be drawn to the liturgy and to prayer groups he has begun in the parish. “I hope to expand on my prayer groups and bring the love of the liturgy to more young people,” he said. “I hope the intercessory group will flourish, as it is a much needed entity for a parish life.”

He said he also expects to be open to whatever God asks in his ministry. And he hopes to continue to assist his pastor, Father Joel Hastings, in his efforts to foster the Traditional Latin Mass at St. Benedict.