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20-year deacons find joy in serving God and his people

The following deacons serving the Archdiocese of Denver celebrate 20-year anniversaries in the diaconate this year.

Deacon Joseph Benedetto
Though Deacon Joseph Benedetto is deaf when God whispered, he heard it loud and clear. “The call (to become a deacon) was confirmed by the enthusiastic response and total support exhibited by my Lafayette, La., pastor, Father Carlos Dutra, our Archbishop Harry Flynn, and the quiet steady support of my wife, Rosie,” he wrote of his spouse of 29 years. He was ordained April 9, 1994, in the Diocese of Lafayette.

Deacon Benedetto, 67, has ministered in American Sign Language to the deaf community at Holy Cross Parish in Thornton since coming to the Denver Archdiocese, and just two weeks ago, was assigned to St. Bernadette Parish in Lakewood.

“(I appreciate) the special inviolable camaraderie and love the members of the Catholic deaf community have for each other,” Deacon Benedetto said. When asked his favorite aspect of ministry, he responded, “everything,” then specified sacred liturgy, sacramental life, daily Mass, holy Communion and immersion in prayer, among other ministries.

On July 31, he retired from the Colorado Public Utilities Commission as State Relay Administrator, responsible for Relay Colorado 711, a service that provides full telephone access to people who are deaf, hard of hearing or speech challenged.

Deacon Benedetto and Rosie have two sons and a daughter. He spends his free time reading, playing chess and cards, and hopes to travel more in retirement.

Deacon Philip Harrington
In his ministry as a deacon at St. Cajetan Parish in Denver, Deacon Philip Harrington, 57, is happy “serving the people of God!” he said. In the process of answering the call to the diaconate, he explained that “Father Marcian O’Meara encouraged me, Msgr. George Schroeder recommended me; Kathy supported me,” referring to Kathleen, his former wife of 28 years.

Deacon Harrington was ordained June 11, 1994, and in addition to serving at St. Cajetan’s, was also assigned to Notre Dame and Our Lady of Lourdes parishes. He is currently working as the associate director of Fort Lyon Supportive Residential Community in Las Animas. Balancing the demands of work, family and ministry has been one of the biggest challenges in the diaconate but his “four amazing, accomplished daughters and their wonderful mother … made it all possible.” Seeing his granddaughters is the highlight of his week, and he also enjoys playing basketball in his free time.

Deacon Robert Howard
Deacon Robert Howard, 60, has spent his 20 years in the diaconate in full-time ministry: seven years as business manager at Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish in Boulder and the last 13 years as pastoral assistant at St. John the Baptist in Longmont.

His June 11, 1994, ordination was inspired by his wish to “have a more active, personal relationship with God and his Church,” he said. Since that time some of his favorite aspects of diaconal ministry have included ministering to those in nursing and retirement homes, and assisting those struggling with marital and personal issues.

Balancing his own personal time with family and ministry has been one the biggest challenges, but one he has maneuvered. Deacon Howard has been married to wife Maggie for 38 years; the couple has three children and five young grandchildren. Maggie serves as the director of liturgy at St. John’s, so the couple blends their “personal and ministry lives together very well,” he said. In his free time, Deacon Howard enjoys restoring antique tractors and farm equipment, working on blacksmith projects, and doing presentations and demonstrations at schools, shows and institutions.

Deacon Gregory Martin
In his years of ministry, Deacon Gregory “Dusty” Martin, 61, has enjoying engaging the people of God in every day moments. “They have helped me grow in my relationship with Christ and his Church,” he said.

Since his ordination June 11, 1994, Deacon Martin, a convert to Catholicism, has served at St. Pius X Parish in Aurora. He heard the call to the diaconate “whispered” to him while spending time in Eucharistic adoration. In addition to his ministry, he has worked in the banking industry for 36 years and “longs for retirement” to spend more time “in pursuit of much more worthy endeavors.”

Married to his wife, Angie, for 39 years, the couple had four children, two surviving; and one granddaughter. His experience of losing a child has helped him when ministering to others who have suffered the loss of a child. “The ministry of a deacon is to love the Church and its people,” he said. “My family has been the seed of the love I can pass on, as Christ has blessed us.” Deacon Martin and Angie share a passion for animals, specifically dogs, and enjoy walking their two dogs. In addition, in their free time they participate in fundraising efforts for local animal shelters. He also enjoys watching science-fiction programs.

Deacon Gary Miller
Deacon Gary Miller, 57, was ordained to the diaconate June 11, 1994. He currently serves at Guardian Angels Parish in Denver where he has been since 2010, following previous assignments at Sts. Peter and Paul in Wheat Ridge and St. Mary Magdalene in Denver. Deacon Miller married his wife, Deanna, in 1988.

Deacon Richard Pelis
Deacon Richard Pelis, 75, was born in Greenfield, Mass. to Francis and Stella Pelis. He married his wife, Diane, in 1962 and the couple has four children. He was ordained to the diaconate June 11, 1994, and prior to retiring from active service in the ministry, he was assigned to the parishes of Sacred Heart of Jesus in Boulder, as well as St. Louis in Louisville and St. Rita Mission Church in Nederland. Deacon Pelis is retired from the U.S. Department of Agriculture where he worked for 30 years in the Forest Service.

Deacon Chester Ubowski
After two decades in the diaconate, Deacon Chester “Chet” Ubowski, 58, has found that one of his “scariest and favorite” duties is the ability to preach.

“I enjoy it thoroughly because it’s always a challenge spiritually,” he said. “It’s absolutely one of the greatest benefits.”

Deacon Ubowski, ordained June 11, 1994, has been preaching and otherwise serving at St. Frances Cabrini Parish in Littleton since 2003. Prior to that, he served at Light of the World in Littleton. He has an affinity for visiting the homebound and those in hospice care.

“I have been with many individuals when they’ve taken their last breath,” he said, describing that solemn privilege as “a blessing.”

In addition to his duties at St. Frances Cabrini, he is also a member of the diaconate personnel board and periodically serves as a Master of Ceremonies for the Archdiocese of Denver.

Deacon Ubowski has been married to his wife, Sandi, for 37 years this month. The couple has five children. They recently became empty nesters and have six grandchildren. “There are many challenges as a deacon, pressures on the family,” he said, “and many blessings.” Following 34 years in law enforcement, including tenure as a criminal investigator with the Colorado Bureau of Investigation, Deacon Ubowski now works as a program manager with a company that provides case management software for forensic labs.

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