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30-year deacons came to ministry via many paths

The following deacons serving the Archdiocese of Denver celebrating 30-year anniversaries this year.

Deacon Richard Baker
Behind Deacon Richard Baker’s years of diaconal ministry is a desire to serve Christ and to help others to encounter him.

Today, the Kansas City-native enjoys performing baptisms “to welcome little ones into the body of Christ and to be able to give them their first liturgical symbol—the Sign of the Cross on their forehead,” he said.

He also facilitates Scripture studies and preaches the good news.

Deacon Baker was ordained in June 1984. In the early days of his ministry, balancing family life with his wife, Theresa—to whom he’s been married for 52 years—and four children was a challenge. The now retired public accountant said his family always “accepted the fact that Dad had to go out at night,” Deacon Baker said. He has served at Spirit of Christ Parish in Arvada and at the Gardens of St. Elizabeth. He has 16 grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.

Deacon Hugh Downey
Deacon Hugh Downey took a different path to the diaconate than most of his deacon brothers. Prior to his ordination in June 1984, he served as a lay missionary directing the Lalmba Association, a nonprofit humanitarian organization he helped found with his wife, Martha, in Africa. It is headquartered in Colorado.

“Ministering to the poor of Africa has always been a joy for me,” he said. “You know, after 50 years, I still feel a lot of that initial enthusiasm.”

One of his favorite aspects of ministry is bringing Christ to Africa, he said In the Archdiocese of Denver he’s ministered at the parishes of Spirit of Christ, Shrine of St. Anne and St. Joan of Arc, all in Arvada. Today, he and his wife live in a grass hut in a village with no road, he said.

“I walk to the market, walk to church.  I have no car. One challenge is language,” Deacon Downey said. “I’ve learned the language but still, when I’m preaching, I can hear children giggle. Health is a major issue. Living remotely as we do means we are not close to medical care.”

A life witnessing to needless suffering, AIDS, war and a lack of compassion can bring sadness to them, he said. When things get difficult, he and his wife recall the slogan “couragio,” meaning “have courage.”

“We practice that virtue and incorporate it into our daily lives,” he shared.

He’s started a museum in the village and collects artifacts to help demonstrate the lives of previous generations. He and Martha have been married for 49 years. Three of their children were in born in Africa.

“(It) seems that ministry and family weave together—into a beautiful fabric—if I do say so,” he said.

Deacon R. Paul Grimm
More than 30 years ago Deacon R. Paul Grimm had an opportunity to become vice president of an engineering group of some 300 people.

“It was a great opportunity,” he said. “I came to the conclusion I would only be working for money.  Simultaneously, I had the sense of a calling to serve the people of God.”

native was ordained a deacon. He came to Denver with his wife, Mary, his bride of 56 years. They have four children. His ministry became focused on pastoral care at parishes and care at medical and mental health facilities. He served at the parishes of St. Thomas More in Centennial, All Souls in Englewood, St. Frances Cabrini in Littleton and was active in hospital ministry at the Colorado Mental Health Institute of Fort Logan and Littleton Adventist Hospitals.

His wife “has always supported the activities related to the diaconate,” Deacon Grimm said. “My wife’s patience was the strength to the family.”

In their spare time, they have traveled to South Africa, Mexico, Central America, South America and across the United States. They have eight grandchildren and one great-grandchild. He is retired.

Deacon Joseph Tam Van Le
After Vietnam fell to communism in the ‘70s, Deacon Joseph Tam Van Le was a refugee living in various camps around the world before arriving in the United States. He met and married his wife of 38 years, Theresa, and they have four children. A Jesuit priest encouraged him to study in the diaconate in order to help minister to Vietnamese parishioners. Deacon Le was ordained in June 1984. At 92 today, he is the eldest deacon in the Archdiocese of Denver.

“My favorite aspect of diaconal ministry has been teaching marriage preparation classes,” he shared. “I enjoy seeing the joy of new couples and later on the happiness of the family when they welcome their children.”

His wife has always been supportive, watching their children when he was teaching classes or attending church activities, he said.

“She would always open the doors of our home to couples having marital problems or anyone in need. Her sacrifice has helped me strive to be a better husband and a better deacon,” he shared.

Now retired from ministry at Presentation of Our Lady Church, he prays the rosary, watches Mass on EWTN and reads the Denver Catholic Register as well as books and magazines. They are eager to welcome their first grandchild in September.

Deacon Warren Lybarger
After his conversion to the Catholic Church 61 years ago, Deacon Warren Lybarger, 80, “always had a deep desire, a calling to do more, to be more involved in the life of the Church.” That desire ultimately led to ordination June 16, 1984.

During the last 30 years, he has served at the parishes of St. John the Evangelist in Loveland and St. Joseph in Fort Collins, where he continues to minister a few hours a week doing marriage preparation and assisting with annulments. Working with young couples as they prepare to enter into the “great mystery of the sacrament of marriage” has been a highlight of his ministry. He also served as director of planned giving at the parish for two years before retiring from active ministry.

Deacon Lybarger was married to wife Edna for 61 years prior to her death last November. The couple has three sons, one daughter, 19 grandchildren and 15 great-grandchildren. “The fact that we have always been a very close-knit family has been a great blessing for my ministry,” he said. “My family has been totally supportive of my ministry”

Deacon Lybarger served as a business manager for 21 years prior to retirement. In his free time, he exercises as much as possible, and spends time in prayer, reading and watching TV.

Deacon Daniel Marthe
Some might know Deacon Daniel Marthe, 86, as “Deacon Dan the Garden Man” for the gardening tip he writes each week for the bulletin at St. John Evangelist Parish in Loveland. “People tell me they copy them all the time,” he said.

In his years in the diaconate, he said the greatest challenge was actually answering the call. “I didn’t want to be there,” he said. But he did indeed respond to the call, encouraged by fellow parishioners at St. John the Evangelist and the late Father Roger Mollison—and he was ordained June 16, 1984.

In addition to serving at St. John’s, he was also assigned to St. Thérèse in Frederick, Guardian Angels in Mead, St. Scholastica in Erie and Holy Family in Fort Collins. One of his favorite aspects of ministry has been “helping prepare others to enter the Church.” Before the days of the formal Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults program, he said he would have 14-15 people at his home nearly every night for catechesis.

Deacon Marthe has been married to his wife, Mary Frances, for 58 years; they have four daughters, five grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. Retired from active ministry, he continues to help out at the parish and also enjoys playing golf.

Deacon Lloyd Quintana
Though retirement age for a deacon in the Denver Archdiocese is typically 75, at age 79, Deacon Lloyd Quintana said he “just doesn’t want to stop,” he wants to keep going. And that is what he’s doing: for the last 28 years of his 30 years in the diaconate, he has served at Holy Trinity Parish in Westminster, as well as Our Lady of Visitation Mission Church in Denver. “I enjoy being with people and being able to help them, it’s more like a family,” he said of the largely Spanish-speaking community. “You get attached to people.”

Deacon Quintana was ordained June 16, 1984. His first assignments included the parishes of St. William in Fort Lupton and Our Lady of Guadalupe. In 1956, he married his wife, Gerri, who passed away six years ago. The couple has three daughters, and one son who died four years ago. Gerri was thrilled when he said “yes” to the diaconate, Deacon Quintana said. The two worked in prison ministry together through the Kairos program at the women’s prison in Cañon City. They were also active in the Cursillo movement, along with their children. “I’ve been given so much,” he said. “I just want to give back.”

Deacon Gary Rogge
Deacon Gary Rogge, 72, met his wife of 48 years, Virginia, a Catholic, on a blind date at a Christmas party. That blind date ultimately led to their wedding in 1966 and his conversion to the Catholic faith.

During the spring of 1977, he began to feel a strong desire to serve God and the Church more. “My parish involvements were numerous but after a lot of prayer and discernment, my direction focused on the diaconate ministry,” he said. Responding to the call, thanks in part to encouragement from friend Deacon Dick Combs, he was ordained June 16, 1984. Deacon Rogge’s first assignment was Queen of Peace Parish in Aurora, following two years later by St. Thomas More Parish in Centennial, where he remains in active ministry.

His favorite aspect of ministry has been offering his time and service to those in need, he said. And one of the greatest challenges has been helping the loved ones of those who have died. “Hugs are more effective than words,” he said of those times.

Deacon Rogge and Virginia have one son, three grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. “God has been and continues to be generous and kind to me,” he said. “I am extremely grateful.” Now retired from a 30-year career with AT&T, the couple enjoys traveling in their free time.

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