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In face of death, deacon finds grace

This story continues a monthly series featuring the faith testimonies of Catholics from all walks of life. To see a video of Deacon Dusty Martin sharing his testimony, visit www.OneBillionStories.com.

In the midst of suffering, many question God’s existence.

When Deacon Gregory Martin was told cancer would soon take his life, he only grew closer to him.

The 59-year-old Catholic convert, known as Deacon Dusty, was told a year ago mesothelioma had enveloped

his stomach, leaving him an estimated 18 months to live.

Now his faith is immovable.

“I’ve never asked, in prayer, ‘Why, God? Why did it come down to this?” he said. “It has not crossed my mind that God was involved with this and that for some reason he gave it to me or he allowed it. My relationship

with God never faced a real challenge because of this.”

Rather the cancer has set him free.

Every moment is spent considering God’s will and being present to his surroundings. If he’s at home or ministering to a parishioner at St. Pius X in Aurora, all that exists is that moment, he said.

“I ask, ‘What is the Lord asking me to do with what I have at this point?’” Deacon Martin said. “From the moment my eyes open in the morning, I say, ‘Thank you, Lord, for this day. May whatever I do shine

favorably on you.’”

His faith wasn’t always so focused.

As a child of a career military man, Deacon Martin moved often with his family after he was born in Wisconsin. His parents were not regular church-goers, although he was exposed to the Baptist faith at a church called Audubon Heights Community Church in Colorado Springs when his father was stationed there.

Deacon Martin attended high school in Virginia and returned with his parents and siblings to Colorado Springs when his father received his last assignment.

When Deacon Martin was in ROTC at Colorado State University, he met his wife, Angie, who was Catholic. They married in a Catholic church in Leavenworth, Kan., and they attended Mass at Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish in Northglenn.

He realized once his children Eryn and Patrick—they had also lost two children—were baptized that he had made a commitment to raise them Catholic.

“Predominantly, the faith of the Church is lived through mom and dad, which was me and Angie,” he said, recognizing his duty to pass the faith onto their children.

He decided to follow through on his commitment.

The deacon entered the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults and became Catholic at Queen of Peace Parish in Aurora some 25 years ago.

Slowly, God began to reveal his truth to him and his faith deepened over time.

“Every time I hear the Gospel, I hear something new,” Deacon Martin said. “I still do.”

The more the deacon has desired to know, the more Christ has fed him the good news, he shared.

The gift of faith and understanding from God was furthered when he and his wife committed to one year of eucharistic adoration.

“That whole year of holy hours made a big impact on me, because it was in that setting that I think the kernel of ministry in the Church started to grow, which lead me to the diaconate,” he said.

Deacon Martin was ordained in 1994 at the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception by then-archbishop Cardinal James Francis Stafford. He has served as deacon at St. Pius Parish for 18 years.

His faith journey changed when his wife rushed him to the emergency room Dec. 26, 2011, because of difficulty breathing. Physicians discovered fluid under his abdomen.

The origin was malignant cancer.

When they asked about treatment options, he said the doctor told them, “There’s not so much we can do but make you comfortable.”

He said, “I was stunned.”

After the news he and Angie went to St. Michael the Archangel Parish in Aurora to pray, and he began recalling a litany of people he had encountered in life.

Since his diagnosis, he has called the cancer a blessing.

“The biggest blessing is when you’re told something like that, it has allowed me to focus on the here and now,” Deacon Martin said.

He no longer plans for retirement, as others in their 60s may do. Instead he sees each moment as a grace from God.

“If I had any words of wisdom, I would say take time to understand and enjoy the moment you’re in.”

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