Jubilarian 25-year deacons say ministry is humbling, inspiring and grace-filled

Deacon Michael Bozio
Deacon Michael BozioUkrainian native Deacon Michael Bozio is marking the 25th anniversary of his diaconate in Denver this year.

He entered diaconal ministry to serve the Lord, he said. He was ordained November 1989. Although officially retired from active ministry, he continues to serve the parishioners at Transfiguration of Our Lord Ukrainian Catholic Church in Denver.

Deacon Bozio said he most enjoys visiting the sick. He said the greatest challenge of diaconal ministry is bringing fallen-away Catholics back to the Church.

He is married to his wife of 65 years, Sophia. They have six children, 10 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

In his free time, Deacon Bozio enjoys reading and helping others.

Deacon George Fortunato
Fortunato_George_WEBAs an active parishioner, Deacon George Fortunato was encouraged by his pastor and fellow parishioners to become a deacon.

He was ordained in June 1989.

Of his diaconal ministry, Deacon Fortunato said he’s most enjoyed “working with people in all matters of service, but especially the poor or disadvantaged.”

He spends time with his wife of 35 years, Jacqueline. They have three children.

“My family has always been a strong supporter of my ministry,” he said.

Deacon Fortunato has served at Holy Trinity Church in Westminster and St. Ignatius of Antioch in Rangely, where he is still active.

He spends his spare time hunting and fishing. He has eight grandchildren.

Deacon Brian Kerby
Deacon Brian KerbyOne of Deacon Brian Kerby’s favorite aspects of the diaconate is “seeing God heal and transform.”

He said, “I am in awe of his healing power! By being a hospice chaplain and serving the Church, I have been able to see my Lord through love of others—they have been my greatest teachers.”

Living the new evangelization is also one of the deacon’s favorite aspects of his ministry.

“We are called to bring his word alive and do signs of charity,” he said. “I have a deep love of the Lord and want to serve Him and the people of God.”

Since his ordination in June 1989 at age 35, Deacon Kerby has ministered at St. Elizabeth Church in Buffalo Creek, St. Mary Church in Littleton and Christ the King Church in Evergreen, where he is still active.

He and his wife, Dee, have been married 39 years. Deacon Kerby has baptized each of their four children and 10 grandchildren. They are expecting another grandchild.

Dee helps Deacon Kerby run the “Intercessors of the Trinity,” a prayer ministry.

Deacon Kerby said he wishes there were more hours in the day to minister to the “many hurting people who need healing and deliverance.”

In his spare time he rides his motorcycle and tandem bike with his wife. He also enjoys water sports and hiking.

Deacon Harold Kimble
Kimble_Harold_onlineIt was through his wife’s family that Deacon Harold Kimble, 64, converted to the Catholic faith and became a deacon. After a motorcycle accident put him in the hospital and he risked losing one of his legs, Deacon Kimble saw how his in-laws had trust that God would care for him.

“What I saw out of her family was just a very deep faith,” he shared. “I guess a trust in God that everything would be OK with me. I wanted part of that.”

He converted and two years later was ordained in June 1989. He’s been married to his wife Gloria for 46 years. They have two children.

Currently, Deacon Kimble is the marriage and family life coordinator at Our Lady of the Valley Church in Windsor. He enjoys meeting with families for baptismal classes and trying to draw them closer to God.

“I learn a lot from them,” he said. “Their different ideas about God and Jesus and the Holy Spirit. … It’s not only helping them it’s helping me grow in my faith.”

He also previously ministered at St. Thérèse Parish in Aurora.

Over the last 25 years of his ministry, although an introvert, he said he’s learned to preach and deliver homilies. He’s also learned to be patient and compassionate with those he meets.

In his spare time, Deacon Kimble enjoys fly fishing and fly-tying. He has four grandchildren.

Deacon Joseph Meilinger
Deacon Joseph MeilingerThere are so many blessings to the diaconate, said Deacon Joseph Meilinger said, that it’s hard to pick a favorite part of the ministry.

“But I believe the one that is most grace-filled and joyful is the baptism of the little babies into the faith. I baptized all of my grandchildren and hundreds of other children, and it is a real teaching moment for the parents and a grace-filled moment for the children,” Deacon Meilinger said.

The Chicago native and his wife, Denise, to whom he’s been married 52 years, have four children. They now also have 11 grandchildren.

Deacon Meilinger began his holy orders journey by studying for the priesthood for six years. He left seminary and got married and later decided to become a deacon. He began formation at age 44 and was ordained in June 1989. He worked in sales and marketing at the former Monfort of Colorado Inc. feed lot and meat packing plant in Greeley.

The diaconate has been beneficial to his marriage and children.

“The diaconate has brought my wife and me closer than ever, as we share daily prayer and the ministries of the Church,” he said. “My children were all on their own when I was ordained, but they are all married and practicing Catholics. … Their faith, I pray, is an outgrowth my wife and I’s faith.”

In his spare time, he posts to his blog called the “Monk’s Corner” and does some marketing and website building on the side. He also enjoys photography and work on the computer.

Deacon Leo Oehrle
Deacon Leo OehrleDeacon Leo Oehrle has spent the entire 25 years of his diaconate ministering to parishioners at Immaculate Heart of Mary Church in Northglenn, in addition to visiting the sick and their families in hospitals.

“I visit with people who need some uplifting, some spiritual help. It might be patients or families of patients,” he said. “My purpose or aim is to give people peace of mind in a difficult situation.”

For 20 years, Deacon Oehrle was a cantor as Masses at the Northglenn church before he was ordained a deacon in June 1989. Music is his avocation, he said. He’s played the piano and violin since the age of 6.

After ordination, he moved on to new ministry work, although he still enjoys music in his spare time.

Before his ministry, Deacon Oehrle worked in administration for a trucking business. He and his wife of 68 years, Ann, have five children. Today they also have 12 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

Together, he and Ann spend time, “deeply involved with each other in love and in prayer.”

Deacon William Trewartha
Deacon William TrewarthaAfter 10 years of discerning whether to enter the diaconate program, Deacon William Trewartha said to his wife, Jean, “If I am going to become a deacon, I better get with it.”

“She responded, ‘There is a meeting in Denver Saturday for men who are interested in becoming a deacon.’ That was about as strong a sign that the Holy Spirit could have sent me. We went and the rest is history,” he said.

The Minnesota native was ordained in June 1989.

His favorite part of his work for the Church is “ministering to the sick and the dying, plus following up with the bereaved.”

Baptisms are also rewarding, he said, because it creates an opportunity to bring people back to the Church.

He and Jean, married for 52 years, have four children who have all been supportive of his ministry.

“I was blessed that (my children) were young adults when I was ordained” and never felt the absence of his support, he shared.

In his spare time, he skies and watches the Denver Broncos play football.

“The nice thing about being a deacon is there is always someone to serve and that gives the fulfillment and joy of being Christian.”

Deacon Martin Wager
Deacon Martin WagerIt was the mentorship of three priests— Father Vince Connor, Msgr. Ken Leone and Father Roger Mollison—that influenced Deacon Martin (Marty) Wager during his teenaged years to become a deacon.

He was ordained in June 1989 and has since ministered to parishioners in Englewood at St. Louis and All Souls Church. He has spent his time helping people work on forgiveness and seek healing.

“Realizing how the grace of God and power of the Holy Spirit can work through me has been something of awe and at the same time humbling,” he said of the diaconate. “The blessings have been more than a hundred-fold.”

Deacon Wager worked as a FedEx Express courier and married his wife of 39 years, Kim. They have two children and one grandchild.

Balancing his family, career and ministry has always been a challenge, he said. But behind every deacon is a saint—his wife, he said.

He’s enjoyed the unexpected grace of presiding at baptisms, weddings and funerals for his family. Of the number of marriages he’s blessed, Deacon Wager’s father-in-law once said, “We had so many daughters to marry off, we had to get our own deacon.”

In their spare time, he and his wife spend time with their granddaughter, time with friends, read, write, travel, and watch and play sports.

Deacon Wager continues to live the commission he received at ordination to receive the Gospel and to “believe what you read, teach what you believe and practice what you teach.”


COMING UP: Collegiality and eucharistic integrity

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The concept of the “collegiality” of bishops has been sharply contested since the Second Vatican Council debated it in 1962, 1963, and 1964. That discussion was sufficiently contentious that a personal intervention from Pope Paul VI was required to incorporate the concept of episcopal collegiality within the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church in such a way that the pope’s primacy and universal jurisdiction were safeguarded. The debate about collegiality has continued ever since. Now, however, it’s focused more on what kind of collegiality exists within national conferences of bishops. Is it an “affective collegiality” of mutual support and encouragement? Or is episcopal collegiality within bishops’ conferences “effective,” such that a conference has real teaching and legislative authority?  

Whether collegiality is “affective,” “effective,” or some combination of the two, it ought to be clear what truly “collegial” behavior isn’t.   

It isn’t individual bishops attempting end-runs around their national conference, appealing for Roman interventions that would forestall debates that their brother bishops wish to engage. It isn’t bishops trying to browbeat the conference chairman into changing an agenda to suit the tastes of a distinct minority — and misleading their brother bishops as to what they’re about when soliciting support for such a gambit. And it isn’t trying to filibuster a conference meeting so that no action is possible on an agenda item that the great majority of bishops wish to consider and act upon. 

If any of those three maneuvers qualifies as collegial, then “collegiality” has no more meaning than the claim that my poor Baltimore Orioles have a great starting rotation. 

For years now — and by “years,” I mean long before the idea of a “President Biden” entered the stream of national consciousness — the bishops of the United States have been concerned that ours is becoming less of a eucharistic Church than Vatican II called us to be when it taught that the Eucharist is the “source and summit” of the Church’s life. Pope St. John Paul II reaffirmed that conciliar summons when, in his final encyclical, he taught that “the Church draws her life from the Eucharist,” which “recapitulates the heart and mystery of the Church.” Yet all around us we see declining Sunday Mass attendance: a sadness that preceded the pandemic but has been further exacerbated by it.  Moreover, surveys suggest that too many Catholics think of Sunday Mass as essentially a social occasion, rather than an encounter with the living God in which Christ is offered to the Father and is given back to his people in holy communion — a communion in and through the body and blood, soul and divinity of Christ, received under the forms of bread and wine.

If the Church lives from the Eucharist and yet the people of the Church don’t participate in the Eucharist as often as they should, or don’t understand what they’re celebrating and receiving when they do, then the Church suffers from a serious eucharistic deficit. Those ordained to leadership in the Church are obliged to do something about that. 

That is why the U.S. bishops have been determined for some time to undertake a comprehensive program of eucharistic education throughout the Church. For the great majority of bishops, that determination has been intensified by the fact that our eucharistic deficit is being compounded by the eucharistic incoherence of public officials who, rejecting authoritative Catholic teaching based on both revelation and reason, nonetheless present themselves for holy communion as if they were in full communion with the Church. The longstanding episcopal failure to address this incoherence exacerbates the eucharistic deficit in American Catholicism by implying that the Church really doesn’t mean what it teaches about the sacred nature of the Eucharist. 

Those suggesting that this is all about “politics” are either ill-informed or deliberately misleading the Church and the gullible parts of the media. Concern for the eucharistic integrity of the Church includes, but goes much deeper than, concerns about the eucharistic incoherence of Catholic public officials who act as if the Church’s settled convictions on the life issues and on worthiness to receive holy communion don’t exist. That is why the U.S. bishops are forging ahead with developing a teaching document that will clarify for the whole Church why we are a Eucharistic community, what the Eucharist truly is, what reception of the Eucharist means, and why everyone in the Church should examine conscience before receiving Christ in the sacrament. 

The wheels of collegiality may grind slowly. In this case, however, they are grinding truly, and for the sake of the Gospel.

George Weigel is an independent columnist whose weekly column is syndicated by the Archdiocese of Denver. The opinions and viewpoints expressed by Mr. Weigel therein are his alone and do not necessarily reflect those of the Archdiocese of Denver or the bishops of Denver.