Sharing Our Gifts
How one deacon uses his talents to serve the Church and his communities
When I was about 25 years old, I made some personal goals for the rest of my life. I wanted to be able to retire at the age of 50 so that I could spend the second half of my life serving others. At that time, the thought of serving charities was at the top of my mind and the thought of serving the Church was not.
After being a partner at a major accounting firm and chief financial officer and chairman at a $35 billion food and beverage distribution company, I was able to begin the “second half of my life” in early 2019.
Over the last 25 years, my faith life has grown considerably. With a little prodding from my wife, I began teaching middle school religious education which led to both of us teaching high school confirmation for 10 years, which then led to deeper and deeper Church involvement. The spiritual aspects of my life were becoming more satisfying than the professional aspects, which were very rewarding but less meaningful.
I helped start a men’s group with Catholic businessmen in the Chicago area and met Mark Middendorf, the founder and CEO of Lighthouse Catholic Media. Lighthouse had quickly grown into a global business that created and distributed inspirational Catholic content, including hundreds of talks from myriad Catholic leaders. Mark used our office space for his board meetings, and we found that we shared a common passion for both business and faith and felt strongly that these two interests should not be mutually exclusive. “What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works?” (Jas 2:14).
Mark and I stayed in touch throughout my diaconate formation in the DIocese of Joliet, in Illinois. In 2016, Mark told me that he had merged Lighthouse Catholic with the Augustine Institute and that he would be spending much of his time in Denver instead of Chicago. He suggested that I meet Tim Gray, the founder of the Augustine Institute.
Tim is a wise theologian, ambitious entrepreneur and a devoted Catholic. Like Mark and me, he is also from Chicagoland. Tim invited me to join the board of the Augustine Institute, and I was honored to do so. After suggesting that Tim would benefit by having a chief operating officer help him run the business so that he can focus more on the academic and theological aspects, the board and Tim agreed that I would be a good candidate for the role. A couple of months later, I found myself flying to Denver each week to help out.
The position has been rewarding and has allowed me to live out my diaconate role and my professional role on a daily basis. Our performance metrics are a combination of spiritual goals and financial goals — without the former, we are not meeting our mission of saving souls, without the latter, we will not be around for long.
At the Augustine Institute, we begin and end each meeting with prayer, which is a refreshing change from the secular business world. Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, I was also able to serve as a deacon for daily Mass, which is held in a chapel in our building. When the chaplain was traveling, I was responsible for daily Communion service. Preparing homilies at my home parishes in front of several hundred parishioners is far less intimidating than preparing a homily for 50, especially when 15 of the attendees have doctorates in theology.
I have also found that working with passionate, faith-filled and talented Catholics is a blessing of its own. Most are sharing their gifts and talents to help others and are receiving less compensation than they can get elsewhere; they receive great joy from fulfilling their Catholic mission to help others. Talking openly about the Church and creating ways to inspire and reach others is the perfect way to serve God and our families.
Using Our Gifts
As deacons, we are blessed to be able to serve in the Church and in our communities. I was ordained with 25 other men, each of whom has a variety of gifts and talents. Some are extraordinary teachers, some musicians, others skilled in accounting, law or medicine.
We are called to serve our bishops and priests, but we are also called to serve our neighbors. We should use the talents God has given us and bring the Word of God to those who share in our interests and specializations. “As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another as good stewards of God’s varied grace” (1 Pt 4:10).
Many deacons bring their talents directly to the Church through various ministries, including liturgy, religious education, music, administration, etc. This is a great gift to our Church. But there are so many other opportunities to share those talents outside of the Church. The first deacons were given the responsibility of caring for the poor and widows. We too must be examples of Christ in our communities. “It is not right for us to neglect the word of God to serve at table. Brothers, select from among you seven reputable men, filled with the Spirit and wisdom, whom we shall appoint to this task” (Acts 6:2-3).
I have been blessed to be called to the diaconate and to be able to contribute some of my business know-how to an organization that is inspiring so many to embrace their Catholic faith. I encourage all my deacon brothers to give thanks for their gifts and to share them in the Church and throughout the world.
DEACON DAN DOHENY was ordained a deacon in the Joliet diocese in 2016 and serves St. Raphael Church in Naperville, Illinois, as well as Our Lady of Joy Church in Carefree, Arizona. He is currently the executive vice-president of the Augustine Institute in Greenwood Village, Colorado.
HELPING CATHOLICS DEEPEN THEIR RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD
The Augustine Institute offers a multitude of products that benefit priests, deacons and parishes. Deacon
Doheny is pleased to be part of the institute and provides the following overview of the ministry.
The Augustine Institute is also blessed to have a talented team leading Augustine Studios who write, produce, film and edit incredible content. Within weeks they were able to combine footage from a number of pilgrimage tours of the Holy Land into a documentary called the “Triduum,” which showed exactly where Christ was throughout Holy Week. The “Triduum” attracted more than 1 million views and inspired many to grow closer to Christ during Lent. We are uniquely capable of creating timely Catholic content in times like this.
In May we introduced a new series called “The Search,” primarily to inspire those without faith to learn more about Catholic teaching. It is designed to answer the key questions that many nonbelievers have: How do I know there is a God? Why am I here? Who is Jesus? Why do we need a Church?
The initial response has been incredible, ranging from those with strong beliefs as well as those who have none. Daily testimonies describe the impact the Augustine Institute is having. People need the truth and hope, and FORMED provides both.
For those unfamiliar with what the Augustine Institute does, here’s an overview. Virtually all of the products offered benefit priests and deacons personally and in their service to parishes. The Augustine Institute is a not-for-profit organization founded in 2005 in response to St. John Paul II’s call for a new evangelization. Through our academic and parish programs we equip Catholics intellectually, spiritually and pastorally, seeking to renew the Church and transform the world for Christ. Our mission is to help Catholics understand, live and share their faith.
The Augustine Institute is the largest Catholic graduate school in the country, with on-campus programs in Denver and distance education programs serving students and alumni around the world. Tim Gray recruited some of the best faculty in the country, and together they not only taught classes and wrote books, but they began to create a vast array of content including curriculum, talks and parish programs to help serve the formation of Catholics.
The merger with Lighthouse Catholic Media and a strategic partnership with Ignatius Press provided an unparalleled pool of Catholic content, which allowed them to develop the online platform, FORMED.org. FORMED, which is almost five years old, has more than 1 million subscribers and features live shows along with trustworthy Catholic videos, audio talks, ebooks and movies from more than 80 content partners.
During the coronavirus pandemic, FORMED has experienced incredible growth, serving more than 100,000 unique Catholics every day in more than 50 countries. People are at home, and they are anxious. People are looking to God, spiritually hungry, and were unable to go to Mass for quite some time. They turned to FORMED to pray and worship. There is also a lot of content for kids, which has helped parents teach not only the basics from school, but also core teachings about their faith.
Since the pandemic, we have added hundreds of parishes and numerous dioceses to our membership. We have also added thousands of individuals whose parishes or dioceses do not subscribe to FORMED.