Reflections of a Deacon’s Daughter
Thankful for deacons and their families, too
Melissa Lesieur Comments Off on Reflections of a Deacon’s Daughter
Where is Dad? On a Saturday morning, if Dad is in his bedroom with the door shut tightly, we know that he is preaching this weekend. And when Dad is working on his homily, it is best not to interrupt him. No, we are not PKs growing up in a Protestant minister’s house, although my brothers and sisters and I could probably relate to “preacher’s kids” on some levels. We are a Catholic family, and our father is an ordained deacon in the Church.
My father is assigned to a parish in our diocese, where, like many deacons in the United States, he lives out his diakonia as a servant to the Church (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, Nos. 1569-70). In the parish, he assists at Masses, runs baptism and marriage preparation classes, trains altar servers and is automatically considered part of every committee in the parish community.
He preaches one weekend a month and shares the preaching on busy weeks, like Christmas and Holy Week, with our pastor. In the fall, he participates in the blessing of the pets service in honor of St. Francis of Assisi. In the summer, he enjoys running “Donuts with the Deacon” mornings for youth, leading them through an hour of Eucharistic adoration followed by breakfast and conversation. Dad approaches all these ministries with enthusiasm and compassion.
Even when he is tired from his day job as a high school teacher or his first vocation as a husband and father, he manages to find enough energy for the Church. He loves the Catholic faith and is willing to be one of Christ’s servants. But Dad’s ministry does not end on the parish grounds. Even when he is going about his daily life, he is living his faith. People outside the parish are comfortable speaking with him about Catholicism. Colleagues and neighbors who know he is a deacon come to him with questions about God and the Church. Truly, he is a good example of a servant for us!
Dad works hard as a deacon; however, he is not working alone. Even before he entered formation, the diocese made sure everyone in the family was on board with his vocation. My mother’s support is especially important; after all, when they were married, they became one flesh. That does not end with a diaconate ordination. In fact, my mother works with my father in many of his roles at the parish, including baptism and marriage prep. She is an amazing example of service to Christ and his Church, too.
The children’s support is also important, since our lives are affected by our father’s role in the Church. I remember when representatives from the diocese came to the house to interview us. I am one of eight siblings, and at the time, we ranged in age from toddlers to teenagers. We sat quietly in the living room while the adults talked, answering questions when asked and being on our best behavior. Later, when they left, we were able to relax and eat the cookies left over.
Dad’s formation was a big commitment for the family. A couple of nights a week, Mom and Dad would go to classes, and we were responsible for ourselves. Older ones helped younger ones get ready for bed. Those who could drive helped pick up siblings from soccer practices. Dad had homework, too. Some of Dad’s formation corresponded with my college years, and we frequently shared books for our theology classes. Thank you, Dad! When Dad had to practice for homiletics or sacramental rites, he and his classmates would use our parish on quiet Sunday afternoons.
My little sister jested that she had the holiest baby doll because Dad would borrow it to practice the baptismal rite again and again. It was not an easy five years, but we made it through.
Finally, it was the day of our father’s ordination — and we children were almost kept from attending. I guess nothing goes straightforward, especially when in service to the Church. We had arrived at the cathedral early and spent the extra time in the church basement with our parents. When it was almost time for Mass, my siblings and I headed upstairs; however, an usher would not let us inside! Looking at the full section assigned for my dad’s family and friends, he did not believe us when we said we were the children of one of the deacons-to-be. It took another member of the cathedral staff to recognize us before we were allowed to go to our pew.
The ordination Mass was beautiful. My favorite part was seeing my father lying on the floor while the entire congregation sang the Litany of Saints. The entire Church, militant and triumphant, was interceding on Dad’s behalf for God’s grace! That sacramental grace allows deacons like my dad to serve God and the Church with love, joy and perseverance. While not ordained like Dad, of course, I think God gave a little actual grace to Mom and us kids as well, knowing we would need it to serve alongside his new deacon (cf. Catechism, No. 2000).
Our bishop assigned Dad to a parish the next town over from where we lived. Since we were all involved in our hometown parish already, we tried to split the family between the two parishes for a while. It did not work! We were never at Mass together as a family. Responsibilities at each parish conflicted. One day my mom told us to drop off our little sister at the church. She did not specify which parish, and we left her at the wrong one. That day, my parents decided we would all transfer to the parish where Dad was assigned. So that new parish not only got a new deacon; they also got new altar servers, sacristans, religious education teachers, youth group participants and confirmation candidates. In fact, we were an easy family to call whenever more hands were needed. Following our parents’ lead, we knew that was part of serving as the deacon’s family.
So what is day-to-day life like as a deacon’s daughter? Well, there are challenges. For example, at times, we saw very little of our parents because they were so busy with Church commitments. One Sunday morning, our pastor proudly announced there were several baptisms in our parish that year. In the pew, my siblings and I looked at each other. While that was great news, it was also difficult for our family, which was running baptism prep.
Frequently, we appeared in our father’s homilies, for better or for worse. It became a game for some parishioners to guess which child Dad was referring to while preaching that morning. We also learned to be parish secretaries. Our house phone was the deacon’s contact number, so we frequently took messages for him. No matter how exasperating the call was, we were hospitable on the phone. After all, we were not just representing ourselves, but the entire Church.
Sometimes, people unkindly teased us for being Goody Two-shoes. But usually their opinion changed once they got to know us! We may be more aware of God’s grace working in our family, but that did not prevent us from living with our human shortcomings.
With the difficulties, there are also joys in being the deacon’s family. When one of us is sick, Dad brings us Communion after Mass. During the COVID-19 pandemic closures, he was able to lead a Communion service for the family at home.
For my sister’s wedding, Dad walked his daughter down the aisle, then vested as a deacon for the ceremony. He gave a meaningful homily at each of my siblings’ weddings, too. Dad has baptized every one of his grandchildren. The Faith is being passed on to the next generation! The carrying of that faith in our everyday lives as we grew up together has been the best part of being the deacon’s family.
Now that we are all adults, my siblings and I appreciate more what my parents do for us and for the Church. Following their example, we are very comfortable living, growing and sharing our faith. Service to God and his people is part of each of our lives as we grow up and move away from home.
We are glad that Dad is a deacon. We are proud of Mom for all that she does as a deacon’s wife. We are grateful for the service that all deacons provide the Church. Thank you, deacons — and your families, too!
Melissa Lesieur is the daughter of Deacon Paul Lesieur in the Diocese of Worcester, Massachusetts.