St. George's in Guilford, CT
Little did Patrick Moran know, on that ordinary Sunday morning, that a new chapter of his life was about to unfold. For several years, he had felt a strong desire to serve the Roman Catholic Church in some capacity, but wasn't sure how that call might take shape. So he waited, patiently, trying to discern the next step.
On that particular Sunday, Moran and his wife, Kathryn, were chatting after mass with Msgr. James Coleman, their pastor at St. George's in Guilford, Conn. It was Coleman who had introduced the couple during their high school CYO days and, in fact, had married them. Now, three decades and a long friendship later, while casually talking about marriage and other vocations in the Church, Kathryn mentioned that Pat had once expressed interest in becoming a deacon.
By now, two other priests had joined the conversation. "They looked at each other and said, Are you kidding? The application process is now," recalls Moran, until then unaware that the Hartford Archdiocese had just re-opened its permanent diaconate program. "That was one of the first confirming experiences I had. There I was standing with Msgr. Coleman, who had planted a vocational seed in me years ago, and now there was an opportunity to respond."
And he did. Just a year earlier, Moran had gone into business for himself after 24 years working in industry and education. "Without knowing it," says the computer consultant and trainer, "I was laying the groundwork for what would come next. It meant I'd have to change the way I do business, but I now had the flexibility to do that."
That was seven years ago. Today, it is his great joy to serve as a deacon, a ministry for which he was ordained to holy orders in June 2001. Assigned to St. Margaret's in Madison, he assists at several masses each weekend, proclaims the Gospel and, once a month, preaches at all five masses.
During his four years of seminary training, Moran took two homiletics courses, all the time praying for an attitude of indifference about just what his service to the people of God would include. "Maybe I would be asked to preach, maybe I would not. I wanted to stay open to whatever ministry the Spirit would send," he explains.
Imagine his delight when, on the day of his ordination, four short sentences within the rite made a profound impact. "When the bishop said, 'Receive the Gospel of Christ. Believe what you read. Teach what you believe. Live what you teach,' it was as if those words were being spoken directly to my heart. I don't usually remember the words to things, but that I remember. I knew I was being called to preach."
Fortunately; his assignment brought him to a parish that gave him the chance. Sure, the first time was scary, he admits, but after a while he began to realize that "it has nothing to do with me and everything to do with God." He begins preparing early in the week, asking God to use him to convey whatever message people need to hear. Before he begins to write, he reads the readings. He prays the readings. He asks the Holy Spirit for an idea. Then he does the normal exegesis (consulting academic sources).
Among those sources is He Is Risen: A New Reading of the Gospel of Mark by Fairfield University's religious studies professor, Dr. Hugh Humphrey: "During our formation program," says Moran, "I started thinking back over my life about the people who, apart from the traditional sense, had modeled holiness to me." When reviewing his Fairfield days, Moran settled on two faculty members - Humphrey and Robert Bolger, associate professor of mathematics.
"Mr. Bolger was a tremendously competent math professor. He taught mental discipline and also emphasized the wholeness of the person. I could see that he was a well-rounded guy; and although he didn't talk about it, I could sense that he had a religious life at his core," recalls Moran. "I've thought about him so much over the years."
He's also thought of Humphrey, whose gentle manner and passion for theology made quite an impression. "One day during my seminary studies, I was browsing in a monastery bookstore and saw his book on Mark. Buying it was a thrill, and I used it often in my homiletics class. I look forward to having the cycle of Church readings turn to Mark."
While he's waiting, Moran welcomes his every opportunity to preach. "After I write and revise a homily, I ask my wife to listen and give me feedback. Kathryn has a way of hearing things in my words that I don't, so we discuss these nuances back and forth before I do my final version," he says. In the parish, Moran presides monthly at baptisms, a privilege he calls phenomenal. "It's an awesome thing to welcome a baby into the Church, to share in one of the first significant events of a child's faith life. Looking at the faces of parents, godparents, and grandparents, and seeing the hope and love they have for their child is unbelievable," says Moran, clearly moved in the telling.
Deacons can also preside at weddings, a joy he experienced for the first time in September. At the other end of life's continuum, Moran ministers to those dealing with death. He continues to be touched by the comfort families receive during times of mourning, just through die presence of someone serving as a channel of God's grace on behalf of the Church.
"There's a call to holiness we all have, apart from the traditional notion of vocation," says Moran, who agreed to share his experience for one reason only. "Who knows?" he says. "Maybe God will use this to light a spark in someone else."
There is a destiny that makes us brothers:
None goes his way alone;
All that we send into the lives of others
Comes back into our own.
- Edwin Markham
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