November 3, 2017

Vocations Supplement

Deacon experiences ‘awesome feeling’ in serving in parish, community

Deacon Ronald Freyer, left, listens to Franciscan Sister Francis Clements during a visit to St. Andrews Health Campus in Batesville on Oct. 22. Visiting the sick in hospitals and nursing homes in the southeastern Indiana town is part of Deacon Freyer’s ministry. (Submitted photo by Katie Rutter)

Deacon Ronald Freyer, left, listens to Franciscan Sister Francis Clements during a visit to St. Andrews Health Campus in Batesville on Oct. 22. Visiting the sick in hospitals and nursing homes in the southeastern Indiana town is part of Deacon Freyer’s ministry. (Submitted photo by Katie Rutter)

By Katie Rutter (Special to The Criterion)

BATESVILLE—Like any proud father, Deacon Ronald Freyer looks with eagerness to the day when his eldest daughter, Melissa, will wed. But at the ceremony on Jan. 6, his role will be larger than the role of most parents. He will actually lead his daughter and her fiancé as they exchange their marriage vows.

“I’m gonna walk her up the aisle, then there’s gonna be a small pause while I go get vested,” Deacon Freyer explained.

“I’m gonna try to do the homily if I can keep the tears from coming, but we’ll see how that works. I might not get through that,” he said with a laugh.

As a deacon in the church, Deacon Freyer has the spiritual authority to witness vows as lives are united in the sacrament of matrimony. Deacons can also baptize new members of the Church, preach at Masses and conduct funerals. Their role typically extends to numerous other ministries as well, especially those in service to people in need.

“It’s just an awesome feeling and an awesome privilege to be a deacon. I’m still in awe of that,” Deacon Freyer explained. “I don’t think I’ll ever get over that.”

Deacon Freyer was ordained a deacon on June 23, 2012. The men with whom he was ordained were only the second group of permanent deacons in the history of the Church in central and southern Indiana.

The Second Vatican Council, recalling the presence of deacons in Scripture and the early history of the Church, re-established the permanent diaconate and declared that married men could be ordained deacons.

Deacon Freyer has been married to his wife Mary Beth for 37 years, and they have proudly raised four adopted children. He puts in about 50 hours a week at his day job welding, fabricating, painting and, in his words, “whatever else they need me to do” at Greensburg’s Heritage Industrial Contracting.

After his ordination, his responsibilities were extended even further. He was appointed to serve at his home parish of St. Louis in Batesville. He was also to minister at the hospital and nursing homes in the area.

Still answering this call, Deacon Freyer spends most of his Sundays visiting the local hospital or St. Andrews Health Campus, a nursing home and assisted living facility in Batesville.

During his usual visit to St. Andrews on Oct. 22, Deacon Freyer walked the halls, stopped at dozens of doors, knocked gently and repeated the same question: “Do you want to receive Communion?”

For most residents, the answer was “Yes.” Deacon Freyer would enter and, after a few moments of friendly conversation, he would lead the residents in an Our Father and distribute the Eucharist. Each time, before leaving the room, he flashed one of his warm smiles and bid the resident a good day.

“He’s a superstar. But don’t tell him I said that,” said Angela Probst, 93, prompting Deacon Freyer to laughter.

In addition to visiting the sick and elderly, Deacon Freyer’s busy schedule includes assisting with a weekly youth group attended by about 100 teens from three parishes: St. Louis Parish, St. Anthony Parish in Morris and St. Nicholas Parish in Ripley County. Deacon Freyer also ministers most of the baptisms at St. Louis Parish.

“It’s in the personal interactions that I think Deacon Ron’s biggest strength is,” explained Father Stanley Pondo, pastor of St. Louis Parish. “He does relate so well to people. He is a good ministerial presence for them.”

More than 1,100 families are members of the faith community, where Father Pondo is the only resident priest. When it comes to filling the spiritual needs of parishioners, Father Pondo often relies on Deacon Freyer to help.

“Every activity I do means there’s another activity that I can’t do,” explained Father Pondo. “Having Deacon Ron here does multiply what we can do in terms of ministry to people.”

Deacon Freyer tries to be present for at least two of the four weekend Masses, standing alongside Father Pondo, proclaiming the Gospel and assisting with the liturgy. Once a month, he attends all four Masses and delivers a homily.

“I wasn’t much for speaking in front of people,” Deacon Freyer said, recalling one of the challenges of his deacon formation.

“I picked the paper up a couple of times, and I know my kids used to ask me why my paper’s shaking. And I said, ‘There’s a good reason why my paper’s shaking,’” he related with a hearty laugh.

After five years in front of a congregation, Deacon Freyer’s hands remained steady throughout the entire liturgy on Oct. 22. He proclaimed the final dismissal clearly and articulately, the whole congregation booming the reply, “Thanks be to God.”

As the faithful streamed out of the church, Deacon Freyer stood near a door, shaking hands with a big smile.

“He is just a treasure. You can’t find a nicer person,” said parishioner Leron Giesting, cradling a child who had been baptized by Deacon Freyer.

“I think there were times throughout the process that weren’t terribly comfortable for him, but he knew that he needed to do it. And I’m grateful that we have him,” Giesting said.

Deacon Freyer agrees. Despite the challenges, he said he is grateful for his vocation.

“I love being with people, I just want to try to help them understand who Jesus is,” Deacon Freyer said. “I’m just so blessed to be a deacon.”

(Katie Rutter is a freelance writer and member of St. Charles Borromeo Parish in Bloomington.)

More about Deacon Ronald Freyer

  • Age: 59
  • Ordained: June 23, 2012
  • Parish: St. Louis in Batesville
  • Wife: Mary Beth
  • Anniversary: Sept 13, 1980
  • Kids: Josh, 31, Melissa, 25, Joe, 20, Angela, 18. All are adopted.
  • Grandchildren: Austin, AJ, Christian (all sons of Josh)
  • Occupation: Welder, fabricator, painter at Heritage Industrial Contracting in Greensburg
  • Favorite Bible verse: Isaiah 40:31
  • Favorite saint: St. Francis of Assisi
  • Favorite prayer/devotion: Honoring the Virgin Mary and adoration of the Blessed Sacrament
  • Hobbies: Raising his kids

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