February 16, 2018

Deacon Donald Dearman was first black permanent deacon in archdiocese

By Sean Gallagher

Deacon Donald DearmanDeacon Donald Dearman, ordained on June 28, 2008, as a member of the first group of permanent deacons in the history the Church in central and southern Indiana, died on Feb. 8 in Indianapolis. He was 67.

Visitation will be from 4-7 p.m. on Feb. 18 at Williams and Bluitt Funeral Home, 5252 E. 38th St., in Indianapolis, and from 9-10 a.m. on Feb. 19 at SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral, 1347 N. Meridian St., in Indianapolis.

The Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated at 10 a.m. on Feb. 19 at the cathedral. Archbishop Charles C. Thompson will be the principal celebrant of the Mass. Father Kenneth Taylor, pastor of Holy Angels Parish and St. Rita Parish, both in Indianapolis, will be the homilist.

Raised as a Baptist, Deacon Dearman was received into the full communion of the Church in 1996. Seven years later, he was accepted into the first group of men to be formed for the diaconate in the archdiocese.

His wife Carol suggested that he consider being a part of the group.

“He said that I put him in the diaconate,” Carol recalled with a laugh. “I saw it in The Criterion. He always said that I sent him [to the first meeting], but I told him that he didn’t have to stay, so he couldn’t say that I sent him.”

She was pleased when her husband was accepted into the deacon formation program and later ordained.

“It was pure joy for me,” Carol said. “I knew he would be a good deacon. When he became Catholic, he was all in. He was proud of being the first African-American deacon in the archdiocese.”

Deacon Steve Hodges, who serves at SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral Parish, and Deacon Dearman became friends during their years of formation.

“Deacon Donald had a strong, yet simple faith life,” Deacon Hodges said. “He trusted God wholeheartedly in all things. Although he struggled with health issues, he answered God’s call to become a permanent deacon, trusting in God’s providential care.”

That example of simple but deep faith helped Deacon Hodges grow in his own faith, saying that he “inspired me with his deep, trusting faith in God throughout formation and since ordination. His unwavering faith carried him through the many ups and downs of life and the health challenges that he and his wife, Carol, faced.”

Deacon Michael East, archdiocesan director of deacons, noted Deacon Dearman’s desire to serve at-risk youths and people in jails and prisons.

“He was very passionate in his love of the less fortunate in our society,” said Deacon East, another ordination classmate of Deacon Dearman. “When his health caused him to retire from active ministry in the parish, he continued his ministry to the incarcerated in Marion County Jail, even though at times this was physically very challenging due to his decreasing mobility.”

After he was ordained, Deacon Dearman ministered in his home faith community, St. Rita Parish in Indianapolis, from 2008-11. He then served at the former St. Bernadette Parish in Indianapolis from 2011-13.

He ministered in the Marion County Jail in Indianapolis from 2008-13, when he was granted early retirement for health reasons.

Deacon Dearman’s previous work experience prepared him for this ministry. He worked for a period as a counselor for Public Advocates in Community Re-Entry and the Juvenile Detention Center, both in Indianapolis. He also taught religion at the former St. Andrew-St. Rita Catholic Academy in Indianapolis.

Donald Lee Dearman was born on Aug. 13, 1950, in Indianapolis. A 1967 graduate of Crispus Attucks High School in Indianapolis, he married his wife Carol, who survives, on Nov. 25, 1978, at the former St. Francis de Sales Church in Indianapolis.

In addition to his wife Carol, he is survived by his daughter, Carmen Dearman, his son, Todd Liggins, his sister, Eunice Early, and two grandchildren.

Memorial gifts may be sent to St. Rita Parish, 1733 Dr. Andrew J. Brown Ave., Indianapolis, IN 46202-1998. †

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