June 13, 2008

Deacon candidates comfortable ministering in the workplace

Deacon candidate Dan Collier, a member of St. Malachy Parish in Brownsburg, delivers food items on June 2 to a restaurant in Franklin. Collier has been a truck driver for McLane Food Services for 22 years. (Photo	by Sean Gallagher)

Deacon candidate Dan Collier, a member of St. Malachy Parish in Brownsburg, delivers food items on June 2 to a restaurant in Franklin. Collier has been a truck driver for McLane Food Services for 22 years. (Photo by Sean Gallagher)

By Sean Gallagher

When you think of what men who have been ordained do, certain images usually come to mind: celebrating the sacraments, teaching the faith, listening to those who need help.

How about driving a semitrailer, making a sales call or working on a food processing plant floor?

Those are the jobs of three men who will be among the first group ordained as permanent deacons for the archdiocese on June 28 at SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis.

But they don’t see a sharp distinction between the formal ministry that they will do in the Church as deacons and the way they work their days jobs.

In fact, they say that the formation they have received for more than three years has helped them become better workers.

A different approach to work

As a truck driver for McLane Food Services, deacon candidate Dan Collier drives 1,100 miles per week delivering more than 70,000 pounds of food items to restaurants in Indiana and Illinois.

He said that he’ll get “madder than all get out” when he’s 300 miles away from his company’s warehouse and his load will shift in his semitrailer, forcing him to stop and rearrange it so it stays in place.

“I’ll be mad and I’ll be upset and be tired,” said Collier, who has 27 years of truck driving experience. “But I just pray to God to give me the strength to get through it, and I always do and it always works out. Then I go back to the warehouse and tell them of my experiences so they can learn how to load a trailer properly.”

Since 1991, deacon candidate Bill Jones has worked in a variety of positions for Mariah Foods in Columbus, a company that processes meat items.

“Even when I was in human resources, sometimes I would get fed up [and say], ‘What are you doing here talking to me? I’ve got more important things to do,’ ” said Jones, currently the assistant general manager for his company’s Columbus plant.

“But I’ve become aware that if somebody made the time to come see me about something, it was important to them and I owe it to them to sit and listen to them, no matter how trivial it may seem to me. I learned that through the formation process.”

“He’s very, very helpful,” said Dolores Harper, one of Jones’s co-workers. “If anybody has problems, he’s really a good person to talk to. I’ve noticed that a lot more now than in the past.

“But he’s always been a person to take the shirt off his back to help anybody out, whether he knows him or not.”

The cost of honesty

Deacon candidate Steve Hodges faces temptations every day to lie and cut corners to get ahead in his career.

For 22 years, he has been an independent sales representative for companies that manufacture kitchen equipment for restaurants and other large facilities. For the last 15 years, he has owned the Greenwood-based Genesis Marketing Group.

Hodges said that the president of one manufacturer once said at a sales meeting to the salesmen present that they were “too honest” and that there were ways of talking about his company’s product in which they would “not really be lying, but you’re not really telling the truth [either].”

“I feel that it’s important to get the sale,” said Hodges, a member of SS. Francis and Clare of Assisi Parish in Greenwood. “But I’m not going to sell my soul to get the sale. If I’ve got to lie and cheat and be unethical, I’m not going to do that.”

In the end, Hodges’ honesty actually helps his business by establishing a strong credibility with his clients.

“He’s a salesman. He wants to sell his equipment. But he’s never going to tell you about anything that won’t work. He’s always honest,” said Sherman Robinson of Indianapolis, who has been a food facilities consultant for more than 40 years and has worked with Hodges for more than 20 years.

“I think he has that reputation in the industry, not just with me. We have a lot of respect for him in that way.”

Hodges’ honesty in work is tied to the high value he places on his faith.

“I tell people that the CEO of my company is God,” Hodges said. “It’s just the way it is. I’m the president of the company. But, as far as I’m concerned, it’s God’s company and I try to glorify God in my business.”

Taking it to the streets

Dan Collier’s mind has been turning to St. Paul recently as he has been driving his semitrailer across Indiana’s highways and byways delivering supplies to restaurants.

“Paul was a tentmaker,” Collier said. “He went to these towns and he preached. And he sowed some tents and made a few bucks and he’d move on. Well, I’m out here feeding the people and I’m moving on.”

Collier doesn’t preach as St. Paul did. But he tries to bring the light of Christ in natural ways to the people he encounters in the restaurants on his routes.

“I get to know them, and I interact with the people who put their truck orders away,” he said. “I get to hear a little bit about their personal lives. So, as I leave, I think about them. Sometimes I offer up prayers for them. I have a lot of time behind the wheel to pray or just think or contemplate.”

Because of the transient nature of his work, Collier leaves the end results of his everyday evangelizing to God.

“It’s for the Holy Spirit to make it work after I leave,” Collier said. “I feel like I leave them with a good impression of what it is to be a Catholic, to be a man of God.”

Hodges hopes to bring the people he works with closer to Christ as well.

“I just hope I can be a Christ’s presence to them if they need me,” Hodges said. “I think a lot of them know me well enough that if they have something that they truly need to talk about in a spiritual sense, they can talk to me … ”

Evangelization of this kind in the secular world is primarily the mission of the laity since bishops, priests and religious ordinarily don’t minister in this sphere. But permanent deacons that have other careers can do it as well and are strengthened for it by the grace of holy orders.

Bill Jones hopes he and his fellow soon-to-be deacons will be able to set an example for the laity about how they can share the Gospel in the workplace through being good people and doing their work well and ethically.

“I think if deacons can be that light to show people that this does work, this can work, hopefully, we can affect other people to do it in their workplace, too.”

(For more articles and information about the archdiocese’s deacon program, log on to www.archindy.org/deacon.)

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