October 30, 2020

2020 Vocations Awareness Supplement

Deacon and his wife mentor couples in deacon formation program

Then-deacon candidate Patrick Bower and his wife Lynn process on June 28, 2008, into SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis at the start of the Mass in which he and 24 other men were ordained as the first class of permanent deacons in the history of the archdiocese. (File photo by Mary Ann Wyand)

Then-deacon candidate Patrick Bower and his wife Lynn process on June 28, 2008, into SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis at the start of the Mass in which he and 24 other men were ordained as the first class of permanent deacons in the history of the archdiocese. (File photo by Mary Ann Wyand)

By Victoria Arthur (Special to The Criterion)

Growing up in northwest Indiana in a devout Catholic family, Patrick Bower and his five siblings sometimes pretended to celebrate Mass during playtime, complete with vestments from assorted articles of clothing they had on hand.

Aside from those childhood moments, the thought of pursuing a vocation to ordained ministry never crossed Bower’s mind—until a series of articles in The Criterion changed everything.

Bower was an insurance salesman with two grown children when his wife, Lynn, brought the articles to his attention in 2003. The Archdiocese of Indianapolis was exploring the idea of starting a deacon formation program, and she immediately thought that her husband would be perfect for the role.

Bower was skeptical, but thanks to his wife’s persuasion and the almost ceaseless prompting of others, in June 2008 he was among the first group of men to be ordained as permanent deacons in the history of the archdiocese.

“I put everything in the Holy Spirit’s hands,” Deacon Bower said, speaking not only of his years of formation but every day since his ordination. “I have become a complete believer in the Holy Spirit to help me carry out what I need to do in every situation.”

He is grateful for that divine guidance, because a deacon’s work is never done.

Permanent deacons are distinguished from transitional deacons, who are men in the final stage of formation for the priesthood. Most permanent deacons are married when they are ordained, with families and full-time careers.

In their ministry, they assist priests and serve their parishes in myriad ways. They proclaim the Gospel and preach homilies at Mass, officiate at weddings and funeral services that do not involve the Eucharist, and celebrate the sacrament of baptism. They also dedicate themselves to the service of charity in the broader community.

Deacon Bower was no stranger to service when he embarked on his journey to the permanent diaconate. He had begun bringing the Eucharist to patients at Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis in 1999. Today, he continues to oversee all extraordinary ministers of holy Communion ministers at Methodist, IU and Riley hospitals, all in the capital city.

It was his hospital ministry that opened his eyes to the spiritual needs of people from all walks of life and often facing dire circumstances—and opened his heart to the possibility of doing more for the Church.

“There are so many of what I would call Holy Spirit moments,” said Deacon Bower. “You realize that you may be the last person to talk to someone about Christ. You encounter people who have been away from the Church or families who just want someone to pray with them. Mostly, you are there to listen and meet people where they are.”

Those qualities and strengths—the ability to listen and to accompany people on their individual faith journeys—have been equally valuable in one of Deacon Bower’s most important roles since ordination. It is a role that he shares with Lynn, his wife of 52 years, who continues to walk with her husband every step of the way.

For the past 12 years, the Bowers have served as the mentor couple to other men in the deacon formation program and their wives. They know the long, sometimes arduous road to the permanent diaconate and its effect on the family.

That process begins with a year of inquiry, in which men considering the permanent diaconate attend monthly information sessions held across central and southern Indiana. Spouses are not only welcome but encouraged to join them.

The Bowers were longtime members of St. Barnabas Parish in Indianapolis when this journey began, and Lynn says that their intense discussions during countless long car rides to and from the inquiry sessions solidified their resolve to move forward. They then embarked on four years of formation, which involved a commitment of one weekend per month of college-level theology classes and other training.

“Despite both of us growing up Catholic, we learned so much through this program,” said Lynn, a graduate of the former Chartrand High School in Terre Haute and a longtime preschool teacher and spiritual director. “We both grew tremendously. This entire experience is beyond anything we could have imagined for our lives.”

Deacon Bower, a graduate of Father Thomas Scecina Memorial High School in Indianapolis, says that, from the beginning, he could not envision the formation process without his wife at his side.

“It is such a commitment and so life-changing that I believe it was essential for us to experience it together,” Deacon Bower said.

In their capacity as a mentor couple, they are completely dedicated to the spiritual and practical needs of men in the deacon formation program and their wives, particularly during the monthly weekend formation sessions held at various locations around the archdiocese.

There are currently 21 men in formation for the diaconate, but the Bowers have journeyed alongside nearly 40 others since 2008.

“I don’t think I could pull off a formation weekend without them,” said Deacon Kerry Blandford, director of deacon formation for the archdiocese and another member of the first class of permanent deacons ordained in 2008. “Pat and Lynn are so dependable, and more importantly, they are so approachable for the candidates and their wives. They’re always there to listen, and even after ordination, the deacons often go to Pat for advice.

“Theirs is a ministry of presence.”

Deacon Bower recently began ministry at St. Rose of Lima Parish in Franklin. He also serves the spiritual needs of inmates at the nearby Johnson County Jail.

There, and everywhere he goes, Deacon Bower says he will always place his trust in the Holy Spirit. And he looks forward to continuing to accompany others on their own paths to the permanent diaconate—a vocation that is strictly voluntary, with no monetary compensation but nevertheless immeasurable rewards.

“There are so many blessings,” Deacon Bower said. “And I am so grateful that my wife and my entire family have been part of this journey.”
 

(Victoria Arthur is a freelance writer and member of St. Malachy Parish in Brownsburg.) †

 

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