Deacon Candidate – Toby Haley – Saints Peter and Paul, Turnersville
When I was a child I was always enamored with chivalric stories. I enjoyed stories about knights. King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table, Roland and El Cid; The Jedi Knights of the Star Wars movies also had a formative impact. The idea of a small elite group sustaining their morals and ethic against larger forces and ideas appealed to me.
This led me to J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of The Rings; the story of a group, with similar morals and ethics, attempting to complete a seemingly impossible quest. The books make no reference to religion, yet Tolkien (a devout Catholic) subtly incorporated Catholic ideology throughout his work. Unbeknownst to me at the time, this was my start towards the Catholic faith.
As I grew up (in a home with no religion) I continued towards the Catholic faith and realized one did not have to be a knight or noble warrior to struggle against injustice and promote the Catholic faith. I found Jesuit Priests at College that clearly fit this mold.
Eventually, I was confirmed in the Catholic faith, yet I found it was not enough. The Catholic Church gave me comfort and a strong foundation, as well as a place for my faith and my relationship with Jesus to grow; Yet, I desired more. I wanted the camaraderie and brotherhood of the stories of those elite groups from my youth. I searched and tried volunteering at my parish as a religious education teacher and a youth minister. I was also a member of a Bible study group and nothing seemed to fulfill my desire. I began to think that such groups were only found in books and movies, and surely I was not qualified to be part of an elite group.
Then I discovered the Diaconate program. People told me it would fit what I was looking for, but I should wait until I had retired or at least until my children were older. They explained it would be easier if I did not have to juggle, family, work, and the diaconate program. I gave this some thought, but I realized juggling requires you have more items than hands, and with the blessing of my wife, I knew I would move forward and apply.
That was three and a half years ago. I am now about half way through the diaconate program. I can proudly say that in the diaconate program I have found the small group of like-minded individuals I had been looking for. I have also become a proficient juggler of life events.
If you have a strong calling to become part of something greater than yourself, and if you realize God does not call the qualified but qualifies the called, you should consider joining the Diaconate program.