Vocations: Two become one even though many differences

By Joanne Sanders
Guest Columnist

A dozen years ago we moved from the Galveston-Houston Archdiocese to Austin. When we met our new neighbors, their younger boy, just barely talking, was introduced to my husband, Ray, as Deacon Ray. The little one didn’t know what to call me, so after a time, he decided to call me Mrs. Deacon. Over the years, as I’ve reflected on what that meant, I have come to realize that for me it is a sign of the union not only of our sacrament of matrimony but of our witness as a deacon couple. 
For 50 years, I’ve been a religious educator in the church. My call from baptism was to this ministry, not to the diaconate. But when my husband sensed a call to become a deacon, I had to consent not only to his ordination but to journeying with him in the ministry of diaconate. However, I had engaged in many ministries prior to, during his formation and after his ordination: liturgical (lector, Extraordinary Minister of the Eucharist), service (visiting the sick in the hospital, serving in a food pantry, assisting the poor), religious education (parish director of religious education and eventually diocesan DRE for the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston), sacramental preparation (RCIA director, marriage and baptism preparation, spiritual director, tribunal nullity work) and much more. 
My work in the church has taken me all over the world to attend and give presentations at conferences, as well as author magazine articles and book chapters. I’ve had a rich and varied ministry in the church. Ray has been a deacon for 40 years and has had his own path. Some of that pathway is with me, and some of it is separate. We each have different gifts. But that is me. And that is my deacon husband. 
For as many deacon couples as there are, there are as many different ways of sharing the ministry of the diaconate. Some of the women have their own ministry involvement either with or without their husband. Some of the women have full-time jobs and children to care for or have very young children who demand their attention. Some of the women participate in some of the formation while others attend all. There is enough flexibility in diaconal formation for every model. However, bottom line to all of it is our witness to our faith, our sacrament of matrimony and our commitment to walk the way of the Lord in our everyday lives. 
Knowing the teachings of the church, living the teachings of the church and witnessing to those teachings is critical as a deacon and deacon’s wife. So my husband and I read, listen, study and dialogue so that we are informed by the church. In this day and age, this can be difficult.
Prayer is also an important component in our ministry and relationship. We are different personality types; therefore, we do not pray in the same manner. Sharing the Eucharist is primary. Ray prays the rosary and Liturgy of the Hours. I pray and reflect on Scripture. We pray together at mealtime, when there is a critical situation and for someone’s need. We are different and that is OK.
Our four children are middle-aged adults and our grandchildren have chosen their own faith journeys. We support and pray for them, but we have come to realize that cannot live their lives. All we can do is witness to the love and care of the Lord as we try to do with everyone with whom we meet. 
In our late 70s now, Ray and I know through our lives that the two can and have indeed become one. 

Sessions explore call to the diaconate
Information sessions exploring the vocational call, the qualities of a man suitable for formation, the church’s discernment process, the formation program, diaconal ministry, and implications on marriage will be offered in English and Spanish from 2 to 5 p.m. on the following dates and locations: 
March 13 at St. John the Evangelist Parish in San Marcos
April 10 at the Pastoral Center in Austin
Please note: A pastor’s written consent is required to attend any session.
For more information about diaconate formation, call (512) 949-2459.