Two men ‘raised to the Order of the Diaconate’

Deacons William Fox and Timothy Leete stand beside Bishop James V. Johnston, Jr. at the doors to the Cathedral following their May 13 ordination to the Diaconate. (Marty Denzer/Key photo)

By Marty Denzer
Catholic Key Associate Editor

KANSAS CITY — With their families and friends watching, seminarians Timothy Leete and William Fox were ordained to the Diaconate May 13 at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. As Bishop James Johnston, Jr., said during his homily, for their mothers, Lily Jo and Betty, it was “a Mother’s Day gift they wouldn’t soon forget. “

The day’s readings were familiar — the ordaining of “seven reputable men, filled with the spirit,” to do works of charity in the Apostles’ names, in other words, the first Deacons.

Bishop Johnston went on to describe the life and ministry of a deacon, saying that certain gifts are given to be used in service, to build up others in love.

“A Deacon should be a good man,” he said, “not just a likeable fellow … but a man who has integrated the Word of God into his life. His works grow up the Kingdom of God, and in serving others he grows in Christ-like love.” He explained that the qualities of a Christian life are magnified in the life of a Deacon in the Church as he lives in cooperation with the Holy Spirit.

“Coupled with this goodness,” Bishop Johnston continued, “a man must be generous to be a good deacon. He must take an inventory, know his gifts and have no fear or reservations about putting them to help and to serve others. This is especially true for his time. Time in prayer, time given to listening; time given to and being with others; time for work and study. Unused gifts are ultimately wasted gifts.

“To this the Gospel adds the necessity of humility,” he added. The Deacon should “imitate Christ who, though he was in the form of God, did not want equality with God, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant. Jesus extends this attitude to his Apostles, and … to all bishops, priests and deacons. He said, ‘Whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you shall be your slave. For the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, giving his life in ransom for many.’ The humility of authentic love is essential for a good deacon.”

The bishop mentioned another of the weekend’s events, several shows at Sprint Center with country music star Garth Brooks. “One of his biggest hits is ‘Friends in Low Places,’” he said. “Jesus is telling us to serve people in low places, to accompany people in low places, to make friends with people in low places. … the poor, the lonely, the vulnerable, the ordinary, those abandoned in nursing homes, the awkward person with no friends … friends with people in all places, especially … people in low places. A Deacon and a priest should have lots of friends in low places, and we will, if we serve as Jesus did.”

He explained the Deacon’s role — “helping the bishop and his priests in the ministries of the Word, of the altar and of charity — showing themselves … servants to all.” As such, they will proclaim the Gospel, prepare the sacrifice, and distribute the Body and Blood to the faithful. They will, at the bishop’s direction, instruct people in holy doctrine, preside over public prayer, administer Baptism, assist at and bless marriages, bring Viaticum to the dying, conduct funeral rites and perform works of charity in the bishop’s or pastor’s name. With God’s help, they go about all their duties in such a way that they are recognized as disciples of him who came not to be served, but to serve.”

Timothy and Bill were admonished to “exercise your ministry committed to the celibate state … Compelled by the sincere love of Christ, living this state with total dedication, you will bring yourself more closely to Christ, with an undivided heart. You will free yourself more completely for the service of God and man and minister more effectively the work of spiritual rebirth. Firmly rooted and grounded in faith, you are to show yourselves chaste and beyond reproach before God and man, as is proper for the ministers of Christ and stewards of God’s mysteries.”

Following the ancient ritual when Bishop Johnston laid his hands on Timothy and Bill’s heads, consecrating them with the Prayer of Ordination, Deacons Timothy and Bill were vested in the stole, worn over the left shoulder, and the dalmatic. Msgr. Blacet, pastor of Our Lady of Good Counsel, vested Timothy and Deacon Paul Neuhedel of Maria Regina Parish, Seaford, NY, Diocese of Rockville Center vested Bill. The new deacons knelt before Bishop Johnston, who handed the Book of the Gospels to them, reminding them: “Receive the Lord whose herald you have become. Believe what you read. Teach what you believe. Practice what you teach.”

Deacon Bill recalled, “When Bishop Johnston laid hands on my head, it was a peculiar experience … even though I was fully expecting it, I felt an odd sense of surprise. Certainly, the reading from The Acts of the Apostles was still ringing in my ears, and I felt some connection to those first seven deacons. … But the actual experience of the bishop imposing his hands on my head … far transcended any merely emotional or intellectual experience … a fancy way of saying I cannot find words to describe it.”

Timothy Leete grew up in Independence, the youngest of five children. He attended Holy Family School and St. Mary’s High School, graduating in 1987. His parents were active at St. Mary’s and later St. Joseph the Worker parishes, serving as readers, Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion, and volunteers for parish functions.

The Leete children were taught early to pray; prayer before meals and Mass attendance was mandatory. “My father was always willing to discuss any questions I had about the faith,” Timothy recalled, “and there were always good, Catholic books scattered around the house. My parents … made it clear that faith was not something that just happened on Sunday; it is … lived throughout the week and should influence everything we do. Faith was … important … they conveyed that to me very emphatically.”

Timothy’s father died in 1993 of brain cancer. “My parents had been married almost 36 years. Although they had various disagreements … they shared a great love. Especially during my father’s last illness, I witnessed my parents’ extraordinary devotion and bond as my mother tried to ease his pain. This to me … demonstrated the amazing sacrifice required sometimes for love.

“I always felt the love and support of my family,” he continued, “and knew they would be there if I needed them … I know that I can approach any of them with a problem if the need arises.”

His mother, Lily Jo, has always lived in the Kansas City area.  She was raised Baptist and for the first 20 years of marriage, she attended Mass every Sunday and holy day with the family, as well as participating in various parish functions, but remained Baptist. She later became Catholic.

She worked as a secretary for a local grocery chain … then later as an administrative assistant for Goodwill Industries. She is now retired. “She promised her prayers and support as I continued my seminary studies,” Timothy said.

“My father asked me several times to consider the priesthood,” Timothy continued. “When I was in high school, the late Msgr. Mancuso asked me if I had thought about becoming a priest. Although I can’t say I took them seriously … the seed of my vocation was planted. … Other priests have inspired me, including Msgr. William Blacet, pastor of Our Lady of Good Counsel, my home parish. More than 70 years a priest, he is an example of the dedication and self-sacrifice priests are called to and the ideal example of a priest who considers his calling to be truly a vocation, not just a job.”

Timothy first considered a vocation the summer of 1987, but not seriously. “I spent a good portion of my life running from God … yet he continued to knock at the door of my heart. He never abandoned me. God has blessed me in so many ways and I am grateful for what he has done. Even the problems and sufferings he allows … are for our benefit. I admit … I don’t always view them that way, at least initially.

“In 2009 I began studies at St. Gregory the Great Seminary in Seward, Neb., and received a B.A. in Philosophy in May 2011. I studied Theology at the Pontifical College Josephinum in Columbus, Ohio., and have fond memories and many friends from both schools.” In fact, the seminary Rector, Assistant Dean of Men and two nuns attended his diaconate ordination.

Timothy took two years off for discernment, working for James B. Nutter Company. Earlier he had worked eight years at Transamerica Life Insurance Company and before that about four years as an unsecured vehicle Recovery Agent, assisting banks and finance companies. He worked part time during the 1990s as a DJ at various Kansas City radio stations.

He served his pastoral year at St. Mark’s Parish in Independence, and is assigned to serve there this year, also. In April, he received the 4th degree of the Knights of Columbus, and is a member of St. Mark’s and Nativity of Mary parishes Fr. James L. Wallace Council #6794.

“I am so thankful to my brother Knights for their support over the years,” he said. “The Serra Clubs of Kansas City provide amazing support to seminarians. … Thank you to all the people and clergy of the diocese who continue to offer their prayers and support to us.”
Deacon Bill Fox was born and raised in Long Island, Nassau County, New York.

Deacons Leete and Fox prepare the altar in the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception for the Eucharistic celebration minutes after they were ordained to the Diaconate. Dressing the altar is one way of helping the Bishop and his priests. (Marty Denzer/Key photo)

He wrote about his call to the priesthood. “My father was an electrician in New York City and Mom a homemaker, although when times got tough, she would find a job to help keep us afloat. My parents were very involved with Marriage Encounter and with FIRES, a less-well-known faith program developed by Marriage Encounter’s founder, Father Gabriel Calvo. This put us in contact with many holy, dynamic priests. The example of one of those priests, Father John Tackaberry, a Vincentian, is what prompted me to first think about a vocation to the priesthood.

“My family was also very involved in Scouting. Shortly after earning the Ad Altare Dei religious emblem when I was 15, I was invited to become a youth member of the Rockville Center diocesan Catholic Committee on Scouting, an opportunity to work with both faithful and committed laypeople and talented priests. God was clearly calling me to … the priesthood; … I must have been working hard not to hear Him.”

After graduating with a psychology degree from SUNY- Stony Brook, Bill found himself in social work. He spent about 21 years first as a foster care caseworker, then coordinating adoptions and later developing ways of helping social workers do their jobs better. An Eagle Scout, he has stayed active in Scouting.

Bill learned how to sing in his parish folk group, and later the choir, where he long served as cantor.

“All the while,” he recalled, “I couldn’t shake God calling me to the priesthood … life got in the way — I encountered obstacles and tried hard to take those obstacles as God telling me that He did not, in fact, want me to be a priest. But with God’s help, I got rid of those obstacles and He prompted me to try to follow Him as a priest.”

While he was considering which diocese to apply to, trusted priests gave advice and he prayed to the Holy Spirit for guidance. “My mother, my sister and her children live in Lee’s Summit, and the Holy Spirit prompted me to apply to the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph.” The Vocations Office, then-led by Father Richard Rocha, greeted him enthusiastically and eventually accepted Bill into formation for the priesthood.

“I was sent to Holy Apostles Seminary in Cromwell, Connecticut. … Seminary life is very active and seminarians are encouraged to take opportunities to serve and to lead.” Bill was the “Cantor Coach,” helping newer seminarians learn to choose hymns and how to sing and chant. He also is Past-Grand Knight of the seminary’s Knights of Columbus council.

“My first summer assignment as a seminarian, in 2014, was at Coronation of our Lady Parish in Grandview. In summer 2015, I went on the ‘Rome Experience,’ a six-week pilgrimage and educational program for diocesan seminarians from around the country, traveling to France, Italy and Spain. Summer 2016 was split between staffing Camp Savio and Camp Bosco and then at St. Ann’s in Plattsburg and St. Joseph’s in Easton.” Bill invited the campers to his ordination and several middle schoolers attended with Diane Pickert, St. Gabriel Archangel Parish youth director.

“Mom is ‘thrilled for my son who has always been a blessing for the family, and my late father would have been crying and smiling all at the same time,’” Bill said.

Deacon Bill is assigned to Good Shepherd Parish in Smithville. “I went to a daily Mass once and it struck me as a beautiful church and a vibrant community. I look forward to serving at Good Shepherd,” he said.

Both Deacons expect to be ordained priests next year.

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Saturday
August 19, 2017
Newspaper of the Diocese of Kansas City ~ St. Joseph