Throughout his ministry, Deacon Larry Hatch has preached the value of forgiveness and mercy

By Jenara Kocks Burgess

Correspondent

Deacon Larry Hatch with his wife Sally at the parish hall of St. Agnes Parish in Mena, Arkansas, where he currently serves. (Photo courtesy of the Arkansas Catholic, Diocese of Little Rock)

Forgiveness has played a major role in his ministry to the Church and her people for Deacon Larry Grant Hatch. Dcn. Hatch was ordained in 1989, and then served the next seven years at St. Maria Goretti Parish in Arlington.

“I feel very humbled by it [being called to the diaconate] because I spent four years in the Navy,” he said. “I’m a Vietnam Vet. I’m very humbled that God would choose this blasphemer, this great sinner — that He would forgive me and choose me to serve in this ministry.”

Dcn. Hatch said he first applied for the diaconate program in 1977 in the Archdiocese of Chicago after his parish priest suggested that he look into it.

“I went one semester, and then they asked me to leave. They deemed that I wasn’t spiritually mature enough to serve the Church as a deacon,” he said.

Dcn. Hatch said it was painful at the time, but he realized that they were right. So he and his wife, Sally Ann, continued to serve their parish as they had been.

In 1978 they moved to Fort Worth, and in 1983, after seeing an ad on the front page of the North Texas Catholic newspaper, he called Ann Healey about the first permanent diaconate class forming in Fort Worth.

“At the time, we weren’t subscribers to the North Texas Catholic,” Dcn. Hatch said. “We were going to Mass with the University Catholic Community [at the University of Texas at Arlington] with [the late] Father Jerry Scholl…. so if somebody hadn’t handed me that newspaper, I wouldn’t have known about it. That’s how the Spirit moves,” he said.

Dcn. Hatch was assigned to St. Maria Goretti Parish in Arlington after ordination, and was involved in marriage preparation, RCIA, baptisms, weddings, homilies, some counseling, and a little spiritual direction.

Then he and his family went to St. Joseph Parish in Waxahachie in the Diocese of Dallas for nine years. During his first year at St. Joseph, Dcn. Hatch took a year sabbatical from the diaconate, but after that, he began serving as a deacon there with encouragement from St. Joseph pastor Father Mark Seitz. Dcn. Hatch served six of his eight years at St. Joseph as a deacon with Fr. Seitz, now the bishop of El Paso.

In 2005, Dcn. Hatch and his wife moved to Mena, Arkansas, in the Diocese of Little Rock where he now serves in St. Agnes Parish by helping with marriage preparation, RCIA, preaching, and counseling.

When Dcn. Hatch reflects on his 25 years as a deacon, he describes it as being “up and down — the happiest, saddest, most satisfying, most disappointing, most exciting, most dull time in my life.

“And there have been times — especially in the past 10 years — that I couldn’t sleep at night, and I would tell God, ‘OK, thank you for the gift of Holy Orders, You can have it back now. I don’t want it anymore,’” he said. “But the dawn comes, and you get up and do what God calls you to do.”

Dcn. Hatch talked about very difficult situations over the years when he had to offer consolation or counseling to parishioners whose babies have died or whose parents were murdered. In many cases, forgiveness has been the message he has had to share with them.

“That’s an example of what I deal with,” Dcn. Hatch said. “I’m trying to help people understand the value of forgiveness, and you can’t be getting angry at God because someone stabbed and murdered your father. Because what happens next is they stay away from Mass. And that’s like saying I’m thirsty, but I’m mad at the pump, so I’m not going to get water anymore,” he said.

Dcn. Hatch wrote a book about forgiveness — I Can Hear Your Heartbeat — published in 2012. It’s available on Amazon and Inspiring Voices.com.

“I call it semi-autobiographical fiction,” he said. “It’s a story of forgiveness and how we must forgive unconditionally. I based it roughly on past experiences. I haven’t sold a lot of them, but the people who have read it were very touched by it, by the ministry and the difficulty of how unforgivingness can keep us bound up,” Dcn. Hatch said.

He has also written articles for the Deacon Digest as well as an article called “Keeping the wounds fresh” that appeared in the Arkansas Catholic newspaper three years ago.

“It’s about how unforgivingness keeps us in pain and suffering because we won’t let go,” he said.

“What I’m doing is helping people understand how they can draw closer to God. That’s the whole point. Unforgivingness also keeps us alienated from God,” Dcn. Hatch said.

Dcn. Hatch and his wife of 49 years have four sons, six granddaughters, and one grandson. The youngest of their sons died 10 years ago this November.

“I couldn’t have done a lot of what I have done without my wife Sally’s support and encouragement,” Dcn. Hatch said.

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Forgiveness has played a major role in his ministry to the Church and her people for Deacon Larry Grant Hatch. Dcn. Hatch was ordained in 1989, and then served the next seven years at St. Maria Goretti Parish in Arlington. “I feel very humbled by it [being called to the diaconate] because I spent four years in the Navy,” he said. “I’m a Vietnam Vet. I’m very humbled that God would choose this blasphemer, this great sinner — that He would forgive me and choose me to serve in this ministry.”

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