Meet the Class of 2020 deacon candidates
FORT WORTH — The first group of permanent deacons to be ordained in eleven years for the Diocese of Fort Worth will receive the sacrament of Holy Orders on Monday, August 10, 2020. The 24 men have undergone five years of discernment and formation as they prepare to serve Christ's Church more deeply.
In advance of the livestream Mass of Diaconate Ordination at 7 p.m. on August 10, which can be watched at fwdioc.org, we would like to introduce one deacon candidate each day. Please join us in prayer for these men.
Michael Sutton, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, Keller
Michael Sutton is married to Cindi and they are members of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish in Keller. They have two married adult daughters. He has a horticulture degree from Purdue University and has been employed in landscape maintenance his entire career. Currently he supervises a crew maintaining a four-acre private estate.
Several years ago, while working he heard, “You have cultivated my plants long enough, now I need you to cultivate souls.” These words have never left him. A short time later two friends out of the blue asked if he had ever considered becoming a deacon. The thought lingered and through prayer and pastoral counseling he began the diaconate formation journey.
The challenge of discernment and formation is knowing the need to surrender to God’s will, surrendering and then realizing that there is more that needs to be surrendered, although some days are filled with more reluctance to surrender than others. “Perseverance in conforming our lives to God’s will be honored and accepted for God understands the trials of life,” Mike said.
Mike is open to the Holy Spirit for his ministry assignments. He has served those in nursing homes bringing Jesus to them in the Blessed Sacrament. He and his wife have especially enjoyed working together preparing couples for marriage with the “Fully Engaged” program. They are also involved with the preparation of parents and godparents for the Baptism of their children.
Rodney Asebedo, St. Joseph, Arlington
As a founding member of St. Joseph, Rodney Asebedo has served in several capacities but found his love of service in adult education, mostly in RCIA. He was introduced to RCIA by his wife, Linda, who suggested he become a sponsor. After walking for a year as a sponsor, he was added to the RCIA team and also served as RCIA director for 11 years. He also participated in a men’s Scripture study where the participants learned to be men of God in a modern world.
Rodney believes that he has always had a call to the diaconate formation, from his high school days as a CCD teacher, to his college years as a youth director. When his children were of school age, he worked to find a Catholic education for them and was involved when St. Joseph Catholic School was formed. He also served as VP of the St. Joseph Catholic School Advisory Board and was also VP of the Diocesan School Advisory Board.
Rodney and Linda have three adult children. Most of his professional career has been in the telecommunications industry, most recently at NEC America where he currently is a Technical Project Manager for Cloud Services.
From 2008 to 2012 Rodney watched his father-in-law care for his mother-in-law as she suffered several strokes. Rodney learned the importance of visiting the sick and would visit his mother-in-law, and on his visits, he would also check in on others in the nursing home. This became an unofficial ministry of caring for the sick and dying. During his formation, he was able to work with hospice patients and care for them as they died. Rodney would regularly check on those that had no one to visit them. He was blessed to hold the hands of the dying as they journeyed from this life to the next. He hopes to continue serving the sick and dying after ordination.
David Poole, St. Jude Thaddeus, Burkburnett
Dave Poole is a member of St. Jude Thaddeus Parish in Burkburnett. He is the middle son of Deacon Jim and Bonnie Poole of Hewett, Texas. Dave grew up in a military family, and traveled extensively as a child until his father was stationed at Sheppard Air Force Base and subsequently retired from the USAF in 1979. Dave met Margie while in high school at Burkburnett High. He has been married to Margie for 40 years, and they have two adult children and one granddaughter. After Dave’s career in the computer industry, Dave and Margie started their own company planning drug discovery and biotech meetings worldwide.
In the early 2000s, Dave and Margie moved back to Texas to spend more time with family. As a result of attending daily Mass regularly with Margie and attending a five-day Jesuit silent retreat, Christ more fully entered into the forefront of their home and marriage. Dave’s path became crystal clear when his parish priest posed the question, “What will your wife think when you are ordained a deacon?”
Taking this question to Margie and after much discernment, they both agreed to attend the diaconate formation inquiry sessions and then apply for admission into the diaconate formation process. After acceptance into the formation process, they decided to shut down their company to eliminate the travel and focus more fully on the intellectual and spiritual formation. In God’s infinite wisdom, St. Jude Thaddeus was looking for a pastoral assistant to serve the parish cluster of St. Jude Thaddeus in Burkburnett; Christ the King in Iowa Park; and St. Paul in Electra. Dave has held this pastoral assistant position for the past four years.
Throughout the formation process, Dave has had the opportunity to serve his parishioners and community through home visits, Catholic Charities Fort Worth, hospice, and hospital and prison ministries.
Michael Handler, Good Shepherd, Colleyville
Mike Handler served the Church in many ways: as a parish council member, an RCIA catechist, choir member, small faith coordinator, acolyte, and lector. When he felt the initial call to the diaconate, he kept it to himself, not sure if it was just his own thoughts or a true calling from God. It was his wife, Kathy, who asked him one day about being a deacon. It was then he knew God was calling him to ministry. They met with their pastor, Father Richard Eldredge, TOR, who helped them both continue their discernment into diaconate formation.
Mike and Kathy are members of Good Shepherd Parish in Colleyville and have three adult children. A native of Fort Worth, he attended church and grade school at Saint George and Saint John the Apostle. He is a graduate of Nolan Catholic High School. After earning a BBA from Saint Edward’s University in Austin, he went on to earn an MBA and MTS from the University of Dallas. For the past twenty-seven years, the family has owned an insurance agency in the Mid-Cities area of North Texas.
Mike has always enjoyed theological study, but found his time spent as a volunteer with Catholic Charities, in hospice, and as a hospital chaplain to be a gift from God. Being with those living on the margins of society, visiting patients and their families in the hospital, or sitting with those in their last days of life, was an opportunity to reveal God’s love to them. Mike often reflected on how one shows God’s love to the poor and suffering. Saint Augustine’s words provided him the inspiration: “What does God’s love look like? It has the hands to help others. It has the feet to hasten to the poor and needy. It has eyes to see misery and want. It has the ears to hear the sighs and sorrows of men. That is what love looks like.”
Mike says, “My prayer now is 'Lord, let me be your servant.' I look forward to ministering within a parish, getting to know parishioners, and striving to reveal God’s love to them.”
Jesús Humberto Serrano, Our Lady of Guadalupe, Fort Worth
Jesús Humberto Serrano is very grateful to the Lord for allowing him to grow in knowledge and grace through the formation team, the professors, the charity assignments and not forgetting, the parish assignments where he has been given the opportunity not only to serve, but to learn. He is also grateful to his brothers in Christ, from whom he has learned so much, and has kept him going with their support and encouragement, and he is also grateful to all the people including the priests who never stopped praying for him and for all his brother candidates.
Born in Villa Insurgentes, Zacatecas, México, Serrano arrived in the United States in 1978. He has been married to his wife Hilda Serrano for 34 years. He has two daughters and a son, and one grandson. He works in the manufacturing sector, God has blessed him with a small company (Serco Machine Shop) he started in 1993, where they do machining of metal components.
After serving in parishes from a very young age, many years later, around 2014, he found himself wondering what else was there for him. “One day, my pastor called me into his office to tell me he had received from the diocese applications for the permanent diaconate and that he thought I might a good candidate.” Not knowing whether he would be accepted to the diaconate formation, he just put himself in God’s hands and with the consent of his wife, Hilda, they embarked on this journey.
The journey has not been easy, but “it never ceases to amaze me how the Holy Spirit has been there with me in difficult times, especially when faced with writing assignments, when you’re trying to write and nothing comes to mind and all of a sudden, words start flowing. To me, there’s no other explanation than the power of the Holy Spirit enlightening me.”
“It has been a humbling experience, and that is my prayer, that the Lord will keep me humble and attentive to his voice, so as Samuel did, I could also say: ‘Here I am, Lord; for you called me. I come to do your will (1 Sam 3:8, Ps 39:8).’”
Steve Dixon, St. Stephen, Weatherford
In 1996, Steve Dixon, OP, converted to Catholicism at St. Frances Cabrini in Granbury. Steve believes he first heard God’s call to the diaconate 20 years ago, after completing a diocesan lay formation program. After learning more about the formation and role of a deacon, he felt called to continue discerning. He gives credit to his family, friends, and his home parish of St. Frances Cabrini for inspiring him to follow and explore his early stirrings of the call to the diaconate. He is especially grateful to Deacons Jim Bell and Jim Fuller for their guidance and example of full self-giving service. They both inspired Steve to continue following the path of discernment. May they rest in peace.
Steve is married to Cheryl and they have three children. They currently attend St. Stephen Parish in Weatherford. Steve is employed as a Project Manager for Certrec Corporation. Steve joined the U.S. Navy after graduating high school in Kilgore. He served in the U. S. submarine fleet for four years and was discharged from the Naval Reserves after Desert Storm.
Steve found formation both challenging and enlightening. The intellectual formation was enriching, but it was his charitable assignment to John Peter Smith Hospital that exposed him to a deacon’s call to serve those most in need. “Serving at the county hospital opened my eyes and heart to the needs of those who are sick, grieving, and their families. It also provided my first opportunity to minister to the working poor and homeless,” Steve said.
He expressed appreciation for the support of his wife, Cheryl, and his family, who have also grown in faith through the formation process. As a deacon, he looks forward to sharing his gifts through catechesis, parish ministry, and serving those in need.
Bradley Samuelson, Our Lady Queen of Peace, Wichita Falls
Brad Samuelson from Our Lady Queen of Peace in Wichita Falls is married to his wife of forty years, Liliana. They have 3 adult children and 3 (God permitting) soon to be 4 grandchildren.
Brad trained as a physician. He graduated from medical school at the Universidad Libre in Cali, Colombia, as well as the Medical College of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. Brad has recently retired after twenty-five years of solo practice in cardiology. “I am very grateful to the people of Wichita Falls. This town has been very welcoming to me and my family, and I look forward to serving the community for many years.”
Although his father was a Lutheran minister, Brad attributes his spirituality to his wife, Liliana. “From the first time we met in Cali, Colombia, until our marriage in the Catholic Church four and a half years later, Liliana has slowly but surely brought me into the faith, and has shown me how to love Mary.” He answered the call to join the Catholic Church, finishing RCIA in 2001. He desired to learn more about the Catholic faith and joined the St. John Paul II Institute in 2008. At the same time Brad became involved with Christ Renews His Parish at Sacred Heart Parish. He continued with CRHP outreach to St. Francis Cabrini in Granbury, Our Lady Queen of Peace in Wichita Falls, as well as English and Spanish outreach to St. John the Apostle in North Richland Hills. He remembers the day that Fr. Hoa Nguyen suggested he become a deacon. After talking with his wife, they decided to pursue the call.
Brad’s desire is to continue working with the Missionaries of Charity in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, as well as the Mision Elias Profeta with the Carmelite Sisters in Patzun, Guatemala, as he serves the Wichita Falls community with hospital and prison ministry.
Daniel Zavala, Holy Redeemer, Aledo
Daniel Zavala’s call to the diaconate began when he was 25 and he would present Engaged Encounter weekend retreats with his wife, Lani, in California. Other presenting team members and priests would tell him he had the heart of a servant and would be a good deacon. Not knowing anything about what a deacon really was, he had the opportunity to discuss it with a permanent deacon and his wife who were on a retreat team with Daniel and Lani. Daniel knew he was being called, however, with their young children and plans to move; Daniel wasn’t sure when God would reveal His plan to him.
Once all three of their children had left home for college, Daniel took the first step towards answering God's call by enrolling in the Pope John Paul II Institute in 2007. Days before his first interview for the permanent deacon formation in Fort Worth, the program was postponed in 2009. While realizing all things in God’s time, not ours, Daniel was called and compelled to continue his Catholic education while he waited for deacon formation to start back up. Daniel earned his Master of Theological Studies from Ave Maria University Institute for Pastoral Theology in May 2014.
Daniel and Lani spend their time as a sponsor couple for marriage preparation and attend medical missions in Quintana Roo, Mexico. They also enjoy spending time with their four grandchildren and family. Daniel’s mission as a future deacon and bridge to the people of God is “Zeal for Souls!” Daniel wants to help others center their lives around our Lord and make the life and mission of the Church part of the fabric of their lives, bringing our savior Jesus Christ to a world that desperately needs Him!
Eric Hunsberger, St. Mark, Denton
Eric Hunsberger said, “I felt the call to the diaconate when our family lived in Mt. Pleasant, in East Texas, in the early 2000s. St. Michael was a small parish with not many Anglo families. I served two priests during the seven years we lived in Mt. Pleasant: Father Joseph Strickland and Father Gerald Haby. I also credit witnessing the faith of Carol and her father Jim, especially his love of God and our Catholic Church. At the time, our children were young and I could not make the commitment to begin formation.”
For Eric, formation has been a challenge. He was not raised Catholic; he converted after he married Carol and moved to the Fort Worth area. He was confirmed at St. Bartholomew, where his diaconate formation courses began. “I have had to learn or relearn everything from the Sacred Scriptures to the teachings and oral traditions handed down through the Magisterium of the Catholic Church."
"Father Jonathan Wallis told us it was going to be tough; most seminarians are young and are easier to mold; we are older men and can be set in our ways. It has been through the grace of God, the patience of our instructors, and daily prayer that God has replaced my heart of stone with a heart of flesh, and has put a new spirit within me, so I can walk in His statutes, observe and keep His ordinances.” Through formation, he has learned that the diaconate is much more than serving the Church at the Altar of God.
Eric attends St. Mark and St. John Paul II Parishes in Denton, and he and his wife Carol have been married 34 years. They have three children and two grandchildren. He earned a mechanical engineering degree from the University of South Florida and Master of Business Administration from LeTourneau University. Eric is a principle mechanical engineer at Raytheon supporting special tooling and test equipment for the production factories. Eric and Carol moved to North Texas after their marriage and his graduation.
Terry Timmons, Immaculate Heart of Mary, Abbott
Attendance at an ACTS Retreat in 2006 was a spiritual game-changer for Terry Timmons that ignited a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ. Not long after, two ladies on two separate occasions told him that they thought he would make a good deacon. Terry said that he dismissed it after the first lady said something, but then was totally floored by the second one. Terry then went and talked to a friend of his who is a deacon and the deacon told him, “God doesn’t use burning bushes and visible angels much anymore, Terry. He uses people and events, so you better start paying attention.”
Terry has enjoyed the formation classes, including the travel, as it gives his wife Agnes and him time together. “I love the opportunity to be with her. Being a C&E (Christmas and Easter) Catholic when we met in my late teens, Agnes pretty much saved me. She is a rock in my life.” They will celebrate 40 years of marriage this November.
One of the best things that he has gained from formation is the much-improved spirituality and realization of his need to surrender all things and circumstances to the will of God. “I always tell the Lord, you led me to this. I trust that you will lead me through it.” In addition, Terry has loved the camaraderie with his cohorts. “It truly has been a wonderful experience to see all of us candidates and our wives bond together in so many ways during the last five years.”
Terry and Agnes are members of Immaculate Heart of Mary in Abbott and have three adult children and two grandsons. He is a lifelong educator, having served as principal and superintendent at Abbott ISD, as well as teaching in other places — including the school at Abbott's sister parish of Penelope. He currently teaches religion at St. Mary’s Catholic School in West, Texas. In the parish, Terry has served as a lector, Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion, sacristan, and has taught in the RCIA process, Confirmation, and CCD classes. He is a past President of the parish's Pastoral Council, as well as past Grand Knight, and past Faithful Navigator in the Knights of Columbus.
Terry credits the Lord for the way that He has brought so many diverse men and women with different backgrounds and talents to prepare them to do his will. He looks forward to seeing where God leads Agnes and him next.
Ricardo De Leon, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, Keller
Ricardo DeLeon's call to the diaconate was a long process that began in 2008, when he felt a call to serve the infirmed and elderly, while attending a Knights of Columbus 1st Degree ceremony. This led to his involvement in nursing home and homebound ministry, while also serving as an Instituted Acolyte and a trainer of the parish’s Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion. An invitation to participate in Tuesday evening Solemn Vespers made a further change in his spiritual life, leading to regular visits to Adoration and attendance at daily Mass as often as possible. Signs continued to pop up, and with the support of his wife, Estella, he decided that this was a call to seek ordination.
Upon being accepted into formation, his challenge was the rigorous schedule that was expected to be met, and he worried if he would be able to handle the intellectual training, while maintaining a work and family life, but his prayers were answered as he was able to meet the requirements of the program. He credits the Holy Spirit, and supportive messages from his closest friends, with helping him get through those late nights of study; and the loving support of Estella, who gave him all the time he needed to complete his assignments.
Ricardo joined the U.S. Marine Corps in his senior year of high school, after being accepted into their computer science program. He left for boot camp soon after graduation in 1979. Upon his discharge in 1983, he began his IT career, retiring from Dex Media in 2015, after 31 years of service. In 2016, he found his new career working for Catholic Charities Fort Worth, in their transportation department, where he currently works in Community Relations.
Ricardo and Estella are long-time members of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish in Keller. He and Estella have three adult sons..
He is looking forward to serving our Church in whatever capacity he is needed. Although he has a love for serving the sick and the elderly, he is prepared for whatever lies ahead, knowing that God will see him and his family through it.
Richard Wright, St. Mark, Denton
Rick Wright and his wife, Martha, have been married 37 years with two married adult children. With eight grandchildren, the older six are in Catholic schools. Rick’s family roots are in south Texas ranching. He holds degrees in agriculture with graduate business studies from Texas A&M, where he met Martha.
Rick’s corporate career with John Deere spanned over three decades traveling all the states, Canada, Europe, India, and China with responsibilities in marketing, business development, and finance. He attended international business programs at Dartmouth and in England.
After numerous relocations, Rick was transferred home to Texas where he retired in 2014. They joined St. Mark Parish in Denton after the pastor asked Rick to “come and grow” with the parish. Rick served in several ministries, as business manager, and as director of marriage prep during which Rick was asked to consider the diaconate. After discernment, prayers, and encouragement from the Holy Spirit, he entered deacon formation.
Rick loved the academics and letting the Holy Spirit help him grow spirituality and in personal attributes. He enjoyed growing spiritually with Martha while sharing their faith journey with other couples in the program. Rick had charitable assignments in hospital, homeless shelter, and prison ministries. There he learned about the less fortunate in the Denton community, their difficulties, and offered them prayers and hope, reinforcing the human dignity of each person. Being retired afforded him the opportunity to serve at daily Mass and weekday funerals during his final pastoral assignment at Immaculate Conception Parish in Denton.
Rick and Martha look forward to their parish assignment, continuing his service to parishioners and the community, proclaiming the Word of God, and assisting with sacraments.
Patrick Quinn, St. Philip the Apostle, Lewisville
Patrick Quinn said about his discernment to formation for the diaconate, “It’s been a lifelong journey. All of my life I have had a very strong faith and trust in God being in control of my life. I have always looked out for others and as a Boy Scout took to heart the part of the Scout Oath where it says ‘to help other people at all times.’”
Pat has taught all levels of religious education from pre-K through high school youth ministry, RCIA, marriage prep, and Baptism classes.
It was his role model in the Blessed Virgin Mary that helped him to say “Yes” and to trust that God would help him and lead him where He wanted Pat to be. That trust and a “Yes” to his pastor’s request to attend the Light of Christ Institute was where Pat first realized that the diaconate might be where God was leading him. The Holy Spirit even opened a door through a bulletin article that called out to both Pat and his wife, Lisa, regarding the Catholic Biblical Studies Program at the University of Dallas. They prayed about it and followed the Holy Spirit’s inspiration through the entire four-year program which brought them very close in their faith journey as they learned to open the Word of God together.
Pat and Lisa are members of St. Philip the Apostle Church in Lewisville and they have two adult children and two grandsons. Pat attended East Carolina University, where he received degrees in chemistry and psychology. Later he earned his MBA in corporate finance from the University of Dallas. Pat is in his 24th year working for Omnicom where he is the Director of Governance, Risk, and Compliance in the Information Technology field.
During his formation, Pat has served at Immaculate Conception in Denton and is now assigned to St. Francis of Assisi in Grapevine. Pat was given ministry assignments during formation and worked with hospice, the Denton State Supported Learning Center, and the Monsignor King Homeless Shelter. He said, “It was like God opened my eyes, ears, and heart to see Jesus present in the marginalized of our community and to understand their needs and share God’s love with them. This is why the Beatitudes are such an important element of our faith.” It is obvious that these experiences greatly humbled Pat and helped him enhance and focus his prayer life on the lonely and suffering in our community.
Pat is very excited and feels blessed to continue to follow where the Holy Spirit takes him and to be a humble servant configured to Christ in service to the Diocese of Fort Worth and its people.
Thien Ta, St. George Parish, Fort Worth
Thien Ta has served the Church since his youth. He said, "Growing up in an immigrant family, I was taught to be involved with church activities, beginning with altar serving, then later the choir and other ministries. During my marriage preparation, I was inspired by God’s word and developed a love for sacred Scripture. As such, I began to be actively involved in catechesis, Bible study, Cursillo, and youth ministry. I also helped my beloved dad to publish and distribute the Vietnamese Divine Mercy prayer booklets and cards as part of his apostolate."
While participating in the Fort Worth Diocesan Synod of 2000, a priest planted the seed of a permanent diaconate vocation in his mind. In 2010, he began to inquire with his wife, Mai Tuyet Nguyen. So, his diaconate journey stretches out to more than ten years with lots of prayers and trust in God’s plan. He said, "This has taught me that it is not about me but is about God. Humility and trust led to many tearful yet joyful Christ moments during discernment, as well as the wonderful experiences gained through hospital chaplaincy."
He and his wife have four grown children, three daughters, and one son. They are members of St. George Parish, with a close tie to Christ the King Church, a Vietnamese community of his childhood and family. He is a UT-Arlington engineering alumnus, and he works for Lockheed Martin, "to proudly contribute to the defense of this nation."
"I am thankful for my family and relatives, who supported me throughout this journey, especially my wife. She has been with me through the entire five years of classes. She helped me to focus and is on her knees praying tirelessly, that I may become a docile instrument in Christ’s redemptive work," he said.
As a deacon, Thien looks forward to witnessing diaconal and marriage vocations and serving the Church in Tribunal advocacy, sacramental preparation, catechetics, hospital ministry, and social outreach.
Steve Holton, Holy Family, Fort Worth
In the summer of 2010, Steve Holton experienced a profound moment, when he heard one of Monsignor Joseph Pemberton’s homilies referencing Isaiah 6:8: Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, 'Whom shall I send? Who will go for us? . . . Here I am Lord, send me.'" This Scripture penetrated Steve’s heart and led him to inquire about diaconate formation. Remembering that moment, Steve recalls, “As we walked out of Mass that morning, I looked at my wife, Debi, and mentioned the personal calling I felt during the homily. Debi had felt it too, and encouraged me to continue praying and see where God would lead me.” Within one month, Steve and Debi enrolled in the John Paul II School of Lay Ministry and upon completion, Steve continued his spiritual journey to Permanent Diaconate Formation.
Steve’s journey in his Catholic faith began at home through the example set by his parents and large extended family, particularly his great-grandmother, “Granny,” who led a life of prayer and walked to Mass daily. When Steve was 11 years old, his parents relocated the family to Fort Worth, where Steve and his family began attending St. Alice Church.
Steve graduated from Western Hills High School and continued his undergraduate education at Tarrant County College and the University of Texas at Arlington. During and after college, he worked in retail sales and management for Dillards, then earned the position of Marketing Director for Ridgmar Mall. During this time, he met his future wife, Debi, a marketing and graphic designer. Several years later, Steve began his career in the luxury automotive industry, working in sales, finance, and management for Mercedes, Cadillac, and Lexus and continues to work in the automotive industry to this day as a finance manager.
A parishioner of Holy Family Church since its inception in 1969, Steve was joined with his wife Debi in the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony in 1981 at the parish.
All glory and honor to God, the Lord’s grace brought Steve and Debi through these past years of formation, continually molding their hearts. Steve is humbled and grateful to God for the blessing of formation, community, and call to Holy Orders to serve our Lord Jesus Christ.
Gustavo Garcia, St. Jude, Mansfield
In 2009, Gustavo Garcia registered to attend the St. John Paul II Institute and was handed an application for permanent deacon formation. Since his kids were still small, he prayed about it and consulted with the deacon at St. Jude. He suggested that he wait until his kids were older. The permanent deacon formation program was suspended a couple of weeks later.
When the diocese decided to bring back the program in 2014, his pastor, Fr. George Foley, asked if he would be interested in registering for the permanent deacon formation program. This time his kids were older, he prayed about it, and as a family they discussed it. They all agreed that it was time to answer the call of the Lord and see where He wants Gustavo to serve Him.
Gustavo was born in Jalisco, Mexico, and immigrated with his parents to the United States of America in 1980 in search of a better opportunity for the family. He lived in Chicago for 21 years and moved to Texas in November 2001. He has been a member of St. Jude Parish in Mansfield since 2002.
After high school, he started working in the sheet metal fabrication / contract manufacturing industry where he gained experience in the different positions, from machine operator to director of materials. He always enjoyed the logistics and materials side of the business. He met his wife Eugenia at his workplace in Chicago and has been married for 26 years. They have 3 kids.
The formation journey has been a great experience for Gustavo and Eugenia but has also helped their kids grow in their faith. They are blessed to have this great opportunity to grow in our faith as a family. Balancing the requirements of formation with family life and his job have been challenging, but with God’s help and the support and encouragement of his family, he has been able to persevere. He's grateful to his wife, kids, his parents, and the formation team for their support and encouragement.
As a deacon of the Church he looks forward to ministering to those who need help finding their way back to God, and those who have never had a relationship with Jesus. He enjoys prison ministry and hopes that he has the opportunity to continue in this ministry and hopefully get others involved.
Mark Gannaway, St. Bartholomew, Fort Worth
Mark Gannaway, and his wife, Teresa, did not consider the diaconate until being approached by their priest, Father Jim Pemberton, in the fall of 2014. He asked them to prayerfully consider the calling to the diaconate and to participate in the Inquiry process. Gannaway’s plan at the time was to sell his insurance company, retire, buy a RV, and drive off into the sunset with his beautiful bride.
His approach to the diaconate process starting Day 1, was always to follow God’s will, through daily prayerful discernment and listening to His whisper through the roller coaster of life. “We literally took it one day at a time. Many of my candidate brothers felt the calling early on; I wasn’t so confident. God had a lot of ‘forming’ to do."
"I always thought I needed to be a person in control and in charge to be happy. Now being called to be obedient, a servant to all, and depend solely on my Creator for not only my daily walk but for the rest of my life was to me a huge challenge.” But God through His love, mercy, and incredible grace, brought him through a powerful formation process that showed him that underneath all these “worldly” layers, there was a heart of a deacon inside. The charity assignments as a hospital chaplain, working in a large homeless shelter, and then being with people in their final days on earth as a hospice volunteer showed him what true joy, happiness, and purpose are really about.
Gannaway graduated from Texas Tech University in 1980 with a Bachelor of Science degree. He entered the insurance industry in 1982 and has enjoyed a successful career for 37 plus years managing or owning several different insurance entities. He has represented Lloyds of London as a U.S Coverholder for 32 years.
Mark and Teresa are blessed with two grown children and six beautiful grandchildren from 5 to 17 years of age. They have been members of St. Bartholomew Church in Fort Worth for 35 years.
Mark and Teresa are incredibly grateful for these past five years of formation. He believes “The ‘scales’ have been removed from our eyes, our marriage is stronger than ever, we have all these wonderful new relationships with others on this journey, and we’re excited about serving God every day no matter how difficult because we know He is with us.”
David Bindel, Sacred Heart, Wichita Falls
David Bindel credits his wife, Linda, and their three adult children to contributing to his ongoing formation over the past several years.
At the encouragement of his father-in-law and other family members, David finished his college degree and earned his master’s degree in adult education with the help of his wife and children. That alone would have been a great story, but even greater things were ahead as the calling to the diaconate was made clear in 2008. Like many others who first heard the call or would have responded to someone’s suggestion, it was a humbling experience to be held in such regard. Taking part in a Christ Renews His Parish renewal weekend helped bring fruit to the notion and sparked an even greater light along the path. His pastor then, and friend now and forever, Fr. Hoa Nguyen, contributed considerably then and now to his journey.
The path has been wide and varied with a share of struggles, including a stretch of months of unemployment, yet is has been fruitful over the years, bringing David to work for the Church as opposed to the secular world. The adult education he set out to do in the corporate world he does now for the Body of Christ, working as a pastoral assistant at Sacred Heart, the same parish where he and Linda married more than 30 years ago.
Throughout formation, he found himself cooperating more with God’s will as he trusted His way and not his own. ‘I was thinking it was going to be easy after school and it was for a while; I soon found out God had other plans for me.’
What he looks forward to most is serving others, particularly with the sacraments, including marriage preparation with those beginning their married life as well as those who have had their troubles from marriages past with declarations of nullities.
Juan Molina, St. John the Apostle, North Richland Hills
Juan Molina can attribute his calling to the diaconate back to his childhood, when he served as an altar server in his home parish of St. Clare in San Antonio. He can vividly remember kneeling next to the altar, watching the Body of Christ being raised and feeling a tug in his heart. That “tug is still present in my heart. I look forward with joy, excitement, and anticipation to the service of the people of God in the parish community and in the Church in general.”
A San Antonio native, he graduated from South San Antonio High School in 1984 and graduated from the University of Texas at San Antonio in December 1992.
He and his wife, Monica, moved to Fort Worth in 1993 via a promotion into management with Dillard’s Dept. Stores. He has worked for Dillard’s for thirty-five years in their distribution center. They have three daughters and two beautiful grandchildren.
Juan became actively involved in various ministries in his home parish of St. John the Apostle in North Richland Hills in 1999 where he served as a homebound extraordinary minister of Holy Communion, a sponsor couple for Pre-Cana, and a catechist for 18 years. He sings in both the English and Spanish choirs, plays guitar, and serves as part-time choir leader.
Paul Mahoney, Good Shepherd Parish, Colleyville
Paul Mahoney said, “Several years ago, I felt called to do more and grow in faith. So, I asked the Lord to show me where He wanted me to go on this faith journey and He fulfilled this request by surrounding me with so many strong believers. This led to a desire to learn and share our faith, which instilled a greater call to serve Christ and His Church. I have been called to step up my relationship with God and to use my time and talent to do His will while sharing the love, grace, and compassion of Christ with others.”
Paul is originally a parishioner of Good Shepherd Catholic Community in Colleyville where he was actively involved in parish ministry for 10 years. Throughout the diaconate formation journey, Paul had the distinct privilege of serving in pastoral assignments at St. Philip the Apostle Parish in Lewisville, St. John the Apostle in North Richland Hills, and at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton in Keller. Additionally, he enjoyed serving ministry of charity assignments at John Peter Smith Hospital, Presbyterian Night Shelter, Vitas Hospice, and a mission trip to Louisa, KY.
Paul and his wife Karen have been married for 31 years. She works as a registered nurse at Cook Children’s Hospital in Fort Worth. Paul enjoys a career in the building products and home services industry where he has been working for the past 31 years.
Paul and Karen have two sons: Jordan is a graduate of Oklahoma State University and is currently in Flight School to become a commercial airline pilot. Dylan is entering his senior year in the Aerospace Engineering School at Texas A&M.
2 Corinthians 5:17: So, whoever is in Christ is a new creation: the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come.
Gary Endres, Sacred Heart, Muenster
Gary Endres says, “God has been calling me for most of my life to either become a deacon or to participate in some position in the Church. However, the timing was never right until recently. As I was considering the diaconate program, several people encouraged the idea and mentioned to me they believed I would succeed in it! Over the past years of frequent study, prayer, and training, many friends have told me they are praying for me and have been doing so every day since I began discernment in this process. These have definitely been a major part of my success.”
Gary, a member of Sacred Heart Parish in Muenster, has been married to Mary for 43 years. They have 8 adult children, 6 of whom are married and 2 who currently attend college. Gary and Mary are blessed with 26 grandchildren so far!
Gary earned a master’s degree in education from North Texas State University (now UNT). He taught math and coached football, basketball, and track for 7 years in Mesquite. He sold cars for 2 years and snack food for 2 years. For the last 32 years, Gary has enjoyed running his own floor covering retail business in Gainesville.
Gary affirms the value of formation. He says “I really liked the formation classes – except for the papers we needed to write which were quite challenging and reminded me of my college years! This formation has really reinforced my belief in the Catholic Church. I truly believe the Church can lead us all down the right path to grow closer to Jesus and to following the will of God. I believe God wants me to serve Him by serving others in their journey in the Catholic Church.”
Manuel Vasquez, Sacred Heart, Wichita Falls
Manuel "Manny" Vasquez started to hear God’s calling to the diaconate while serving in youth ministry at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish in Odessa. During this time, he attended retreats as a sponsor and a participant. Eucharistic Adoration and retreats were spiritual game changers for him and they ignited a deeper relationship and love for Christ.
In 2012, Dcn. Francis Onyekozuru (now a priest), encouraged him to discern God’s calling to the diaconate. Manny’s life was pretty hectic and he wasn’t certain what God was asking of him, because he did not deem himself worthy of the call. Through prayer and the support of family and friends, who also affirmed this direction in his life, he placed his life in God’s hands and prayed, “If this is your will God, make the path and I will follow.” I guess you can say the rest is history!
Manny and Licia have been married for thirty years. They have three adult children, a son-in-law, and five grandchildren. They are members of Sacred Heart in Wichita Falls. Manny joined the Marine Corps after high school and served honorably as an Aviation Ordinance Technician for 6 years. He has held leadership positions in technology and professional services throughout his career and is currently employed by MSC Industrial Supply as an Inventory Management Specialist. Manny and Licia have been involved with catechesis for many years (mainly Licia); starting in South Carolina where they were stationed while in the Marines.
Balancing formation, his job, and family life was challenging, but he found that God always provided a path. Manny is grateful to all who have offered prayers and support, especially Fr. Francis, his family, the formation team, his employer, and most importantly Licia. He knows without her love and support, none of this would have been possible. As a deacon, Manny is open to serve wherever the Holy Spirit leads him.
Thomas Doran, Good Shepherd Parish, Colleyville
Tom Doran has served in various ministries at Good Shepherd Parish and heard his call to the diaconate through regular attendance at Adoration. “The nearly six-year formation process has been a time of spiritual growth and a deepening of my relationship with Christ and His Church. It is a process of letting go and fully trusting in God. This process affirmed my calling to the diaconate and allowed me to experience many ways of serving Christ and His Church”.
He continued, “The opportunity to serve the homeless, the sick, and dying in various pastoral ministries was a very humbling experience. These encounters could involve praying, listening, or simply just being present as guided by the Holy Spirit.” Parish internships, including various assignments, include participating in the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults process. “I was blessed to have had the opportunity to teach and mentor candidates and catechumens over the last several years in RCIA. To open the scripture, the sacraments, and the Mass, and to accompany them on their faith journey was such a privilege.”
Tom and his wife Mary Ann have two adult daughters, a son-in-law, and a grandson. Tom recently earned his Master of Arts in Theology from St. Joseph College. He has spent most of his career in the financial services industry in the area of business analysis and project management. He is currently employed by Toyota Financial Services as a Senior Enterprise Compliance Privacy Analyst.
Tom feels blessed to have been called to the diaconate and looks forward to serving the Fort Worth Diocese in various charitable, pastoral, and liturgical roles as directed by the bishop.
Ralph Lira, St. Peter, Lindsay
Ralph Lira felt the call to the diaconate while on a men’s retreat where he met and became friends with a deacon candidate. Deacon Barry answered Ralph’s questions and is still a great resource for him. Ralph also was influenced by his pastor from St. Mark, Fr. Tim Thompson, as he discerned his call.
The intellectual formation has been challenging for Ralph but very rewarding and there is still so much to learn. “The greatest gift was our ability to take the book knowledge and put it into practice as community volunteers in different venues.” Ralph experienced the face of Jesus Christ in a profound way serving at the Monsignor King Outreach Center for the homeless in Denton. “And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to the least of these brethren, you did it to me.’” “These people of God showed me who we are called to serve,” he said.
Ralph Lira is married to Susan and they have two adult children. Together they own Precision Art Dental Lab in Denton and continue to fabricate dental prosthetics.
One of the many gifts of formation is the relationship with his wife, Susan, which has grown stronger through the process. “Many people advised us not to work together in our business but Susan’s background as a Kansas farm girl who watched her father and mother work together every day gave us the desire to make it work.” Ralph looks forward to serving where the Bishop calls him to and feels the call to teach, especially in family catechesis.