Nearly a decade ago, for many different reasons and circumstances, I decided to embark in a whole new direction in a career as a full-time chaplain in healthcare, at St. Vincent’s Medical Center. I remember being tremendously excited as well as terrified leaving all that I had ever really known for my own family’s livelihood. It also happened right before my Dad’s health suddenly declined, leading to his own death. I often think of a conversation that we had after I had told him of my decision to go in this new direction. I am forever grateful for his blessing on this new journey and how he told me that he thought I was acting like an entrepreneur. His words resonate today as he demonstrated his point to me by saying “…not many men do what you’re doing…you will make a big difference in people’s lives!” Those words of affirmation gave me the courage to move in a new direction and lead to life that I would have never imagined for myself. A way where the person I strive to be and my faith, are fully integrated daily, while representing the Church, my Bishop, and St. Vincent’s, at sometimes critical junctions in people’s lives. Serving in hospital ministry is both humbling and privilege as a chaplain/deacon. I consider myself very fortunate to be able to do what I do.
As I have been reading Bishop Sean McKnight’s newly released book about the Diaconate, one of the things that attracted me was one of his descriptions about deacons. It immediately reminded me of my Dad. McKnight says: “Deacons are messengers. They are go-betweens, they are intermediaries…I see deacons as spiritual entrepreneurs in getting ministries started that are needed but currently don’t exist.”
Deacons here in the Diocese of Bridgeport serve is so many different ways. All these manifestations of what it is like to be a ‘spiritual entrepreneur’ confirm what Bishop McKnight is saying. Here are just some examples of the kinds of ministries deacons are involved with throughout the diocese: Deacons work to help get homeless people out of shelters and the streets into housing with programs like ‘Off The Streets’—or have ministries in their parishes that provide necessary food, toiletries and dignity to the homeless—deacons work full time in hospital ministry, or visit the sick in hospitals, nursing homes, in their homes, deacons serve as high school chaplains, or teach full time in our Catholic high schools—deacons work in campus ministry in colleges and universities—deacons are Certified Spiritual Directors—deacons use their financial and business background to serve as parish administrators—deacons serve meals at the Thomas Merton Center and other shelters—deacons serve in prison ministry—deacons run men’s ministry programs in their parishes—deacons serve in various capacities in social justice programs some that provide support to women and children suffering from domestic violence. All these manifestations of ministry and many more not mentioned, plus the ones waiting to be addressed and enfleshed are examples of the endless possibilities that describe what it is to be a ‘spiritual entrepreneur’.
The diaconate has made it possible for me to serve as both a chaplain at St. Vincent’s and as the Coordinator of Diaconate Vocations in the Diocese. These roles were not career paths that I took, they appeared along the way as a result of saying yes many times on my journey. There was a time in my life when I never could have imagined myself serving in either capacity. I recall the afternoon when Bishop Frank asked me to consider serving as coordinator of vocations, again I felt my Dad’s presence, right there in the room with me, saying to me: “You are an entrepreneur!”
Do you wonder sometimes if you too are called to serve as a deacon here in the Diocese? You owe it to yourself to explore that. Come to one of our Diaconate Discovery Evenings here in the diocese. Who knows? Perhaps you too are called to be a ‘spiritual entrepreneur!
Dn Tim Bolton
Coordinator of Diaconate Vocations
Diocese of Bridgeport