ST. GERALD

CATHOLIC CHURCH

Ralston, NE

Monthly Reflection

VOCATION INFLUENCES IN MY LIFE

By Deacon George Butterfield

There were many influences in my life that led me to become a Protestant pastor and then, as a Catholic, a deacon. Almost all of them center around the actions of people. Following is a brief overview of what those people did to inspire within me a desire to serve Christ:

1. My parents spoke highly of Christian ministers. I grew up in a family where those who had dedicated their lives to serve His church were honored. It wasn't that we didn't know ministers who were less than friendly, competent, or worthy of emulation. We had a pastor who did not believe in celebrating Christmas (that terrible Catholic invention!). My parents listened to him and took what he said seriously but thought he was a kook on the subject. So, we enjoyed Christmas. But they never criticized him. They respected him even when they thought he was wrong.

2. Individuals spoke to me explicitly about becoming a Christian minister. We know how important it is to pray for vocations, raise our children in a godly home, take them to Mass, and help them receive a solid Catholic education. Yet, eventually it is important that somebody sit down with the person and say out loud that they believe that God has given them wonderful and important gifts that are needed by the Church and the world and "have you ever considered using those gifts to the glory of God through a religious vocation"? At age fifteen I had a man do just this in the front of the church one Sunday. It sparked an internal wrestling match that eventually led me into the Christian ministry.

3. Several Christian ministers set examples of faithfulness and joy and helped me overcome my fears and answer my questions. I can name a number of people who fit this description but I will mention only one: Deacon Tom Valasek. I do not need to tell this parish what a profound impact Deacon Tom had on everything and everybody. But let me tell you what he did to encourage me to consider a vocation as a Catholic deacon. First, Tom demonstrated pure joy. He is the first Catholic deacon I ever got to know and that joy was electrifying. I saw it in him long before we ever spoke. I wanted to be like him. Second, he welcomed me and encouraged me as a new member of the parish and of the adult education committee. He had a way of showing an interest in you that made you feel important. Finally, a bad experience in another diocese had caused me to give up on the idea of becoming a Catholic deacon. Deacon Tom talked with me about reconsidering it. He answered my questions, helped alleviate my doubts and fears, and generally encouraged me to take the leap of faith required to begin the diaconal journey. Deacon Tom illustrated that vibrant ministers of Jesus Christ inspire vocations.

4. My family supported me in my decision. My parents and my children supported me through years of service as a Protestant pastor but the number one support came from my wife, Deb. The people who are the closest to you can do the most to encourage or discourage a religious vocation. I will never forget the day I came home from talking to Deacon Tom and told Deb that I might reconsider the possibility of becoming a Catholic deacon. She was not yet Catholic herself and her response was, "That's fine, honey, but leave me out of it. As long as I don't have to do anything, go ahead and become a deacon." That did not exactly inspire me to go forward. To her credit, though, she eventually did agree to work with me and support me in my formation. Without her it would not have happened. If someone you love is considering a religious vocation, please, please support and encourage them. To God will be the glory.

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