SOUTH BEND — This year the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend will honor 10 faith-filled men who are celebrating anniversaries to the diaconate at a celebration Mass to be held Aug. 10 at 10 a.m. at St. Matthew Cathedral in South Bend. These devout Catholic men participated in the study and formation of the diaconate, were ordained and have served in the diocese, some for over 40 years. The jubilarians are Deacon Ervin Kuspa, 42 years; Deacons Kevin Ranaghan, Eugene Egendoerfer and Paul DeCelles, 40 years; Deacons Paul Dits and James Rauner, 39 years; Deacon Brian Miller, 38 years; and Deacons Guy Gizzi, Joseph Messina and James Walsh, 30 years.
The diaconate was restored as a permanent ministry, in 1967 by Pope Paul VI at the time of the Second Vatican Council. The first deacon was ordained in the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend in 1971.
The deacon is called to be a witness and example of service to the Church typically serving in parish ministry, but can be found providing care to the poor, sick and needy in hospitals, nursing homes, jails and other areas in need. The deacon can preside at Baptisms, weddings and funerals when there is no Mass and assists the parish priest wherever he is called.
Deacon Ervin Kuspa celebrated his 42nd year as deacon in the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend this year. He was the first deacon to be ordained in the diocese back in May of 1971. He was ordained by Bishop Leo A. Pursley at St. Matthew Cathedral in South Bend. During his ministry as deacon he has served at St. Anthony de Padua, St. Adalbert and Our Lady of Hungary parishes in South Bend celebrating Baptisms, weddings, funerals and Bible studies. Deacon Kuspa also assisted at Masses as well as offering sermons and has been chaplain of the Legion of Mary and for Memorial Hospital in Mishawaka. He taught theology at Marian High School as well.
Now at 84 years and after some difficult health issues, Deacon Kuspa says his diaconate ministry is “still exploratory.”
“The diaconate is never finished. It keeps changing all the time. People change, things change,” he says, adding, “I loved it when it started, and I still love it. … I’d tell interested people it’s important to know Scripture. Keep going, keep praying!”
Deacon Kuspa and his wife Veronica have three children and three grandchildren.
Deacon Kevin Ranaghan celebrated 40 years in the diaconate. He and wife Dorothy married in August of 1966 at Little Flower Parish in South Bend. They have six children and 15 grandchildren. Deacon Ranaghan was ordained by Bishop Leo A. Pursley on June 29, 1973, at St. Matthew Cathedral in South Bend. He served as executive director of the diocesan deacon-training program from 1971 to 1975. After his ordination he was assigned to Sacred Heart Parish at Notre Dame and subsequently was assigned as diocesan liaison to the Catholic Charismatic Renewal. In 1984 he was assigned to St. Bavo Parish in Mishawaka and continues his ministry there today.
Like the other deacons of the diocese, Deacon Ranaghan preaches at Sunday Masses, prepares parents for their children’s Baptisms, and regularly assists at Masses. He says, “Inside and outside the parish I seek to foster friendship with Jesus and participation in the life of the Church through personal relationships and conversation.”
Of the ministry he says, “The diaconate has been both a blessing and a challenge.” While he embraces the many opportunities to serve inside and outside the Church and enjoys working with clergy and laity, he admits the commitment places high demands on marriage and family life. He says, “In a sense Dorothy and I are partners in this service. … I could never have done the work of a deacon without her support.”
Though all service as deacon is significant to him, Deacon Ranaghan feels sharing the Gospel of the Lord in formal preaching and in personal conversation is the most meaningful.
Deacon Eugene Egendoerfer celebrates his 40th jubilee as deacon this year. Born in South Bend in 1931, he married Winona in 1950. The couple moved to Texas with their family of six children in 1967 and he began in the first class of deacon training with 42 other men in the Galveston-Houston Diocese in 1970. After moving back to Mishawaka in 1971, Deacon Egendoerfer began deacon training in the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend. His ordination took place in St. Matthew Cathedral in 1973 with four other men. Bishop Leo A. Pursley presided.
Deacon Egendoerfer served at Queen of Peace in Mishawaka from 1973-1999. Currently he serves at St. Frances X. Cabrini in Parrish, Fla., and at St. Luke’s in Easley, S.C. His ministry included preaching, teaching, ministering in nursing homes, hospitals and jails, as well as celebrating weddings and funerals, assisting at Mass and leading liturgical services.
He says of his ministry, “In ministering as deacon most of the ministries have been very rewarding. The best part was involving my wife in most of my ministry.”
Winona died in February of 2013. Deacon Egendoerfer is blessed with 26 living grandchildren, 30 great grandchildren and two great-great grandchildren.
Deacon Paul DeCelles celebrates his 40th jubilee this year. He and Jeanne, his wife of 56 years, reside in South Bend and have five children and 16 grandchildren. Deacon DeCelles was ordained in June of 1973 by Bishop Leo A. Pursley at St. Matthew Cathedral in South Bend and originally assigned to Sacred Heart Parish, Notre Dame. He was one of the founding members of the Apostolic Institute, which ran the deacon training program for Bishop Pursley. Later Bishop William E. McManus assigned Deacon DeCelles to the People of Praise as overall coordinator until 2003. He is currently inactive as he is primary care giver for his wife.
Deacon Paul Dits celebrated his 39th year as deacon in the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend. He was ordained in June of 1974 by Bishop Leo A. Pursley at Our Lady of Hungary Church in South Bend. Retired now at age 94, Deacon Dits has served at St. Jude Parish in South Bend and St. Monica and St. Bavo parishes in Mishawaka. There he assisted at Masses, celebrated Baptisms, preached at Masses and much more. Deacon Dits also provided pastoral care, visited patients and offered Communion at St. Joseph Hospital and in Mishawaka and was chaplain at the county jail where he assisted with prisoners in many ways as well.
Deacon Dits retired as medical sales rep and was instrumental in delivering donated medicines to Haiti on three different occasions and also assisted with pastoral care in Mexico. He was a devoted volunteer with hospice for 15 years.
Of his rewarding ministry Deacon Dits says, “I gave homilies, but the personal contact when I worked in the nursing homes and hospitals was the most rewarding.”
Deacon Dits and his active wife of 64 years, AnnaMaria, have raised seven children and enjoy their 14 grandchildren and five great grandchildren.
Deacon James Rauner celebrated his 39th year as deacon as well, being ordained in June of 1974 by Bishop Leo A. Pursley at Our Lady of Hungary Church in South Bend. Deacon Rauner was first assigned to Our Lady of Hungary Church then later to St. Joseph Parish. He also worked as head of the theology department of Saint Joseph’s High School for 12 years. In 1986 Deacon Rauner and his wife Eleanor packed up four of their nine children and moved to Panama where they lived and ministered for three years. Upon their return to the United States they found themselves in Michigan, where they currently reside.
Before Deacon Rauner was ordained, he worked at Little Flower Parish in South Bend as director of religious education and finds his work with adult education and sacramental preparation very fulfilling. But he says the most meaningful duties are “either teaching contemplative prayer or distributing the Eucharist, visiting the sick and at Mass.” When asked why these duties are important to him he says simply, “They are the heart of our relationship with Christ.”
Deacon Rauner currently ministers at Immaculate Conception Parish in Hartford, Mich., where he and his wife, who holds a master’s in pastoral theology, run an English as a second language program for the large Spanish-speaking Latino population at the parish. He and his wife have 22 grandchildren and two great grandchildren with one on the way.
Deacon Brian Miller celebrates his 38th year as deacon this year. Ordained on Aug. 18, 1975 by Bishop Leo A. Pursley at St. Patrick Church in South Bend, the then 32-year-old Deacon Miller recalls having to request an age dispensation from Rome whose age requirement for the diaconate was 35.
His 38-year ministry began and continues at his home parish of St. Anthony de Padua, where many of his children and grandchildren have attended school. There he serves doing “a little bit of a lot of things,” including Baptism and marriage prep, preaching funeral liturgies and more. He is the director of the Queen of Peace ministries as well, an outreach that sponsors the national Medjugorje conferences and prayer meetings.
Deacon Miller says one of the favorite parts of his diaconate is the hospital and homebound visits. “…I find it very rewarding. … It helps people and has an affect on me too.”
Of his ministry he says, “It’s been a great privilege to serve the Church in this way. It’s a gift God’s given me to do so many things in the Church. It’s been a blessing to me and my wife and children. … It’s kept us closer as a family.”
Deacon Miller and his wife Kathleen of 48 years have four children and 14 grandchildren.
Deacon Guy Gizzi is celebrating 30 years as deacon in the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend. He and his wife Linda have been married for 52 years and have three children and nine grandchildren. Ordained by Bishop William E. McManus in the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception on June 11, 1983, Deacon Gizzi was first assigned to St. Matthew Cathedral in South Bend by Bishop McManus and has served there for 30 years.
Serving in the many ministries there Deacon Gizzi says, “The most enjoyable and meaningful is the ministry to the sick, home bound and servicing those in the nursing homes, hospitals and assisted living.”
As a registered nurse, he is devoted to those who are in need physically, mentally and spiritually.
He notes, “The elderly, especially those who have no living relative, are alone and need the brotherly love, which they do not receive and have. This is what I love to do and a ministry in which I am grateful to have and capable of doing. These are my brothers and sisters.”
When asked of his favorite part of the ministry as deacon, Deacon Gizzi doesn’t hesitate. “Seeing the smiles of those I serve and help,” he says.
Deacon James Walsh is also celebrating 30 years in the diaconate. He was ordained on June 11, 1983 and is currently retired.
Deacon Joseph Messina celebrates his 30th jubilee as deacon this year and is residing in Hermitage, Pa.
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