Jill Boughton
Freelance Writer
July 23, 2023 // Diocese

Deacon Kevin Ranaghan: 50 Years of Being a Bridge

Jill Boughton
Freelance Writer

Deacon Kevin Ranaghan

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of his ordination to the diaconate, Kevin Ranaghan and his wife Dorothy went to Mass and dinner at St. Bavo, Mishawaka, where he served as deacon for 34 years before retiring four years ago. There will be another celebration of jubilarians this fall when all the deacons in the diocese get together on retreat in Donaldson. When there were only a handful of deacons, they used to gather with the diocesan priests, but the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend now has 40 deacons thanks to Bishop Kevin Rhoades. Deacon Ranaghan, who long served on the Diocesan Deacons’ Council, is grateful to Bishop Rhoades for this revival.

He still misses St. Bavo, which he calls “a lovely, wonderful part of my life and the life of my family,” but his age, health, and lack of stamina made 2019 the right time to step down. The Ranaghans had long maintained their membership at Sacred Heart, Notre Dame, but now find St. Joseph, South Bend, more accessible. Two of their daughters and their families are also St. Joe members, and the Ranaghans enjoy experiencing life in such a vibrant parish.

Deacon Ranaghan remains available to “pinch hit” as requested, especially in any way that fosters ecumenism and evangelism. A recent highlight was assisting in the Mass of Thanksgiving for newly-ordained Father Zane Langenbrunner, a son of St. Bavo. Father Langenbrunner noted that the deacon had known him since before he was born.

Deacon Ranaghan, who holds a Ph.D. in Theology from the University of Notre Dame, was trained by the Apostolic Institute, formed in the late 1960s to explore two big ideas: forming Christian communities
and developing new forms of ministry in the Catholic Church. Its founders were very interested in base communities formed among the poor in Latin America, as well as in the re-emergence of the diaconate around the time of Vatican II. Before long, they were designing a course of studies to prepare men for this new form of Church leadership. Monsignor John Szabo, Pastor of Our Lady of Hungary, South Bend, had been instrumental in bringing the Cursillo movement to Notre Dame and South Bend. He became “our champion,” according to Deacon Ranaghan. Encouraged by Monsignor Szabo, Bishop Leo Pursley was willing to give it a try; he wound up ordaining three classes of deacons in three years. Most were sent to serve in diocesan parishes.

Initially assigned to Sacred Heart, Notre Dame, Deacon Ranaghan then spent several years serving the national and international charismatic renewal. He wound up at St. Bavo because of a conversation in the Bronx. New York, between his mother Irene and her neighbor, who told Irene that her nephew, Father Paul Bueter, needed help after returning from Panama to be Pastor at St. Bavo. “My son’s a deacon,” she said, “and he isn’t currently assigned to a parish.” The rest is history.

The last few years, the Ranaghans have done very little traveling. They’ve moved out of a large house where they loved to offer hospitality. Much of their leisure time is spent in doctors’ offices, but they remain eager “to share the Gospel, life in Christ, and the beauty of the Church.”

“Over the past 50 years since I was ordained, it’s been wonderful to watch more and more members fully participating in the life of the Church. Deacons – who now number over 19,000 in the United States – have played an important role, something like a bridge between clergy and laity, but all the baptized are working together to build the kingdom of God, each with our unique gifts and ministries,” reflected Deacon Ranaghan. “That’s very promising for the future.”

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