From the Catholic Sentinel
By Ed Langlois
Mike Caldwell, Tim Dooley, Dennis Desmarais and David Briedwell at ordination.
Sentinel photo by Kim Nguyen
David Briedwell, a firefighter and paramedic, joined the Catholic Church in 1990. On a Marriage Encounter weekend, he felt grabbed. Before he knew it, he was telling others on the weekend that he was going to become Catholic, joining his wife Sally Marie in her faith.
He started out as a member of St. James Parish in his home town of McMinnville. Like some new Catholics, he drifted away from practicing his faith for awhile. When he returned, he felt welcomed with open arms. That started something.
He offered to mow the lawn at Good Shepherd Church in nearby Sheridan. Pretty soon, he was also counting the weekend collection and doing other jobs. When the priest was reassigned and it appeared no other was coming soon, the clergyman handed the church keys to Briedwell. Eventually, he began serving as a lector, eucharistic minister, sacristan and pastoral associate in Sheridan and Grand Ronde. Then he was named pastoral administrator. On Saturday, Briedwell became a deacon of the church, bound to serve the needy, preach the word and lead sacraments.
“You have to have people praying for you to do this,” says the father of two, citing great support from family and friends.
Briedwell was one of four men ordained as permanent deacons at St. Mary Cathedral. The others are Mike Caldwell, Dennis Desmarais, and Tim Dooley.
The permanent diaconate was revived by the Second Vatican Council. In the U.S., there were only 500 or 600 deacons in the 1970s. There are more than 17,000 now.
In Oregon, 64 permanent deacons visit the sick and prisoners and provide food, clothing and other assistance to needy Oregonians. They help prepare young couples for marriage and instruct those hoping to become Catholic.
The ministry of a deacon is primarily one of service and charity. Deacons are ministers of the word, which means they can proclaim the gospel at Mass, preach and teach in the name of the church. Their sacramental ministry includes baptizing, conducting prayer services, serving as an official church witness to marriage and conducting funerals and wake services.
Archbishop John Vlazny thanked the men and their wives for their willingness to play a role as “servant ministers” in the church’s evangelizing mission.
“First and foremost we ourselves must be men of prayer, integrity, generosity and compassion,” Archbishop Vlazny told the new deacons, offering that as an antidote to “bland Christianity” and “darkened spirits” in the world.
“The extent of the spirituality and generosity of deacons and their wives is reflected over and over again in the way they live their lives together with their families and through their service to the people of God, especially the poor and needy,” the archbishop said.
“I remind you that your presence at the altar is not truly meaningful unless it is complemented by your daily concern for the marginalized, uncatechized and alienated sisters and brothers in our church families,” he added. “Otherwise you will be merely glorified altar servers and that is not the kind of partnership the bishops had in mind four decades ago when they reestablished the order of deacon.”
Caldwell, who already serves as a business manager at St. Joseph the Worker Parish in Southeast Portland, says bookkeeping did not seem like enough. He felt called to direct work in service of the gospel. He began a social justice group at the parish and has tackled issues like immigration and pro-life advocacy. He also is planning a project of charity help to needy families. Caldwell and his wife Linda have three children.
About a decade ago, Desmarais felt called to something. He was not sure what. The PacifiCorp employee got involved at St. Pius X Parish and grew especially interested in social justice ministry. He went with a group to a camp of migrant workers, and joined the Metropolitan Alliance for Common Good, a group of churches and unions seeking just public policy. He went on mission trips to Mexico, attended retreats on poverty at the Downtown Chapel and began youth groups at St. Pius X Parish and then at St. Juan Diego when it began.
One day, he was talking to two permanent deacons, Bob Little and Jésus Espinoza. Espinoza suggested he look into becoming a deacon and kept raising the idea over time. Desmarais decided to give it a try. He reveled in master’s studies through the University of Portland and felt that work affirmed his decision. He and his wife Marci have three children.
Until five years ago, Dooley never gave thought to becoming a deacon. Now, everything about it feels like his calling.
“I thought that I had my path pretty well charted out, and the last thing I wanted to do was go back to school,” he says. “But there’s no stopping the Holy Spirit once we open the door.”
His pastor at Holy Family Parish in Portland, Father Bob Barricks, planted the seed one night at dinner when he asked Dooley if he’d consider becoming a deacon. Dooley was surprised by the request, but the idea stuck. He brought it up to his wife LeAnn and shared his worry that it might reduce his time with her. She advised him to forge ahead and has supported him in the process ever since.
“I’ll aways remember that my vows as a deacon are binding, but my vows to LeAnn came first,” he says.
Father Barricks recently told parishioners that Dooley’s ministry “springs” from his marriage to the wider community.
Dooley and LeAnn have two daughters. He has served as a eucharistic minister at Providence Portland Medical Center and in homebound ministry at his church. He works for Oregon Catholic Press, publisher of this newspaper.
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