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Tuesday, December 2, 2008

"Pioneer In Atlanta Permanent Diaconate, Deacon Tom Zaworski, Is First Silver Jubilarian"

It is always my preference to post pictures with an article when possible. However, I may have posted this one rather hastily this morning. Going back and looking at it, I'm realizing I must have been half asleep. I try to maintain a high level of fidelity to the Magisterium on this blog, as well as upholding the beauty and dignity of the Church and vocations in the stories and pictures I post. Somehow this photo slipped through. I'm not quite sure what that is in the background (carpet? quilt?), and I'm even more concerned by the flagon of wine on the altar. The Church has been very clear that the Precious Blood of Our Lord is NOT to be poured. Since there is a pall on the chalice and there are concelebrating priests around the altar, I can only assume that the wine in flagon is there to be consecrated, not because someone forgot to remove it from the altar. My apologies - I'll make sure I've had more coffee before posting!

From The Georgia Bulletin
By Erika Anderson, Staff Writer

FAYETTEVILLE-The journey toward Deacon Tom Zaworski's silver jubilee has been wrought with personal triumphs and, at times, painful challenges.

But it was all worth it March 19, as he celebrated 25 years as a permanent deacon, the first silver jubilarian in the history of the archdiocese's permanent diaconate program.

At the Church of St. Gabriel, where Deacon Zaworski serves, fellow deacons joined their brother in ministry to celebrate his jubilee. Archbishop John F. Donoghue celebrated the Mass, along with several priests under whom Deacon Zaworski has served, including St. Gabriel pastor Father Jimmy Adams.

Deacon Zaworski's jubilee Mass reflected his strong Catholic foundation, as well as his active involvement in the ecumenical community. Rev. Dr. John Hatcher of Rivers Edge Community Church, Fayetteville, offered the second reading, while Msgr. Frank Giusta, with whom Deacon Zaworski has served in several parishes, gave the homily.

Msgr. Giusta, who has been on special assignment in El Paso, Texas, said he met Deacon Zaworski in 1976, while he was in the diaconate formation program.

"It was the first time I had been in contact with a permanent deacon, and I was very interested," he said.

The permanent diaconate program was restored in the United States in 1968. Msgr. Giusta spoke of the challenges Deacon Zaworski faced on the road to ordination, namely, opposition from members of the church concerning this new ministry.

"Tom Zaworski never gave up," he said. "At times he was sincerely discouraged, but he kept going anyhow."

Many dioceses in the United States do not have permanent deacons, Msgr. Giusta told the congregation.

"I think something would be missing in our church community without deacons," he said.

Deacon Zaworski honored Msgr. Giusta by asking him to give the homily at his jubilee Mass, he said.

"Whenever (Deacon Zaworski) makes a commitment he follows through," he said. "He never tired to go to the hospital, to visit the sick . . . to prepare people to receive (the sacraments). And he never tires to preach and to pray."

Following Communion, Archbishop Donoghue offered his gratitude for the jubilarian, as well as for all the deacons of the archdiocese, who now number 153. He spoke of the first deacon of the church, St. Stephen, who suffered martyrdom for speaking the truth of Jesus.

"I think that's very appropriate and applies very well to Rev. Mr. Zaworski," he said. "He preaches what he believes is truth, day in and day out, not just in what he says, but in the way he lives his life."

"I am grateful to Tom and the many other deacons in our archdiocese," he said. "I want to thank all the deacons who serve this archdiocese with such generosity. We are far richer because of their service."

The archbishop also offered thanks to the deacons' wives and prayed that the future would bring more vocations to the church.

"Deacons could never be successful unless they had the cooperation and support of their wives," he said. "I pray that the Lord will continue to bless the church with many more vocations to the priesthood, to Religious life and to the permanent diaconate. As this church continues to grow, many more laborers will be needed to feed the flock."

Though he has been feeding the flock for 25 years as a deacon and even longer when his lay ministry is included, Deacon Zaworski has worked hard to get where he is.

In 1968, as a layman, he was ministering at the state prison in Jackson. At that time, there were no priests, or anyone serving the Catholic inmates, Deacon Zaworski said. After an interview with the inmates to determine their religious belief, if there was a Catholic slant to their answers, then Deacon Zaworski would notify a priest in that area.

"At that time six percent of the inmate population were Catholics who had never been served," he said.

In 1969, Archbishop Thomas Donnellan asked Father Frank Ruff, a Glenmary priest, to investigate establishing the diaconate. The priest approached four men including Zaworski with the idea of becoming deacons.

"It was not a total shock to me (that I had a vocation)," he said, adding that he and his wife had long prayed for vocations in their family of four sons. "We were quite certain with four boys that a vocation would come about. Well, it did come about-it came about to me."

Working for Delta Airlines as a flight superintendent, Deacon Zaworski was fortunate to work in various shifts, allowing him more time to minister. He began his formation in 1970, but the program itself was "on again, off again," as Archbishop Donnellan pondered the role that deacons would have in the archdiocese.

Finally, in 1974, the diocese made arrangements for the diaconate classes to be taught at Our Lady of Holy Spirit Abbey in Conyers. Deacon Zaworski and the late Deacon Charles Moore completed their formation and were ordained in 1977. Thus began the uphill climb.

"We were met with a lot of resistance from clergy, a lot of resistance from the laity," he recalled. "People didn't understand who we were, what we were about and what we were going to do."

He said it was especially difficult for his wife, Helen, because she was excluded. Many people had a hard time accepting a married minister of the church, he said.

Deacon Zaworski first served at St. Philip Benizi Church, Jonesboro, and in 1980 began full-time jail ministry. He was also the first chaplain for the Clayton County Sheriff's Department. He served in this capacity until 1984 when he was reassigned to St. Philip Benizi.

In 1987, he helped to begin the new mission of St. Gabriel. From 1989-95, he served as a pastoral assistant at Fort McPherson, until funds were cut off for his position and he began serving with Msgr. Giusta at Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Atlanta.

He stayed there until 1999, and then began working as a chaplain at Fayette Community Hospital. In 1999 he was reassigned to St. Gabriel, where he currently serves.

His life has also been marked by personal tragedy, as two of his sons died-his 16-year-old son of cancer in 1973, and his 21-year-old son in an accident in 1984.

However, the deacon has also received much happiness from his ministry.

"One of the greatest joys I have ever had has been the witnessing of my third son's marriage and the baptism of his two kids," he said.

Though it has been a roller coaster ride, Deacon Zaworski said it has all been worth it because "I am doing what God wanted me to do. He didn't promise me a rose garden."

He said he is fortunate to have a "wonderful and very, very devoted, spiritual wife."

Helen Zaworski said that she is a proud wife and that it showed during the jubilee Mass.

"It was a very nice celebration. I felt happy to see him recognized for what he has contributed-many times not under the best circumstances," she said. "We have come through all of this and it has strengthened our faith and, I think, our marriage."

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