By Lou Baldwin
Special to The CS&T
There’s a lot going on at the Secretariat for Evangelization – the Family Life Office, Office for Black Catholics, Office for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, Office for Formation of the Laity, Office for Pastoral Care for Migrants and Refugees, Office for Worship, Respect Life Office and tons of other programs.
Deacon David B. Schaffer, who retired in early July from his post of administrative director of the Secretariat for Evangelization, had his hand in all of this, and it started innocently enough 29 years ago when Augustinian Father James Sherman at St. Denis Parish in Havertown asked him to enter the archdiocesan Church Ministry Program. That’s the way it so often works in the Church; a pastor asks you do to something, and one thing leads to another.
Deacon Schaffer is originally from Schenectady, N.Y. A bit after high school he entered the Irish Christian Brothers, but after a year or so he concluded that was not his vocation. This was followed by a stint in the Air Force and eventually marriage to his wife, Mary. They came down to the Philadelphia area through his job transfer as a supervisor for Bell’s cafeteria services, and it was in Havertown he and Mary raised their two children, Christopher and Susan.
After he completed his studies in the Church Ministry Program, Father Sherman asked him to continue studies for the permanent diaconate, to which he readily agreed.
“I thought the Lord was calling me to be involved in ministry in a more active way,” said Deacon Schaffer, who will be 25 years ordained next year.
He and Mary have been closely involved in RCIA for 25 years, and after his corporate career he joined the staff of the archdiocesan Family Life Office as assistant director. He and his wife also presented Pre-Cana programs, which he called “another opportunity to evangelize.”
After six years he left the Family Life Office to pursue a master’s degree in Religious Studies at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary, followed by a master’s in pastoral counseling from Neumann University. He then returned to the Archdiocese, first as assistant director, then director of the Respect Life Office, and three years ago, administrative director of the Secretariat for Evangelization.
Meanwhile, grass roots parish-level service remained a first love, and he and Mary were involved in just about every aspect of it.
As a deacon, seven years ago he was transferred from St. Denis Parish to St. Colman Parish in Ardmore, and he and Mary now consider that their home parish.
“My reassignment to St. Colman presented me with new challenges,” Deacon Schaffer said. “It is a smaller parish, with no school and few baptisms, but I try to assist the pastor in as many ways as I am able.”
He is not retiring as a deacon, he emphasized, and will continue to do all the things a deacon does, with perhaps more time for parish duties, including visitation of the sick.
“Change is an opportunity to grow,” Deacon Schaffer said. “This is an opportunity to quiet down and listen to what the Lord is saying. I believe evangelization is very important for the future of the Church. I feel the future is in the hands of the Holy Spirit.”
Lou Baldwin is a member of St. Leo Parish and a freelance writer.