It’s a funny thing how we address a newly ordained priest as “Father” no matter that that he may be less than half our age. It is a spiritual thing.
But permanent deacons are a different matter. This Saturday, June 13 Archbishop Nelson Perez will ordain nine men as permanent deacons. Among them they have 35 children, and they all know a thing or two about fatherhood: the 2 a.m. feedings, helping with homework, encouraging the sports or artistic leanings, and waiting up if a child is late for curfew.
But of course their title of address for these husbands and fathers outside of their own family will be simply “Deacon.”
If any of them has a wealth of parental experience it’s Mark Nowakowski, 64, of St. Basil the Great Parish in Kimberton. He is the father of eight children, ranging in age from 40 to 13.
Living at home with him and his wife Colleen are Riley, Ella, Audrey, Thomas and Andrew. But he is also the father of three married children, Michael, Brian and Elaine, and has two grandchildren, Reid and Graham.
Becoming a deacon was a thought “God put into my head a long time ago,” Nowakowski said. “At my previous parish, St. Jude in Chalfont, they had three permanent deacons and they just seemed to be drawn to God and did a great job.”
But between his work in sales at medical supply firm CenTrak Inc. and family duties, it just was not the time to take on major parish responsibilities, although he was already a long-time choir member.
Finally in his mid-50s, with Colleen’s support he approached his pastor, Father Gary Pacitti, who was a very encouraging, and seven years ago he started his journey to the diaconate.
If some other members of the family were not sure it was the right decision at first, they definitely warmed up to it, especially through the family-centric events that were held for candidates along the way, Nowakowski remembers.
Nowakowski already had a bachelor’s degree from Louisiana State University, but the diaconate program involved pursuing a master’s degree.
In the parish he been involved in many activities at different times. He was a long-time member of the choir as well as a lector, member of the Parish Council and the Liturgy Committee.
The diaconate program was not super-hard for Nowakowski, but with his other family and parish obligations things could be a bit overwhelming.
“Father Pacitti was very understanding, and he said I should step back a bit and concentrate on my studies,” he said.
Now he is about to be ordained, and especially because he intends to retire in about 18 months, there will be a whole world of new parish duties that Nowakowski looks forward to.
“I think in addition to serving at Masses, I will be doing baptisms, conducting funeral services, maybe taking charge of the altar servers, whatever is asked of me,” he said.
With eight kids, one suspects Deacon Nowakowski will definitely be performing some grandchild baptisms down the road.
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