Future deacons reflect on their call to ministry


Bishop W. Shawn McKnight has summoned 13 men of the Jefferson City diocese to holy orders in order to become permanent deacons of diocese.

He plans to ordain them during Mass on May 4 in the Cathedral of St. Joseph in Jefferson City.

The men and their wives have been preparing for the diaconate since 2015.

This is the first in a series of articles profiling these candidates for the permanent diaconate.

A passion for ministry

Christopher “Chris” A. Korte believes God had a reason for giving him a heart for people who feel forgotten, left out, rejected or excluded.

“I want to be a friend and share the friendship of Jesus,” he said.

From a young age, Mr. Korte has been aware of God’s presence in his life and of a calling to serve in the Church.

“It has been my life’s passion and joy to share our faith with others, to help them grow in their faith, and work with youth,” he said.

Born and raised Catholic, he grew up in Bowling Green.

He holds a bachelor’s degree in religious studies (theology) from Conception Seminary College in Conception and a master’s degree in Christian spirituality from Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska.

He was employed for several years as a teacher’s aide for children with special needs.

He then worked as a youth minister for more than a decade at Mary Immaculate parish in Kirksville before becoming director of the Catholic Newman Center on the campus of Truman State University in Kirksville nine years ago.

People over the years suggested that he consider becoming a deacon. He gave it much consideration without making a decision.

He became aware of God calling him to be a deacon during a retreat.

“God got my attention and spoke to my heart,” he said. “I am here because I am trusting that.”

As a deacon, Mr. Korte hopes to be an encouraging presence to others, including people in roles of service or ministry.

“I hope I can encourage people to listen to God, to grow in their relationship with him, to deepen in their conversion and healing and faith, and to hear how they are being called to live their gifts,” he said. “I hope I can be a support and a listener, to help find perspective and clarity and understanding, to find guidance and strength.”

He wants to let God use him to speak to people’s hearts the words they need to hear.

“I hope I can join with others in works of service and charity,” he said. “I hope I can help people appreciate the richness of our Catholic faith, and open their hearts to God’s grace in the treasures Catholic faith.”

He hopes to continue working with teens, young adults and young couples. He also wants to continue working with people in catechesis and preparing for sacraments.

He’s also eager to help young people and adults with special needs; immigrant families; families that are struggling.

He wants to offer support to people in all phases of their journey to Christ.

“I hope I can help people who do not feel they can approach Jesus, to bring people to Him,” he said.

He and his wife Katy have three children and are members of Mary Immaculate parish in Kirksville, where he has been helping with the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults for 19 years.

He asks for prayers for God to strengthen him with His grace and His word, so that he can strengthen others.

Servant and guide

Robert “Bob” Raymond Schowengerdt wants to “serve, serve, serve” in any way God leads him.

“God has so richly blessed me throughout my life,” he said. “Its time I started paying him back.”

He’s concerned that so many of the people in the world are so lost and can find no meaning in life.

“Maybe, just maybe, I can help them find what God has in store for them,” he said.

 Mr. Schowengerdt grew up in Morrison and Pershing and attended local schools.

He was united in marriage to Joyce Boss, now deceased, in 1977, and they had two children.

Now married to Teresa Schowengerdt, he has two stepchildren and a total of seven grandchildren.

He has been working for Central Electric Power co-op in Chamois and Jefferson City since 1982 and plans to retire on July 6.

He was raised in a Protestant Christian congregation and became Catholic when he got married.

His older brother, Darryl Bockting, was an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ.

“On his passing, our family spiritual guide is gone, and I hope to fill that role upon my ordination,” said Mr. Schowengerdt.

He has been a member of St. Pius X parish in Moberly since 2005.

In addition to parish work, he’s eager to visit nursing-home and prison residents and help bring inactive Catholics back to the practice of their faith.

He wants to help “put the true face of Christ on the Catholic Church” and “lead by example.”

He asks for prayers to be able to find Jesus in everyone he meets and to be patient with people who reject him.

Trust in God

William C. “Chris” Sago often turns to Proverbs 3:5-6 for inspiration: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding: in all your ways submit to Him, and He will make your paths straight.”

“This is a prayer for everyone and one I wish they can hold to and believe in,” he said.

He and his wife Nannette were united in marriage 33 ago this June. They have two adult children and are also very close to their niece.

The Sagos grew up Catholic in St. Louis and have been members of St. Pius X parish in Moberly since 1988.

Mr. Sago holds a certificate in communications and in electronics and works for Orscheln Industries as a technician in the computer field.

The couple recently sold Redbeard Sound Co., a DJ/sound company they had owned for over 30 years.

Mr. Sago decided when he was 14 that he no longer wanted to be an altar server.

His mother told him, “This is your choice. If the Lord ever calls you again, please be open and willing to listen.”

Thirty-nine years later, Deacon David Ritter, now deceased, pulled him aside and said, “Have you ever thought about being a deacon? I think you would make a good servant to the Lord.”

“Much prodding, a whole lot of praying and listening has brought me to this point,” said Mr. Sago.

He currently serves on St. Pius X parish’s Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults team and helps Deacon John Hill with prison ministry at the Moberly Correctional Center on Sundays.

He recently started helping high-school and junior-high students prepare for the sacrament of confirmation. He is looking forward to attending the Steubenville STL Mid America youth conference in Springfield as a sponsor this July.

He also handles the sound-system duties at St. Pius X and is a member of many different boards and committees at church.

 “My hope in ordination is to be able to continue the work the Lord asks of me, with patience, kindness, understanding and love,” he said.

To seek the lost

John L. Watkins has a passion for helping people return to the faith.

“Through Christ, I hope to help people embrace how amazing the Catholic Church is,” he said. “Through the sacraments, we are able to commune directly with Christ in a way not available elsewhere.

“If people can see that, they would not have a reason to go anywhere else,” he said.

He remembers times in his youth when he did not follow Christ and lived only for himself.

“I think this will give me a perspective to understand why people can walk away from faith,” he said. “There are a multitude of reasons people have for this stemming from life situations.”

He hopes his own life experiences will help him be empathetic and understanding while accompanying people on their journey back toward Christ.

“In that way,” he said, “I can help God work in their life the way He has in mine, because life is fuller with Christ at the center of it.”

Mr. Watkins and his wife Tammy have two children and are members of Holy Family parish in Hannibal.

He holds a master’s degree in instructional technology from Fort Hays State University in Fort Hays, Kansas, and is employed as district technology director for the Palmyra R1 School District.

He was received into the Catholic Church through the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults.

At first, he resisted answering God’s calling to be a deacon because he didn’t feel worthy.

“I believed I couldn’t serve in the ministry as well as the examples I had,” he said. “But I came to realize that with Christ, I can be made worthy. We can all be made worthy with Christ in our life.”

As a deacon, he hopes to help with marriage-preparation and catechesis at his parish, get more involved in helping young people prepare for the sacrament of confirmation, and make himself available for other ministries as the need arises.

He is confident that with God’s help, he will be able to decrease in order for Christ to be able to increase and work through him.

Mr. Watkins asks for prayers for help growing closer to Christ in order to be able to reflect Christ to others.