Bishop W. Shawn McKnight has summoned 13 men of the Jefferson City diocese to become permanent deacons.
He plans to ordain them during Mass on Saturday, 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 second in a series of articles profiling these candidates for the permanent diaconate.
Giving glory to God
From a young age, Michael “Mike” W. Berendzen has felt called to serve God and His people, in the parish and the community.
“From the discernment that has occurred over the past many years, and that desire to serve, I believe God has called me to the diaconate at this point in my life,” he said.
He grew up in Cole Camp, a member of Ss. Peter and Paul parish, where his parents encouraged him to be of service to others.
He graduated from the high school seminary for Missionaries of the Precious Blood in Liberty and from what is now Rockhurst University in Kansas City, leaving priestly formation during his junior year.
He and his wife Lisa have been married for 25 years and have two adult daughters.
They have been members of Immaculate Conception parish in Jefferson City since 2000.
Mr. Berendzen has worked primarily in human resources. He served for seven and a half years as director of child and youth protection for the Jefferson City diocese.
He referred to Bishop W. Shawn McKnight’s vision of deacons as intermediaries.
“He notes in his book how deacons can use their particular charisms to be an intermediary between the bishop and the laity, serving as an extension of the bishop in areas where there is a need,” said Mr. Berendzen. “He also points to deacons in roles as intermediaries in the parish, serving as a link between the laity and the pastor.”
As a deacon, Mr. Berendzen hopes to begin studies toward the units of CPE (Clinical Pastoral Education) necessary to become a chaplain.
“My prayer is that God will provide me the opportunities to serve His people, both in the parish and in the community, in ways that will provide what they most need and glorify God in the process,” he said.
He requested prayers for him and for all who are about to be ordained, to be filled with the graces they will need to use their God-given gifts well in service to God and His people.
“Pray that we may glorify God through our words and actions,” he said.
Strengthened for service
Bradley W. “Brad” Jones says the Holy Spirit works in unusual ways that are impossible to ignore.
He grew up in a Baptist Christian family in southeastern Missouri, where his father was a deacon for their church.
While Mr. Jones and his wife, Diana, were dating at the University of Mississippi (“Ole Miss”), she asked him to go to Mass with her.
“Once I experienced the Mass, I felt the Catholic Church was what I was really searching for in regard to my spirituality,” he said.
He began taking instruction from the local priest and was received into the Church in 1977 in Oxford, Mississippi.
He and Mrs. Jones have been married for 42 years and have two adult children and three grandchildren.
They have been members of St. Martin parish in St. Martins for 19 years.
He holds a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and a master’s degree in criminal justice administration and attended the FBI National Academy and the Northwestern University School of Police Staff and Command.
He served for 35 years as a trooper with the Missouri State Highway Patrol, before retiring in 2014 as a captain and division director.
He also taught criminal justice at Columbia College in Jefferson City for 12 years.
He believes the Holy Spirit has summoned him to the diaconate through his upbringing, his experiences, his relationship with his wife, her spirituality and that of her family.
Deacon Francis Butel first invited him to consider it. Then came a pilgrimage to the Holy Land with Deacon Steve Kliethermes and six other deacons.
“The group on the trip impressed me with their reverence, devotion and obvious love of the Lord and His Church,” he said.
It got to where he could no longer ignore the call.
“It was like a light switch being turned on,” he said.
As a deacon, he hopes to be a servant to all of God’s people and bring them closer to Jesus Christ.
He feels humbled and blessed to be summoned to orders — something he could not have pursued without his family’s support, especially his wife.
They both hope to increase their involvement in ministry at hospitals, nursing homes, retirement centers and anywhere else the bishop needs Mr. Jones to serve.
He asks for prayers for him, his fellow deacon candidates and their families.
“Please pray for my family, for my ministry as a deacon, and for the Lord to continue to strengthen me for His service,” he said.
An abundant harvest
As a teacher at Palmyra High School, Luke G. Mahsman imparts knowledge about many things, ranging from plant and soil science to economics and welding.
“However, these are very temporal in nature,” he said. “As a deacon, I hope to teach, by word and deed, those things that help us draw closer to God and live joy-filled lives as faithful Catholics.”
Mr. Mahsman has lived in and near Palmyra and been a member of St. Joseph parish for most of his life.
God filled him with a desire to teach and to study theology and the Church.
“The diaconate is a ministry of service that allows me to combine these two great loves and to exercise them with the grace of the sacrament of holy orders,” he said. “Through years of discernment, I have felt God calling me to His service.”
He went to the University of Missouri and became active at St. Thomas More Newman Center, where he met his wife, Christie.
Married in 2003, they now have eight children.
He holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in agricultural education has been a teacher and FFA advisor at Palmyra High School for 16 years.
He also holds a master of theological studies from Ave Maria University in Florida.
He and his family live and work on a farm, raising row crops and beef cattle.
He hopes as a deacon to teach and help with the formation of young adults and adults in his parish.
“I want to assist with preparing families to receive the sacraments and in training ministers to be effective instruments in celebrating liturgies that are reverent and holy,” he said.
“There is a great joy that comes with living a life in Christ and His Church,” he said.
He wants to help families foster an environment for children to grow up solid in their faith.
“Parents have the potential for the greatest lasting impact on the faith formation of our children,” he said.
He has noticed that there are many inactive Catholics “who just need a little help in seeing what a lived Catholic life can be.”
He asks for prayers to be able to make the best use of God’s grace in order to live out the vocation God is calling him to.
On a sacred pilgrimage
For Jon M. Bequette, the call to discernment has been “unmistakable, loud and constant.”
“My conversation with God,” he said, “went something like this: ‘I will follow this road as far as You want me to go. You will have to show me the off ramp or on ramp.’”
“I’ve not been shown the off ramp,” he said.
He called to mind a verse from “The Servant Song”: “We are pilgrims on the journey. We are travelers on the road. We are here to help each other walk the mile and bear the load.”
“One consistent prayer of mine is to be put in a position to do the most good,” he said. “I hope I can help others walk their difficult miles when the load is heavy.”
He grew up Catholic in Hallsville. Paula, his wife of 26 years, came into the Church through the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults.
They are members of Sacred Heart parish in Columbia and have two adult children.
Mr. and Mrs. Bequette are both involved in healthcare in Columbia: he as a medical practice manager for Boone Hospital Center/BJC; she in the pharmacy at the Harry S. Truman Veterans Hospital.
Mr. Bequette said the road to ordination has been long, but also a gift.
“The relationships we have formed as a class make the journey more meaningful,” he said. “I will be proud to be ordained with this group of men.”
As a deacon, he hopes to minister to young people and help with education and possibly hospital ministry.
He called to mind something he heard on a five-day deacon candidates’ retreat at Conception Seminary College earlier this year.
“We were visiting with our seminarians, and their request was that we pray for them to have a successful discernment no matter where that leads,” he said.
He made a similar request: “I would ask people to pray for all 13 of us to be put in the position to do the most good, whatever that is.”