Oct. 16, 2006

New deacon at Delano Catholic Community

By Cullen Schultz
Staff Writer

Mike De Witte, of Delano, was ordained as a deacon at the Cathedral of St. Paul, by Archbishop Harry Flynn Sept. 30.

He is now servicing the Delano Catholic Community, which consists of the Catholic churches of St. Peter and St. Joseph in Delano.

De Witte grew up in the Minneapolis area, where he met his wife, Mary, after she graduated from college. They lived there for a few years before deciding to move to Delano. Mary grew up in Delano, and they moved back to the community 33 years ago, in 1973.

De Witte has three children, Jonothan, Michelle, and Patrick, who also live in the Delano and Watertown area.

De Witte became interested in becoming a deacon seven years ago, after a couple of different parishioners, and members of the community asked him if he was interested in it.

“It made me alert and something I should pay attention to,” De Witte said.

People asked De Witte about becoming a deacon because of the active role he played in the parish. He has taught religion classes, served on the parish council, and as part of the RCI program. When the role of a deacon became better known to De Witte, he started giving it some serious thought, and then it happened.

One day, he was listening to the radio and heard there was an information session on deacons, taking place at St. Thomas University. He talked to Mary and got the ok to go, since the session was taking place on their anniversary, Oct. 18.

They went to the session and De Witte liked what he saw. He asked the board, people leading the session, if there are any prerequisites to becoming a deacon, and they answered by saying no, there are not really any prerequisites to hold someone’s hand when they are dying.

“It was the key that locked everything together for me,” De Witte said.

De Witte made his decision after the session, and started the process of getting into the program. He filled out an application, got a background check, and went through a screening process. He waited for six months before he was notified that he was accepted into the program in June 2002.

“We have been on a faith walk ever since,” De Witte said.

He started class in September 2002 at St. Thomas, going one night a week, and every Saturday. The first year of the program was dedicated to discernment, looking at your calling, scripture, human development, and prayer.

“It was to make sure it’s for you,” De Witte said.

De Witte continued through the next three years of training, covering human development, spiritual growth, and the deeper theology of the church’s teachings.

As part of the program, De Witte also did numerous volunteer and internship activities with Catholic charities, visited the elderly and correctional facilities, while the whole time still working as a manager at the US Bank, in the Twin Cities.

“The hardest part was the time commitment; juggling work, home life, and schooling was difficult,” De Witte said.

He graduated in May, and was ordained Sept 30, excited to give back to his church and community.

“I went into formation thinking it was completing a degree, but I found out it was not too much about doing something, it was about becoming something, a servant to the church,” De Witte said.

Before being ordained, De Witte found the change he was making difficult. He was excited to become a deacon and serve God and his church, yet he was still nervous about leaving his old life behind.

“I was afraid to let go of my current life, but excited to move on to a new life at the same time,” De Witte said.

As a deacon, De Witte has a variety of roles for the church, including assisting Mass, distribution of communion, blessing marriages, presiding over funerals, baptisms, and various volunteering activities.

De Witte is currently joining the Chaplin’s Staff, which will allow him to visit and preach the gospel to prisoners at the Wright County Jail, and volunteer at the Hennepin County Home School, a school for juveniles who are incarcerated.

Although De Witte has only been a deacon for a month, he has had some memorable moments, baptizing his grandson, and a massive thanksgiving celebration that took place Oct. 1.

“It was a big welcoming back to the community here, one of the most awe inspiring things of my life,” De Witte said.

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