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Teachers and good deacons 2017-05-03T15:23:30+00:00

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Teachers and good deacons

By Mallory Matt

Scheurich-2The role of the deacon in the Church is to serve the needs of the diocese under the instruction of the bishop, but, naturally, they also become teachers and examples for all who are around them.

“Whether it’s your kids or whoever it is that you’re around, we’re always being teachers every day of our lives,” said retired St. Anne, Beaumont, Deacon Joseph Scheurich. “We are always being looked at as an example.”

Deacon Scheurich was that example for his son-in-law, Ben Yett, who is now in the permanent diaconate formation program. The ordination date is set for Aug. 12, 2017.

“I’m a great believer in family influence no matter what happens,” said Deacon Scheurich.

Yett described his father-in-law of nearly 27 years as being a great teacher for what it means to be a good deacon.

“Joe was a teacher for me and for everyone,” he said. “Joe has been a wonderful example in the path that he has shown me that I wish everybody got to see.”

Although their programs are 25 years apart, both of their draws to the permanent deacon ministry are similar. Both Yett and Deacon Scheurich went through Catholic school from elementary through high school, and both were heavily influenced by priests.

“I remember walking to St. Charles in Portland, Oregon, where I’m from, to catch a ride with two of the parish priests who taught at the school until I was old enough to drive,” Yett said. “So I had always been around priests, and I think they were very inviting. I think that’s what makes a good priest and a good deacon.”

Deacon Scheurich said having Jesuit priests at high school and college gave him a good theological background in which he took interest. He said he was called to the permanent deacon ministry three times. The first time, he was told, “you should be a deacon,” by a devout member his parish.

“I kind of brushed it off and thought, ‘Yeah, me? A deacon? With six kids at home?’” he said. “I didn’t pay any attention to it.”

Deacon Scheurich described a retreat in Houston as the “jumpstart” of his enthusiasm to becoming a permanent deacon, but when he came back to Beaumont and called the pastoral center, he was told no deacon class was in the works.

“I kind of got all the air dropped out of me,” he said. “But the last time I was called, I remember we were coming back from vacation and my daughter had brought our mail in. She took the Catholic paper and put in on the coffee table. Right on top and above the fold, it read, ‘Tomorrow is the last day to sign up for the new deacon class.’ I had totally missed it — totally forgotten about it. So, I called our pastor and he said, ‘You’re in. It’s done.’”

Deacon Scheurich said his formation program in the ‘90s was much different from the program he witnesses his son-in-law going through.

Scheurich-1“I always looked at our program as being kind of like ‘homeschooled,’” he said. “We had local priests, nuns and a few lay people who came together to help with the classes. And at that time, there were no rules and regulations for the diaconate program. That came after our ordination in 1992. It was basically up to the individual diocese as to what your courses would be.”
Yett is experiencing the modern, more structured, diaconate program.

“Everything has to be structured,” said Yett. “And distance learning was the case of most of those classes with teachers from St. Thomas in Houston.”

Yett’s courses have all taken place in the Catholic Pastoral Center in Beaumont and have just virtually connected with professors and clergy at a distance. This was not the case 25 years ago when the World Wide Web had just been launched. Deacon Scheurich remembers the struggle in trying to find a proper place to have classes.

“The first year, we were down in the hospital in Port Arthur in some room that had horrible acoustics,” he said. “The second year, we were put in the St. Charles Borromeo CCD room in Nederland. That was a little better. But the last two years, we went out to Holy Family Retreat Center. That seemed to work.”

Part of Deacon Scheurich’s formation program required all wives to attend every training over the four-year program. Each class was held once a month for a full day Saturday and half of the day on Sunday.

“I say the thing that makes my class different from Ben’s class is that it was compulsory for wives to attend every class, every time,” he said. “They didn’t have to write homilies or write papers, but they had to be there.”

The current permanent diaconate program still requires the wives’ blessings in order for their husbands to be considered for the now six-year program, but it is not required that they attend the spring and fall semester Saturday meetings, although it is highly encouraged.

Deacon Scheurich also said the program is like a different world when comparing the formality of his son-in-law’s formation versus the informality of his own.

“We had a baby shower for one of the younger deacons during our formation,” he said. “The informality to me was the greatest part of our formation because of the great bond that we formed with each other. We knew about each other’s families and we saw their wives at every meeting.”

The deacon ministry has been a tremendous part of Deacon Scheurich’s life. His first ministry as a deacon was baptisms and the first baptism he performed was for his grandchild.

“I think it was really special for my first baptism to have been my grandchild,” he said. “I’ve baptized all of my grandchildren, except for the oldest because I wasn’t ordained yet. I also officiated the weddings for two of my sons.”

Yett said performing some the sacraments is something that he looks forward to if he makes it all the way through the program to the ordination.

“I’ll be excited to do what I’ve learned,” he said. “I’m still learning to juggle classes, work, family, Knights of Columbus, and being a football official in the fall. It’s challenging at times. But until then, like I tell my wife, ‘Sleep? Eh, who needs it.’”