A man in service to others, helping people to come closer to their God could describe one deacon in particular: Deacon Robert Lanter of St. Luke Parish in Belleville.
A deacon for almost 18 years, he serves the diocese as coordinator of the more than 30 active permanent deacons.
Deacon Lanter also actively participates in his parish partnership with St. Luke and St. Teresa.
It’s a win-win situation for the many people he meets and ministers to every day.
When he looks back at his formation process that began in 1990 with Ministry Formation that was a requirement at the time and then the years of study, “we wonder how we did it,” he said.
The deacon and his wife, Diane, have four children. The two younger ones were in elementary school and the two older ones just finishing high school.
Both came from large families and they hoped to have more children, but medical issues prevented them from having more than two of their own.
Their younger two children are adopted. Now adults, their daughter, Melissa is married with children of her own.
Their son, Michael, is struggling with drug problems and hasn’t found his way forward yet.
The Lanters were also foster parents for then- Catholic Social Services in the diocese, and that could create complexities for the family because you couldn’t take children out of the state of Illinois, which included any trips to St. Louis, unless they had prior permission.
Because they loved children and wanted to give them the love and attention they needed as infants at the start of their lives, the Lanters always “worked things out.”
With both of them working while he was in formation — Diane was a hospice nurse for part of that time — the classes and the time needed for homework and study kept life busy for the couple.
In his youth, Bob was a student at St. Henry’s Preparatory Seminary, studying to be a priest. He finished high school there but decided his call was not to the priesthood.
As a parishioner at St. Luke’s, Father Eugene Neff, his pastor, encouraged
him to think about the diaconate.
He enrolled in Ministry Formation, a requirement at the time, and began his journey to ordination as a permanent deacon.
Deacon Lanter was a truck driver at the time, and sometimes, he said, he kept books and papers on the floorboards of the truck so that he could study if time permitted.
“You didn’t want to get behind with the homework because you’d never catch up,” he said of the homework.
While he was ordained in 1997, Deacon Lanter still remembers lying prostrate on the floor of the cathedral in Belleville as the Litany of the Saints was sung.
“It was such a humbling experience to lie down in the presence of God and promise to serve the people.”
When first ordained, he stood at the altar with the celebrant, and he brought what he knew about the people, their cares, concerns, difficulties, joys and sorrows to God in silent petition.
Kneeling at the altar during the Consecration “has given me a deeper, richer perspective on the Eucharist.”
As coordinator of ordained deacons, he acts as a liaison between the men and the bishop, keeping continuing education requirements up-to-date and helping them with their ministries in whatever way he can, he said.
Meeting people in his own parish and around the diocese, Deacon Lanter has found “people in the parishes seem grateful for the deacons. They feel connected to them because they live in similar situations in work and the world.”
Deacon Lanter said Diane made adjustments in her nursing career along the way because of his commitments to the diaconate.
Serving the people has brought Deacon Lanter joy as he shares in the lives of the people, preparing many over the years for the sacraments of initiation.
“One of the beauties of the Catholic Church is the sacraments. Receiving them gives you the grace to face the struggles and difficulties of life.”
Deacon Lanter reflects on the sacraments in the ordinary moments of his life. As he splashes water on his face in the morning, he sometimes thinks of the sacrament of baptism. His morning, then, takes on a sacredness that belies the act of the splashing of the water.
Being an ordained deacon fulfills him. “I’ve grown,” he said, realizing being a deacon “involves sacrifice too, and a life-long commitment. We just have to trust and find the good that is happening now, and help people find hope for the future.”
– Liz Quirin