Deacon Thomas Helfrich said becoming a deacon was one more way he could “give back” to God for blessings he has received in his life and give back to his church.
He and his wife, Dawn, have been active parishioners at SS. Peter & Paul Parish in Waterloo for many years.
However, he said, “I was drawn to something more pastoral,” and he received encouragement from then pastor, Msgr. Thomas Flach and Deacon Douglas Boyer.
“I felt this is where I was called,” he said. His wife, Dawn, agreed. “I thought of him as a deacon before he did. There was a flame that needed a little support.”
Deacon Helfrich went through Ministry Formation, which was, at the time, a prerequisite for the diaconate.
As a “cradle Catholic,” he didn’t have a “St. Paul knocked off his horse” kind of experience. However, “there was a moment when I knew it was the right thing.”
Throughout the classes and the process, Deacon Helfrich said he felt “like a sponge” soaking up all of the information and the experiences until the week of homiletics classes at St. Meinrad Archabbey in Indiana.
The experience at St. Meinrad for him crystallized his thinking. “It was pretty clear that this was meant to be,” he said.
Dawn agreed. “This is where he is meant to be.”
In his ministry, Deacon Helfrich assists at Mass at SS. Peter and Paul and and helps prepare couples for marriage. “It’s a joy and a blessing,” he said.
He was delighted to witness the marriage of his eldest son, Nick, to his wife, Margaret. It was “the dad as the deacon.”
In preparing to preach, the deacon said he reads, reflects and prays. “The goal is to tie together what was happening then with what is happening now and to challenge people.”
Deacon Helfrich wants to spend more time in ministry, what is now his passion, Dawn said. “We’ve both grown in our faith,” she said. “It’s been a real journey; I’m fascinated by learning about the Catholic faith.
Dawn expressed an interest in finding out about a new diocesan program that will begin in the fall called “Into My Vineyard,” a two-year adult lay ministry formation program.
The couple is involved in many aspects of parish life and expects to continue to minister in Pre-Cana programs and marriage preparation and the parish’s faith formation commission.
Prayer, an important part of a deacon’s life, is “easy” in the morning, Deacon Helfrich said, but it is much more challenging in the evenings that are busy with many things. It is an aspect that “needs work” as he continues to grow in his faith and his life as a deacon.