Everyone leads a busy life these days, running from one appointment to the next, juggling family and other obligations, but Deacon Charles Litteken, who says he is retired, keeps busy all week and weekend long.
Ordained a deacon in 1997, and assigned as deacon to St. Francis of Assisi in Aviston, Deacon Litteken is also administrator of St. Teresa of Avila Parish in Marydale.
Not enough? He also drives a school bus two mornings and every afternoon for Mater Dei Catholic High School where students were a bit boisterous until they introduced a seating chart. Now things are great, the deacon said.
Not enough? Okay, add preparing eighth-graders at Aviston public school for confirmation three days a week.
Students in the confirmation class know Deacon Litteken is serious because he tells them they must “show me you want to be confirmed” by studying and learning about the Catholic faith.
Add to the ministry mix a part-time job of preparing people’s taxes from the fall through April 18, and Deacon Litteken remains a pretty busy man.
He retired from his full-time job in 2006, he said because it was interfering with his part-time job of tax preparation which he enjoys.
Deacon Litteken credits St. Teresa’s last pastor, Father Jerome Feldmann, with preparing the parish to get involved if they wanted to have a viable parish. They accepted the challenge, and the parish remains vibrant and its parishioners active in their parish.
Sacramental Minister Father Lawrence Nickels, OFM began celebrating liturgies in 1999 and remains dedicated to that ministry today, Deacon Litteken said.
When he was asked about being parish administrator, he said: “I thought about it, prayed about it and met with the parish council” before deciding to take the opportunity.
“I really enjoy being with St. Teresa parishioners,” he said. “They’re good people.”
Deacon John Hempen is also assigned to Marydale.
When Deacon Litteken was considering the diaconate, he had a strong background in theology, having attended St. Henry Seminary as a high school student and four more years in the seminary before deciding this was not his calling.
He met his wife, Mary, after he began teaching in Clinton County. The couple has seven children, six boys and one girl.
Mary went to some of the classes with her husband, but their youngest son was 3 years old when the deacon went into Ministry Formation, the pre-requisite for the diaconate at the time.
It was difficult but they “made it work” with help from grandparents.
Being a deacon gives him the opportunity to minister to people who are living through “tough times.”
The deacon said: “It is important for people to see those who have families and other responsibilities still set aside additional time for God.” The deacon and his wife also minister together, presenting the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults when St. Francis has someone interested in learning about the Catholic faith.
While Deacon Litteken enjoys his ministry because he can share his faith journey with others, it also presents some difficult challenges.
One of the most difficult situations he has faced thus far was presiding at a funeral recently.
His voice broke and he wiped away tears as he described burying his niece. “It was tough; I did a lot of praying, and I took a lot of deep breaths,” he said.
He has also been moved when other young people have died, including one who was a former student who died with melanoma.
Deacon Litteken and his wife, Mary, pray often, but certainly more fervently when their sons were deployed overseas. It was a difficult time, made easier relying on their faith.