The road to the diaconate has proved to be a bit longer for one candidate, but ordination is just a few days away. Gary Mueller will be ordained a permanent deacon for the Diocese of Belleville Feb. 26 at St. Nicholas Church in O’Fallon, his home parish. Everyone is invited to attend the 10:30 a.m. liturgy when Bishop Edward K. Braxton will ordain him a deacon.
“It’s a beautiful ceremony,” Msgr. William Hitpas said. Msgr. Hitpas is pastor of St. Nicholas in O’Fallon and St. Joseph in Lebanon.
“I feel like the bride,” Mueller said. “I’ve waited so long for this.”
While Mueller finished his studies to become a deacon in 2013, it became clear to him and his wife, Cathy, that paperwork they thought had been completed 35 years ago was not, and that became an impediment to ordination with other members of his class.
Sometimes, he said, he became discouraged, but he is a person of great determination, and he continued to work towards a resolution of the issue. In addition, family health problems — heart bypass surgery in 2012 and chemotherapy for his oldest daughter to treat a rare form of liver cancer — diverted him for awhile.
While he was disappointed he was not ordained with his class, his faith is unshakable, and he has continued to study, hoping and praying for resolution to personal issues and a good prognosis for his daughter.
Continuing to study, he enjoyed the homiletics class as a man used to being in front of a group of people.
“We’re thankful for people like Patti Warner and Deacon Robert Lanter and for my classmates for standing with me throughout this process,” he said.
As a U.S. Airforce navigator, he taught classes in navigation and survival, he said.
From upstate New York, near the Adirondack Mountains, Mueller said he would walk for hours, reflecting, listening to the quiet and the voice of God.
“I was drawn to a calling,” he said, even in his teens. In the 1970s, he found information about the diaconate and “investigated it.”
He was 25 at the time and told he was too young. Stationed in California in the late 1980s he began to investigate the possibilities of the diaconate again but couldn’t enroll in a class because he would not remain there long enough to finish the program.
Finally coming to the Belleville diocese, he will realize this dream of ordination in his home parish, with his wife and family members, members of his diaconate class and fellow parishioners at St. Nicholas.
He looks forward to ordination and for being part of the Ash Wednesday service. He said he hopes to carry the Easter Candle into St. Nicholas on Holy Saturday.
The oldest of eight children, he said he always cooked at home, and has been able to continue cooking at the Egg and I, although he hopes to step back from that as he becomes more involved in the diaconate. Cathy and Gary Mueller have three grown children.