Pictured left to right, Edward Colosky, Bishop Peter Christensen, Jim Stroede, and James Arndt. (Photo by Janelle Roe)

Pictured left to right, Edward Colosky, Bishop Peter Christensen, Jim Stroede, and James Arndt. (Photo by Janelle Roe)

Anita Draper
Catholic Herald Staff

When Bishop Peter Christensen calls James Arndt, Edward Colosky and Jim Stroede forward to be ordained permanent deacons on Sunday, Aug. 10, each will bring with him a deeply rooted faith, more than five years of diaconal formation, and a commitment to serve where called and needed.

‘Moved by the Holy Spirit’

James Arndt heard the call to the permanent diaconate long before he responded.

“It’s a long story,” he said of his discernment. “Ultimately, it started in 1997, but I actually didn’t act on it … until around 2005, 2006.

Despite his reluctance, the Holy Spirit would not be silenced.

“Finally, I kind of caved in,” he said.

His formation began in 2009.

Arndt and his wife, Wendy, live in Merrill with their three children: Haley, 17; Kaitlyn, 13; and Aaron, 11. They are members of St. Francis Xavier Parish, Merrill, and owners of Les & Jim’s Lincoln Lanes, a bowling alley, event center and bar and grill in Merrill.
Arndt’s educational background is in economics. He earned a bachelor’s degree at UW-Oshkosh and put in a year of graduate work at Northern Illinois University. Studies for his diaconal formation were largely conducted online through the University of Dayton.
“That worked out really well, because it gave us the opportunity to work at our own pace,” he said.

Despite the challenges of a permanent diaconate program in transition – the three deacon candidates navigated from the Diocese of Superior’s formation to a new joint program with the Diocese of La Crosse – Arndt wasn’t fazed by the changes.

“It worked out well, I think, for the three of us, because we really had a desire to learn,” he explained. “The three of us aren’t the types who sit around and wait for things to happen. We kind of go out and seek things on our own.”

Of all he’s undertaken in his call to become a deacon, Arndt believes the diocese’s School of Servant Leadership was the most beneficial and most closely aligned with his view of the vocation.

“I just want to help out,” he said. “I just want to serve.”

It’s been a long time since St. Francis had a deacon, according to Arndt, and the last one wasn’t from Merrill. He’s looking forward to helping Fr. Mike McLain, pastor of both St. Francis and St. John the Baptist, Bloomville, and serving the people of his community.

“I’ve had an awful lot of support and prayer throughout the whole process. It’ll be neat,” he said of being ordained as a deacon. “It’ll be neat to see how the Holy Spirit moves us through this, and where it leads us.”

“I think it’s exciting for me, but I also think it’s exciting for St. Francis,” he said.

Providing faith formation for adults

Edward Colosky values education. When the deacon candidate considers how best to serve his parish cluster, he focuses on faith formation.

Colosky lives in Somerset with his wife, Angie. Members of St. Anne, Somerset, the couple has three children: Edward, 25; Carl, 22; and Laura, 17.

About a decade ago, Colosky was running a Wild Birds Unlimited store in Hudson when Fr. Jerry Keiser, a priest from Lakeland, Minnesota, planted a seed.

“He said I’d make a really good deacon,” Colosky said. “He’s the one who dropped the idea.”

It was a calling, but also the invitation, which stuck in Colosky’s mind. Over several years, he thought about the permanent diaconate, looked into the program and decided to contact diocesan officials. His formation began in 2008.

Colosky has a bachelor’s degree in business administration from UW-Eau Claire and is semi-retired.

“I’m Mr. Dad,” he added. “That’s really who I am right now. My responsibility is to take care of the family.”

Catholic education has always been a priority for the Coloskys – Edward and Carl attended St. Lawrence Seminary High School in Mount Calvary, and Laura went to an all-girls Catholic high school in California – and he feels faith formation is key to spiritual enrichment.

“A strong Catholic education has really been part of my and Angie’s focus,” he said. “Catholic education has been very good in helping (the children) make good, strong, moral choices.”

Colosky’s own formation through the diaconate program has been similarly enriching.
“I’ve gained a deeper understanding of the Catholic Church and my spirituality,” he said. “My faith has been strengthened by what I’ve seen in the church and what I’ve learned.”
His parish community has been supportive, which also encouraged Colosky to forge ahead with his discernment.

After his Aug. 10 ordination, Colosky will become the fourth deacon in the three-parish cluster. He hopes to continue leading Bible study groups, bringing in new faith-enrichment programs and offering courses on Catholicism.

“Adult faith formation is one area that I’ve concentrated on with my wife the last five years at St. Anne’s,” he explained. “There’s a real need in the Catholic Church, in our parish, for people to go deeper into our faith. All we’re doing is just presenting what others have done, but it’s been very well received from parishioners in our parish.”

Colosky was feeling a little nervous about the ordination, but he believes he and his fellow candidates are ready to make the commitment.

“I think all three of us are feeling more comfortable,” he added. “We’ve come to learn more about each other – our strengths and our weaknesses. It’s been good for all of us.”

‘Going to the periphery to minister’

At first, it was just a strange coincidence.

Every time Jim Stroede, an electrical contractor, went to a home or cabin to repair something, he’d meet someone who was struggling – a grieving widow, families with economic troubles, an individual who was lonely or troubled.

Initially, he was glad to help, and he didn’t think much about the bigger picture.
“I was kind of dropped into those situations to be a friend, to be a listening presence to someone,” he figured.

But, over time, Stroede noticed more and more, the Lord was putting him in situations with people in pain.

“As it began to happen over and over, I would share these situations with my wife, and it became evident the Lord wanted me to be there,” he said. “The Lord wanted me to be present with people who were suffering.”

That was the root of a vocation for Stroede, who has lived in Spooner with his wife, Marguerite, since 2001. Members of St. Francis de Sales Parish, they have seven children: Lucia, 17; Willow, 15; Bridget, 13; Catriona, 12; Forrest, 10; Violet, 7; and Linnea, 3.
Taking his cue from the Lord, Stroede became more involved in his parish and joined the lay ministry program. He’s done two units of clinical pastoral education in Duluth, with a third scheduled for this winter.

“That was great,” he added. “I met a lot of neat people.”

With his ear more tuned to the calling, Stroede was listening when, at a celebration of Deacon Joe Wesley’s ordination, someone asked Stroede, “When’s it your turn?”

“As time went by, I began to feel like, it’s kind of crazy, but maybe there’s something to it,” he said. “Maybe I’m being called to the diaconate.”

Stroede started to explore the possibility of joining the diaconate, and his formation began in 2008.

Something strange happened when Stroede became a deacon candidate – he noticed he was no longer meeting people who were struggling. He was confused.

“I thought, ‘Well, why is that?’” he said, and wondered whether he’d made a mistake. Before long, however, his ministry evolved into hospital chaplaincy.

“When I was open to the Lord’s calling to chaplaincy, it’s like the floodgates opened back up again,” Stroede said. “All of that was kind of a prelude to my work in chaplaincy in local hospital networks.”

When he is ordained Aug. 10, Stroede will add deacon to his list of current occupations – electrician, fishing guide and hospital chaplain – and he will be the fourth deacon to serve in his parish cluster, which includes St. Catherine, Sarona, and St. Joseph, Shell Lake.

“I’m most looking forward to the ministries that I find myself doing for the homebound,” he said, “bringing the word of Pope Francis and his reminding us of the Gospel message of serving each other.”

Stroede also wants to continue reaching out, “going to the periphery to minister to people.”

“I look forward to doing that in my own life more, in my own parish community, in my cluster, in my community, and in my world,” he said.