Editor’s note: The Catholic Herald posed four questions to the four men preparing to be ordained to the permanent diaconate. Here, Dan Kohler from St. Mary, Hammond, and Rod Knight, from St. Joseph in Rice Lake, offer their responses.
What instruments and/or circumstances did God use to call you to the diaconate?
Dan Kohler: People, people, people. From the time my deacon asked me if I thought I should be a deacon, to every time I was doubting my call, there has been someone there to reaffirm that I was on the right path. Also prayer. Sitting in silence, feeling God knock on my heart.
Rod Knight: My mother, Richard and Susan Brown were examples of faith, Christian courage, and my first evangelizers. Dcn. Dennis Geisler is the one who got me interested in the diaconate. He credits God, but it was Dcn. Dennis who got me to listen for God’s call and truly set the example of what a deacon should be. Bishop James Powers (before he was bishop, he was my pastor), Fr. Dennis Mullen, Fr. Ed Anderson (my pastor and pastoral supervisor), Fr. David Neuschwander, Fr. Samuel Schneider, and Fr. Adam Laski (my associate pastor and spiritual advisor) have all been instrumental in my formation as a Catholic man and potential deacon. Frs. Ed and Adam have been a source of information, guidance, support and friendship throughout my formation. Volunteering with the Knights of Columbus Council #2137, St. Vincent de Paul, Marshfield Hospice, Barron County Jail Ministry, The Red Cross, and the ministries within our parish as well as support and prayers from the Council of Catholic Women have helped me grow in faith, hope and charity and desire to serve God. The Diaconate Formation Team (Diocese of La Crosse) has my gratitude for taking me deeper in my faith through instruction and example, patiently helping me strive to be the man I am called to be, and for their friendship. And for all the holy men and women of our cluster who are living the faith and setting the example for me to follow. I would not be a deacon if it were not for their prayers and support.
What has been the most unexpected benefit or blessing of your formation?
Dan Kohler: All the grace I feel I have received. The formation process was a lot, and came with sacrifice, but I have learned so much about our Catholic faith, (and) that I am truly grateful for.
Rod Knight: The laity in our parish who prayed for me and provided encouragement and support. Ron and Shirley Kieffer (both have passed) prayed a rosary for me every day. I have benefitted greatly from all those prayers. I will be forever grateful for God leading me to this parish and allowing me to serve it.
What class or area of study has been the most enriching? The most challenging?
Dan Kohler: Biblical history. In the Gospels alone, there are so many things about them that we just don’t see as someone just reading the passage. The things I learned about the culture and the people that these books were written for is fascinating. I feel I have only scratched the surface. I look forward to getting some of the books monsignor recommended so I can keep learning more.
Rod Knight: Homiletics. I enjoyed the different perspectives each deacon candidate brought from the same readings, and the experiences shared by Fr. Felix. Everything during the COVID lockdown became difficult due to restrictions and the lack of in-person fellowship.
How has your preparation for the diaconate, including its demands of time and attention, been a growth experience for your family?
Dan Kohler: I feel the best way to answer that is simply to grow in Christ’s love. I have learned to lean on Christ. To trust that I am following his will, and If I’m not, that he will correct my path. That the love that God and Christ share is something I try my best to do with my wife. Always willing the good for the other. That has made me grow more than anything else.
Rod Knight: My wife and I are both veterans; she is a nurse, we both volunteer and participate in ministries together and individually, so juggling time and schedules was not something new. We really enjoyed the time spent together at the diaconate formation and retreats. It has always been quality over quantity in our relationship. The experience has brought us closer together and strengthened our love.