Catholic Free Press

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  • Jun
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In service

Posted By June 6, 2013 | 1:12 pm | Lead Story #1

Deacon Bilow’s step to diaconate may  be first of many more

By Tanya Connor

Deacon William A. Bilow Jr., 51, said last week that he thinks he’s always had a sense for a vocation.
Once that became clearer, he had to discern which vocation.
Saturday his discernment came to fruition – for now – as he was ordained a permanent deacon.
But he said he’s still open to priesthood, if God calls him to it. He never married, so Saturday he took the promise of celibacy, which unmarried men being ordained permanent deacons do.
“What mattered more was what God is calling me to do, rather than what I’m looking for for myself,” Deacon Bilow said of the direction he took.
His ordination was “just an incredible experience,” he said this week. “It’s a tremendous blessing. It’s much, much more than I ever imagined, in terms of the joy.”
He delighted in the fact that his Mass of Thanksgiving at his home parish – Immaculate Conception in Lancaster – was Sunday, the feast of the Body and Blood of Christ. The feast is about the Eucharist, which means thanksgiving, he said; “when we receive the Body and Blood of Christ, we do so in thanksgiving.” He is now serving St. Anne Parish in Shrewsbury.
Deacon Bilow said that when he was in third or fourth grade he thought about being a priest. As a teenager, he considered a professional career.
“Faith has always been my Number 1 priority – faith and family,” he said. “Some of my earliest memories as a child are attending Mass with my parents,” William A. Bilow Sr., now deceased, and Mary E. Bilow, and brother and sister, James and Mary Anne Bilow. “It was always important for my family that we keep our faith. I have a faith instilled in me from my parents. I have the Lord to thank for that too.”
At Assumption College some of his favorite classes were religious studies, he said. But he majored in math and foreign languages (so as to learn what his Franco American ancestors spoke). He minored in computer science, which he wanted to make his profession.
In 1983, after graduation, he got a job in software development at State Mutual Life Assurance Company of America on Lincoln Street in Worcester, he said. He left in 2001 and worked for a software company. In 2005 he returned to the Lincoln Street business, now Hanover Insurance, where he is vice president for Enterprise Program Services.
“In 2003 I became a eucharistic minister, and it was then I really started feeling a tug toward a vocation,” Deacon Bilow said. “I wasn’t sure if it was the priesthood or the diaconate. The discernment has continued and still continues.”
He felt called to the diaconate because of the ministry of service, he said. For about 25 years, he said, he’s been planning an early retirement.
“I want to retire young enough so I can really contribute,” he said.
About 10 years ago, looking towards his retirement, he thought about community service, he said. Then he studied the permanent diaconate.
“This is my way of giving back a little bit of what God has given me,” he said. He said he expects to remain a permanent deacon at least until he retires in four years at age 55, but his ears and mind are open, should God call him to priesthood.
“My plans are not God’s plans,” he said. He started the diaconate program earlier than he planned because he felt called to, he said. Originally, he wasn’t going to start until age 50. Had he waited, he wouldn’t have gotten into it yet, as classes for newcomers were temporarily suspended two years ago and are to start again next year.
Deacon Bilow spoke of being open to the unknown, trusting God’s plan for him, and said, “It’s a tremendous feeling to know that you’ve been called by God and you’re responding to his will.”

Deacon Ferrarone gets strength from Blessed Mother

By Tanya Connor

The Blessed Mother, the rosary and the woman who taught him to pray it feature prominently in Deacon William G. Ferrarone’s story. His journey led to his ordination as a permanent deacon Saturday at St. Paul Cathedral.
“I was very fortunate I was very close with my maternal grandmother, who basically prayed all day long,” Deacon Ferrarone said. “She taught me to pray the rosary at a very young age. “Throughout my life there’s always been people I looked up to, that were heroes of mine.” Among them were Mother Teresa, Dorothy Day, foundress of the Catholic Worker movement, and Daniel and Philip Berrigan, brothers, Catholic priests and peace activists.
“There were people all along the way who helped me out,” Deacon Ferrarone said. He said he  lived at McAuley Nazareth Home for Boys in Leicester when he was a student at the College of the Holy Cross, and found support from Msgr. Edmond T. Tinsley and the Sisters of Mercy, who then lived at the home.
“They were all tremendous models of spirituality in a very humble way,” he said. “They preached with their actions.”
Deacon Ferrarone said that, at some point in college, he wanted to be a priest, but then realized that wasn’t his calling. During his college years and into young adulthood he wandered away from his faith, he said.
“I went through some periods of doubt,” he said. “I was searching for different things.”
In his 30s, he heard about the reported apparitions of the Blessed Mother at Medjugorje, in the former Yugoslavia, but didn’t know anything about them, he said.
“I still had a devotion to Mary, but I really didn’t pray very much,” he said.
But as a husband and father beginning his work as a clinical psychologist, he felt he needed something to tie together family and career, he said.
“I was drawn to praying the rosary,” he said. “It helped calm me down. It helped center me. It kind of re-prioritized things in my life.”
He and his wife, Karen Scharfenberg-Ferrarone, and their children – Joseph, Peter and Nora – went to Medjugorje for a youth festival on a trip led by Father H. Edward Chalmers, now pastor of St. Stephen Parish in Worcester.
“I really felt like there was a conversion experience there, just a reordering of my values, a much greater focus on prayer and penance and living a life of spirituality,” Deacon Ferrarone said. “Not that I hadn’t done those things before, but as an adult it was a much different understanding. The Blessed Mother really brought me to her Son.”
He and his wife started a rosary group at their home, he said.
“That was one of the things Mary was asking at Medjugorje,” he said.  “At first it was just my wife and I and sometimes we’d have one or two other people.”
Now, a decade or more later, they get 15-30 people from all over for the weekly praying of the Divine Mercy Chaplet and two sets of mysteries of the rosary, he said.
“There’s a real hunger for fellowship and the gifts of prayer life,” he said.
And he’s returned to Medjugorje several times with his family, and his wife led one of the pilgrimages.
“They made me want to go deeper in my faith, especially in my prayer life,” he said of these pilgrimages. About six years ago he felt he wanted to be more involved in the Church in a direct way, he said. He heard about the permanent diaconate and contacted the diocesan office.
“It’s been a wonderful process,” he said of his preparation for the diaconate. “I feel very positive about it. People in both of those parishes have been supportive and very welcoming to having a deacon.”
He was talking about his home parish, St. Joseph’s in Barre, and the parish he later interned at, St. Thomas-a-Becket in South Barre. The two are to merge July 1 and he is to serve the new parish, yet to be named, as a deacon.

Deacon LeDoux walking in faith

By Tanya Connor

Preaching is the part of the diaconal ministry that most interests Deacon John F. LeDoux, of St. Stephen Parish in Worcester, who was ordained Saturday at St. Paul Cathedral.
“The thing that I always enjoyed the most was talking to people about the Gospel,” he said. “Because of that, I came to realize that God had given me a gift to be able to preach.”
He said he likes everything the ministry entails, but likes preaching best, and gave the following example.
“In the culture we live in, it is not uncommon to hear people say, ‘Life isn’t fair.’ But we know through the Gospel message that Jesus Christ is life, and that God is fair and just.”
Deacon LeDoux called that “an example of how profoundly different the perspectives are of someone who is buying into the lies of the Culture of Death versus someone who is living by the Gospel message and the Culture of Life.
“Our culture is steeped in lies,” he said. “And the only way we can get out of those lies is through the message of the Gospel. It brings us from darkness to light.”
Deacon LeDoux has long been trying to live and share his faith.
“Basically I started out interested in politics,” he said; he took a semester of political science at Boston University. “It wasn’t answering the deepest questions I had. I started studying philosophy and that became more interesting to me.” He also studied world religions and got his bachelor’s in interdisciplinary studies – basically philosophy, religion, psychology and law – he said.
He said he coordinated students tutoring prisoners at MCI-Cedar Junction, fed people at the Mustard Seed soup kitchen in Worcester and taught religious education classes.
In 1981 Father Terence T. Kilcoyne asked him to sing with the folk group at Our Lady of the Rosary Parish in Worcester, where he met his future wife, Allison.
“I looked at him like he was out of his mind,” Deacon LeDoux said. “Twice I said, ‘No, I don’t sing.’” The third time the priest asked, “I looked at his collar and I thought, ‘Well, it’s a priest asking me, so maybe I should.’ I became a liturgical musician then and there.”
Now Deacon LeDoux says, “When God is calling you, you better listen.” When the priest speaks – and perhaps the deacon too – “maybe they’ve got an inspiration from God.”
Deacon LeDoux said when his wife was asked to start a folk group at Our Lady of Good Counsel Parish in West Boylston, they went there. Now he’s back at Our Lady of the Rosary as a deacon.
He said he first applied for the diaconate program in 1989, but was told his three children were too young. He and his wife subsequently had five more children.
In the late 1990s he again applied for the diaconate, and spent two years in formation, he said. He reapplied in 2008 and finished the program. Now he’s working on his master’s in pastoral ministry at Anna Maria College.
“Back in the late 1980s I was working for the U.S. Postal Service as a rural carrier and I had a conflict between my job responsibilities and my faith,” Deacon LeDoux said, telling more of his journey. “Ultimately I was fired for refusing to deliver pornography.”
Then he was invited to work for Father Ralph A. DiOrio’s Apostolate for Healing, where he did computer work, among other things, he said.
“I had the opportunity to witness many miracles and I bear witness to them to this day,” he said. He said he especially recounts them when doing marriage preparation with his wife, who directs the Diocesan Respect Life and Marriage and Family offices.
Walking in faith “has shown me some incredible things,” he said. “The faith that is required to please God requires picking up your cross every day, which isn’t always the most pleasant thing, and yet the irony is his load is easy and his burden light.”