I came to Seattle from New Jersey in 1982 to serve as a Jesuit Volunteer at St. Joseph Parish. One of my reasons was to discern a vocation to the priesthood. The local church was alive under the leadership of Archbishop Hunthausen, where everyone (lay and clergy) was invited to share their gifts in service to the people of God.
I met my wife Cyndy two years later and that closed the door on becoming a Catholic priest, but I still felt called to ministry. With an undergraduate degree in Economics, I went back to school at Seattle University and after three summers received a Master of Ministry degree.
I worked as a lay staff member for 15 years when Archbishop Brunett decided to call a new class of permanent deacons after his predecessor, Archbishop Hunthausen, had paused the permanent diaconate until the question of ordaining women deacons was resolved.
When I heard about the diaconate being reopened, I knew in my heart that I was called to apply. I was also faced with anger and disbelief from some of my lay colleagues, especially women, who questioned why I would do this knowing they did not have the same opportunity.
This remained a tension for me and still does today after being ordained for almost 20 years. I decided I could do more to work for change within the church, especially building bridges as a collaborator and partner with both my fellow clergy and my lay colleagues.
In 2019 I had the privilege to preach at the funeral mass of an amazing woman, Sue Grady. She took her baptismal promises very seriously, anointed with the chrism of salvation, as Priest, Prophet, and King. She felt called to be ordained as a deacon.
“Our Divine Creator has blessed me with many graces. I graduated with a Master of Divinity Degree in 2010, joining my son at Seattle University when he graduated in electrical engineering. I so very much want to kneel at the altar and pledge myself to the Bishop and the Church.I still hope and pray for the opportunity to serve as a deacon. I am 75 years old and sadly know I don’t have many years to be given the opportunity to serve my church. But I trust the work of the Spirit in our Church and I hope for the Pope to say ‘YES.’”
At the end of my homily at Sue’s funeral, I said:
“What the church was not able to give Sue in this life, I want to give it to her now. Not simply as a token of what could have been, but in the spirit of Sue to be inspired to work for structural change in our church. Part of the ordination ceremony for the permanent diaconate is to be vested by an ordained deacon. I want to end my reflection tonight by vesting Sue…with one of my diaconal stoles. Sue believed nothing is impossible for God and with God!”
Here we are in 2022, and I want to tell you why I support the work of Discerning Deacons.
Last year before I joined a couple of zoom meetings hosted by Discerning Deacons, I was, quite honestly, a bit cynical. “What’s there to discern?” I thought.
I have worked with so many talented, faithful, gifted women over my many years who at least deserved the same opportunity as me to pursue their calling and receive the grace in the Sacrament of Ordination.
But the door remains shut. Many have left the church…some seeking ordinations in other denominations. How sad, and what a loss for the church.
I reached out to Anna Robertson, a parishioner who recently joined the staff of Discerning Deacons, to share a little of my story – and something shifted in me.
I heard the call to rebuild the church…in a new way. To use my position as a male permanent deacon to advocate for the ordination of women as deacons. I now understand why Discerning Deacons does the work that they do, and I encourage you to get involved.
Recent synod synthesis reports from both the Archdiocese of Seattle and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops state that ordination for women emerged not so much as “a solution to the problem of the priest shortage, but as a matter of justice.”
I remain hopeful, and thanks to work of Discerning Deacons, I want all of us to look around this church, our church and TRULY SEE, RECOGNIZE, and APPRECIATE the many gifts, the faith, and the commitment to serve that women bring to our church.
In the words of the prophet Isaiah, “See I am doing something new. Do you not perceive it?”
Deacon Steve Wodzanowski serves as a pastoral associate at St. Joseph Parish in Seattle. St. Joe’s recently celebrated St. Phoebe at the Oct. 30th Masses. Liturgies opened with the song “Christ as Her Vision” (by Bernadette Farrell) and included a homily in which Deacon Steve shared his own commitment to supporting women with a call to the diaconate and an announcement from Anna Robertson about the Year of St. Phoebe and how to get involved.