40 years a deacon: The diaconate as a layman’s road to holiness

Allegra Thatcher, Assistant Editor.

Deacon Tom Dushney is celebrating his 40th year of the diaconate, and credits it with his greater formation as a man. Whether baptizing his grandchildren or teaching RCIA, he says his service to the Church has been his route to sanctification.

“I had a great desire to serve God, his Church and the people of his Church,” said Deacon Dushney. “I had contemplated the way Mary said yes to God, and I responded to God’s call to do that … to serve God and his Church at a greater level.”

Currently serving at Mother of God Parish, Covington, he was ordained in Camden, New Jersey in 1980 and incardinated into the Diocese of Covington 1998 when he moved here for his job. At the time, he was assigned to Mary, Queen of Heaven Parish, Erlanger.

Deacon Tom Dushney

Deacon Dushney said that through a life of service, he’s developed into a much more whole man.
“It helped me to develop a disciplined prayer life through the Liturgy of the Hours, to understand ecclesiology and teachings of the Church and (have) a deeper relationship with Christ.” Through this personal spiritual growth, he said he learned how to be a better husband and father, as well as bring Christ into his work place. “It reminded me of the call to holiness … that really appealed to me and bore fruit in my life,” he said.

Some of his greatest joys during his ministry have been bringing people in to the faith through the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA) at Mary, Queen of Heaven Parish, where he was director of Religious Education, and being involved in the administration of sacraments. He loves to preach and teach, as well as prepare the faithful for the sacraments of baptism and marriage.

“Recently I’ve been able to witness the marriages of my granddaughters and baptize my grandchildren and great-grandchildren,” he said. “What a wonderful experience that has been for me, and a blessing in my life. There’s so many wonderful opportunities to serve the people of God. I’m so thankful to God that he called me to this ministry of the permanent diaconate.”

“I congratulate Deacon Dushney on his 40 years of dedicated and fruitful service to the Lord and to the Church as a permanent deacon,” said Bishop Roger Foys. “Deacon Dushney embodies what it means to be a true servant of the Church looking after the needs of others and administering to them with compassion and love. He is a true gentleman and example and witness to everyone and anyone engaged in ministry.”

Deacon Dushney said he’s also been a better spiritual leader of his home through his diaconate. He’s come to understand the importance of obedience to the Church, especially to his bishop and to the teachings of the Church. Through his continued learning, he’s been able to share that truth with his family.

“It’s given me a greater sense of belonging, a sense of personal responsibility to my role as a Christian man,” he said. “I think my family has most benefited from my spiritual growth … as I was able to give them a deeper insight into Christ and his Church, and the meaning of God’s love for them.”

Though his ministry has slowed down a bit as he’s advanced in years, Deacon Dushney, now 75, is still joyfully serving wherever he’s given the chance. He’s looking ahead with peace that he’ll be able to do whatever his pastor and bishop need from him.

“My prayer has been, that I will still be able to minister to God and his people, that in my old age I will be able to participate in ministry and serve as I have for 40 years,” he said.

He encourages men interested in the permanent diaconate to prayerfully consider it. “It’s a wonderful opportunity to serve as a representative to the people, to be able to bring God’s love to them.”

“I attribute it all to God and his loving mercy to me — I’ve done nothing to deserve these many blessings in life so whatever I have received, the joy and happiness, I attribute it all to God’s grace and mercy.”