Catholic Sentinel photo by Jon DeBellis
John Kresbach and Geoff Schmitt at their ordination to the diaconate.
Catholic Sentinel photo by Jon DeBellis
John Kresbach and Geoff Schmitt at their ordination to the diaconate.

Archbishop Alexander Sample ordained two men to the permanent diaconate at St. Mary Cathedral, reminding them that their call to the diaconate is not about achieving a special status, but to serve the people of God.

"You are ordained here today for the community of the church," said Archbishop Sample during his homily at the ordination ceremony. "This ministry is all about service, and I look forward to welcoming you to be a part of that service in this wonderful ministry."

Permanent deacons, who will not become priests, are ordained with a special mission of serving the sick and the needy, and helping at the altar during Mass. The deacons can officiate at baptisms, weddings and funerals and give homilies. The permanent diaconate was revived after the Second Vatican Council. 

The two deacons called to service were Geoffrey Schmitt and John Kresbach.

Krebsbach, a 63-year-old member of St. Anthony Parish in Forest Grove, is married to Pam. They have four children. An optometric physician, he earned a master of pastoral ministry degree from the University of Portland in 2012.

"Only God knows for sure where this is all heading," he says, explaining that he has entrusted himself to the archbishop and his pastor, Father Cary Reni Reniva. For now, he will serve as deacon at St. Anthony and continue educating parishioners in Catholic social teaching. He is a passionate advocate of JustFaith, a social justice formation process the Archdiocese of Portland has made available to Catholics.

Trying to abide by one of the social justice movement's mottos — "Live simply so that others may simply live," the Krebsbachs have left their five-bedroom home for a two-bedroom townhouse.

"You find you never owned these things to begin with, they own you," says the ebullient Krebsbach, laughing loudly. He says he is inspired by the life and teaching of Pope Francis.

A former professional rock and roll musician, Krebsbach has played for liturgy at St. Anthony and also at church events.

Schmitt, 63, is married to Debbi and they have five children. They are parishioners at Immaculate Conception Parish in Stayton, where Schmitt serves as business manager and director of religious education.

After retiring from a 36-year career with the United States Postal Service, Schmitt went on to earn a certificate in pastoral ministry from the University of Portland in 2012.

Entering the diaconate has been in Schmitt's mind since the 1980s, and over the years he has worked with a series of priests at his parish who have been supportive of his calling - Fathers Panneer Selvam, Steve Geer and Ed Coleman.

"I felt like I was being called to do something more," Schmitt said. "Each time I volunteered at the church, it felt good, but there was a yearning to do something more."

A 33-year Oregon resident, Schmitt has discovered how enriching it can be to teach his faith through adult faith formation. Training for pastoral ministry has also changed him in other ways, enhancing his prayer life and relationships.

"I used to be a numbers person, but since I've been in this process, I've been much more satisfied in dealing with people than numbers on a page," he said.

Preparing to enter the diaconate has also enriched his knowledge and view of the church and its ministries. But the old adage holds true: "The more I learn, the more I realize I don't know," Schmitt laughed. He looks forward to continuing his education through service to his Catholic community.

Schmitt's parents were able to attend the ordination, as well as his wife and children.