The Saint Paul Seminary’s Newest Permanent Deacons Live Secular Lives, Too

The Saint Paul Seminary’s 2023 class of permanent diaconate is one of the largest ever in archdiocese history. Bishop Joseph Williams ordained 18 men in December 2023 as permanent deacons for the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis at the Cathedral of St. Paul.

In the Catholic Church, deacons belong to the diaconate, one of the three degrees in the Sacrament of Holy Orders. The role of the deacons in the Church is to serve others by following the example of Christ.

Deacon John Rogers and his wife, Sara

There are two types of deacons in the Church: transitional and permanent deacons. Transitional deacons are men who intend on being ordained to the priesthood. Permanent deacons are not studying to become priests; they can be married, have families and secular jobs, in addition to being ordained to the clergy.

Fundraising consultant John Rogers, who received a Master of Arts in Catholic Studies from St. Thomas, said he found his diaconate calling after he and his wife Sara had a loss of three children to miscarriage. That experience, as well as a back injury, he said, reshaped his perspective.

“Other people’s ministry to our family during these times was very powerful,” he said. “I began to desire deeply to bring the healing power of Christ into difficult situations.”

Deacon Kou Ly and his wife, Joua

An uncle of gold medal Olympic gymnast Suni Lee, Kou Ly spent the earliest years of his life in a refugee camp and later France before coming to the U.S. Now, as a deacon, he plans to minister to the more than 8,000 Hmong Catholics in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.

“There is a need to show the congregation the beauty of the liturgy, the beauty and goodness of the Church and the holiness of the faith,” said Ly, who also works as a database administrator in the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office.

Deacon Christopher Richards and his wife, Sarah

Another recently ordained permanent deacon is Christopher Richards. He felt the call to the diaconate while leading a retreat program at his parish. At The Saint Paul Seminary, his sense to diaconate ministry was confirmed through prayer and discernment. As a deacon, Richards wants to help others encounter Christ.

“God loves us and wants us to be in a loving relationship with Him,” Richards explained. “When we recognize this, there is nothing more life changing. But to recognize it, we need to break out of the distractions of everyday life and make space to hear his still, small voice.”

The Church highlights three main areas of service for deacons: ministry of the word, liturgy and charity. Deacons practice ministry of the word by proclaiming the Gospel at Mass, and in their daily lives. Deacons show ministry of the liturgy by assisting at Mass, such as by baptizing the laity, witnessing marriages, presiding over funerals, and conducting word-and-communion services for the homebound or elderly. Deacons may also do ministering at prisons, hospitals or by completing other pastoral works within their communities.

Deacon Dan Murphy and his wife, Traci

Dan Murphy, who began his journey to becoming a deacon after attending The Saint Paul Seminary Catechetical Institute program and being accepted into the Institute of Diaconate Formation, plans to provide ministry to the sick and to those incarcerated.

“There is so much woundedness and brokenness in the world today due to our sins and those sins committed against us,” Murphy said. “I hope I can be a bridge to Jesus Christ in the midst of someone’s suffering and pain, to let them know we don’t journey in life alone.”

Editor’s Note: A version of this story originally ran on The Saint Paul Seminary website, which is located at the University of St. Thomas.