Deacon Lawrence “Larry” Guertin says you never know what the Lord will call you to do, but as a recently ordained permanent deacon in the Diocese of Portland, he says he wants to be sure he is ready to respond.
“To me, it means to hopefully better serve the parish family and the community here in Westbrook, and Gorham, and Windham,” he says.
Deacon Larry, who was among 11 men ordained to the permanent diaconate in September, serves as pastoral life coordinator of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish in Windham, St. Anthony of Padua Parish in Westbrook, and St. Anne Parish in Gorham.
While he has held that position for three years, he says being a deacon has brought added blessings.
“Diaconal ministry is serving the Lord Jesus in parish ministry in many of the same ways but encountering the love of God in new and joyful ways,” he says.
“Attending Mass, baptisms, marriages, funerals – all of these sacramental moments I have served before, but serving as a deacon brings a new blessing, a new way to serve, and a new way of being present in the love of God.”
Deacon Larry says the Catholic faith has always been an important part of his life. He first attended St. Joseph School in Portland and then St. Mary School in Westbrook after his family moved there. He remembers his father going through the Baltimore catechism with him when he was preparing to receive his sacraments.
“There certainly was a presence of the Church at home,” he says.
Despite the importance of his faith, he says he didn’t become active in the Church until adulthood. After living in Raymond for a while, he returned to Westbrook and, seeking a sense of community, connected with Sister Patricia Mooney, RSM, the director of religious education at the time, who was looking to redo the upstairs of the school.
“That intrigued me because I hadn’t been at that school for a long time. They said they needed people to clean and paint and I said, ‘Well, I can do that,’” he says. “That kind of started things for me. From that time on, I was involved in choir or other opportunities. And when my kids got old enough, I got involved in religious ed.”
He remembers talking with Sister Pat about a catechetical program that he thought might benefit his daughter, who was quite shy. Before long, he stepped forward to become a teacher.
“I really got involved in that because of my daughter, and from there, I became coordinator of the Liturgy of the Word and took care of sacramental prep, and then, before too long, Monsignor (Charles) Murphy, who was the pastor, asked me to be the parish catechetical leader.”
He moved into parish ministry after working 24 years for the telephone company, beginning with the Bell System and retiring from Verizon.
Now pastoral life coordinator, he still does some catechetical work but mostly guides pastoral ministry among the three Cluster 23 parishes.
Deacon Larry says he first felt a call to the diaconate back in the 1990s, but the timing never seemed to work out.
“I more or less thought to myself, ‘Well, I think that this is a call, but I must be mistaken because I’m getting older,” he says. “Then, all of a sudden, we had a new class that was starting, and I had two deacons, Deacon Paul Lissandrello and Deacon Frank Chambers, who both came to me and said, ‘Are you interested? We’ll support you.’”
Deacon Larry says preparing for the diaconate was challenging but enriching.
“I think the treasure that you gain from it is the life experience that you get from all of the candidates that you walked with,” he says. “It’s certainly a blessing and a grace that you get from journeying with them.”
He also credits his wife, Sue, for her encouragement and support. The couple continues to minister together in many ways, including participating in marriage preparation and in Family Promise, a program that serves homeless families. St. Anthony of Padua Parish is among several church communities that offers a place for people to stay overnight, along with breakfast and support.
Deacon Larry says relationships are at the heart of diaconal ministry.
“It is about relationships, with Sue and I as a couple, with the parishes in our cluster, with those we minister with and those who come to be ministered to and those we encounter on the way.”
He says he is thankful for all the support he has received from the priests of the parishes, fellow deacons, and parishioners.
“Really, the prayers of the parish community and everyone has made this possible,” he says. “I’m very happy doing ministry each day.”