On October 30, 2014, Deacon Harry Heinz celebrated the 32nd anniversary of his ordination. Looking back on his journey, he laughs at how he began as an usher in New Jersey, "standing against the back wall of the church" to becoming a deacon, standing on the altar. Harry always thought of himself as a practic ing Catholic, but until his calling to the ordained life, he did not fully understand what it meant to be a disciple of Christ.
Deacon Harry began the diaconate process back in 1978 in Patterson, New Jersey. He was approached by a friend already training to become a deacon who invited Harry to some of the sessions. Harry attended a few of the classes and found himself returning week after week. And week after week, the Monsignor approached Harry about joining the program, but Harry continually declined. However, the Monsignor was so persistent that Harry finally agreed to talk to his family about it. His wife, Millie, and his children were all supportive so Harry said "yes" and joined the program. He attended classes three Saturdays a month from September-June for about a year when life took a turn.
As an American Airlines employee, Harry was transferred to Texas in 1979 and became a member of St. Michael that same year. Harry assumed that the move marked the end of his journey in the diaconate program, and was somewhat relieved. He just wasn't sure if he wanted to be a deacon. However, God had different ideas for Harry. He remembers accidentally mentioning his New Jersey experience to then St. Michael pastor, Fr. Mike Irwin. And as the Holy Spirit would have it, Fort Worth was just beginning a diaconate program that same year! So Harry found himself starting the program again. Because there was a need for deacons in East Texas, the program was held in Longview. For the next three and a half years, Harry traveled once a month to East Texas for a weekend of classes, a week long summer sessions and 8 weeks of homiletic training in Tyler. Not only did Harry have to commit substantial time and training, his wife, Millie, also had to attend half the classes.
By the end of the training, Harry thought, "What did I get myself into?" But then it hit him: "I wasn't a deacon because I wanted to be but because I had to be. God must have really wanted me to do this". All through the hard work, the doubt, the sacrifices he and his family had to make, Harry could not walk away. He realized that being a Catholic does not mean coming to Mass and "standing against the back wall". Being Catholic means being a disciple and saying 'yes' to what the Lord is calling you to do - even if you are not sure you want to!
Knowing that God wants him to minister in this way brings great joy to Harry. He spends up to four days a week at the Church with baptism and marriage preparation, presiding at baptisms and weddings, and handling wake services, just to name a few of his responsibilities. When he is scheduled to preach, he spends the entire weekend at St. Michael. Although he enjoys all of his responsibilities, Deacon Harry feels the greatest satisfaction when he can bring a couple who were married outside the Church back to full and active participation. He also serves as the “Defender of the Bond” for the Diocesan tribunal office. And he does all of this as a volunteer. Deacon Harry is not a paid staff member, nor does he work for the Diocese. He often says, “The only difference between me and any other parishioner is the stole – the fact that I’ve been ordained.”
Deacon Harry, like all of us, are called to serve the Church and our fellow brothers and sisters and to say “yes” when the invitation to serve is given. The difference between Harry and many of us is whether we act on that call. Harry initially did not want to be a deacon but when he realized that it’s about God’s plan, not Harry’s plan, his life and the way he lived out his faith changed dramatically. The Holy Spirit worked through many people- the Monsignor in New Jersey, Fr. Irwin here at St. Michael, and most of all, his wife, Mille – to keep Harry on this path. And now that he has made this journey, he cannot imagine his life being any other way.