After six years of service, Deacon Todd Church and his wife, Ann, are bidding goodbye to the Diocese of Gallup.
Over ten years ago, Deacon Church had no inkling of the path that would soon lead his family to New Mexico. They were living in New Zealand, and Church was delivering food packages for the local St. Vincent DePaul Society.
“I was dropping off a package to a gentleman who wasn’t home,” Church recalls. “This woman came out next door and said ‘can I help you?’ And I said ‘yes, this is for this gentleman, could you please give it to him?’ She said ‘I’d be happy to.’” Church told the woman “God bless you!” and remembers that she began to cry. She told him that she was 63 years old and couldn’t recall the last time someone told her “God bless you”.
Church remembers being struck by a sudden thought in that moment. “God kind of spoke to my heart: ‘I’d like you to feed my children’”. In that moment, he began to discern that he was being called to serve God more deeply as a deacon.
His family had been considering a move back to the United States, and they wanted to settle in a place where he could begin to study for the diaconate, and where his wife, Ann, an obstetrician-gynecologist, could practice medicine according to her Catholic beliefs.
“We’d been to New Mexico once before and talked about how much we liked the landscape, and the weather, and so we thought this would be a good place for us to go,” Church said. “And so that’s how we ended up in Grants, NM.”
The hospital in Grants, Cibola Family Health Center, allowed Ann to promote Natural Family Planning (NFP), a Catholic-approved fertility program, to her patients. The hospital also respected her moral objection to promoting or recommending contraception or abortion in her medical practice. And Todd was able to enroll in the 4-year diaconate program for the diocese which would start that fall.
Deacon Todd was ordained in 2014 and hired as the Religious Education Director for the Diocese of Gallup in 2015. For that job, he oversaw the religious education programs used at parishes, coordinated mission trip groups who visited the diocese, and helped to foster and promote youth events and ministries. He commuted each day from Grants, where he served as a deacon at St. Teresa Parish.
After 10 years in the diocese, the Churches have discerned that God’s call is now leading them to Illinois, in the Diocese of Peoria. Both have aging parents who live close to their new home.
“We’ve decided that we want to be closer to our families – our place in Illinois, we can drive to any one of them. I like to tell people we’re moving to greener pastures – I saw ‘em when I was up there!” Deacon Todd says with a laugh. Ann was able to find a new job at a Catholic hospital, and after making the decision to move, they received an additional piece of happy news: their son and his wife are expecting their first child – the Church’s first grandchild.
The Churches are looking forward to their new home, but Deacon Todd is also grateful for his time in the Diocese, calling it “the most joyful thing I’ve done in my life.”
“This has been such a blessing for both Ann and I and our families,” he said. “We will keep everyone we know here in our prayers, because we know what it means to live in the Diocese of Gallup – the struggles we face, the challenges that lay before us.”