Greg Carlson already has big plans for his service as a deacon.
“I always thought it would be pretty cool to baptize my own grandkids,” he says.
Deacon Carlson, from Winslow, was ordained on December 12, the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, along with Robert Badger, a seminarian for the Diocese. Carlson is a permanent deacon, and Badger is a transitional deacon, now in his final year of seminary before his ordination to the priesthood next year.
Both men were born outside the Diocese but ended up moving here and spending most of their lives in Arizona. Deacon Carlson has lived in Winslow with his wife, Beth, for 27 years, where they raised three sons. He first became enamored with the idea of being a deacon after attending a weekend retreat some 12 years ago, but the time demands of his job didn’t leave much room for him to pursue the training.
“In 2009 the chain I worked for went through bankruptcy and they closed my store,” he recalls. “Then I found a job which gave me weekends off and I realized at that point that maybe I should look into the deacon program again.”
He found that the interest he initially discovered was still strong, and with his wife’s encouragement and support, began studying to become a deacon. For Deacon Carlson, his new office is a continuation of a relationship with the Church that has been going strong since before birth.
“My mom had always had trouble having kids,” Carlson said. “So when she became pregnant, she prayed to God that if He would let me survive, she would dedicate me to Him. And as a young kid, I was completely enthralled with the Church, and I’ve stayed that way throughout my life.”
Deacon Badger found his devotion to the Church much later. As a child, he was raised in the Mormon faith of his family, who moved to St. Johns when he was five. At age 19, living with relatives in Salt Lake City, he converted to Catholicism.
“The historical problems with Mormonism led me to really have doubts about the faith I was raised in,” he said. “I always had an interest in history and in the Catholic Church, so it was the logical place to look after deciding to leave.”
He recalls that his conversion was difficult for his family to accept at first, but eventually their relationship became a positive one. Much of Badger’s family was present at his diaconate ordination, and enjoyed a posole lunch and visiting with other attendees at the reception afterwards.
While converting to Catholicism is one thing, discovering a vocation to the priesthood is another, but Deacon Badger readily accepted the offer by Bishop Wall to consider becoming a priest for the Diocese.
“I always had an interest in the priesthood. It was suggested to me by different priests and lay people as something I should look into.”
There was an additional benefit to pursuing his vocation – one that as a Mormon he might never had imagined – and it led to serving Mass for the Pope at St. Peter’s Basilica. Deacon Badger attends the Pontifical College Josephinum in Ohio a seminary which is called “Pontifical” because it falls under the Jurisdiction of the Holy See. Each pontifical seminary has a chance to send seminarians to serve Mass for the Pope, and Deacon Badger’s opportunity came last year during a retreat in Italy, on January 1st.
“Everything in St. Peter’s is so huge – you’re under the glare of all the TV cameras and all the people in there, and you’re hoping ‘boy, I hope I don’t trip or drop something!’” He laughs as he recalls the Mass. “It was really quite an amazing thing to climb the steps of the altar to bring up the gifts. There were also terrifying moments, like we had to carry the torches and kneel in front of the altar while the Holy Father celebrated the Mass, when he elevated the Host. And those torches, you have to be very careful, because it’s easy to pull the tops off of them and have them go bouncing down the stairs, which I’m told has happened. But thankfully everything went very well. It was amazing, terrifying – all the emotions!”
He jokes that after his experience in Rome, serving for Bishop Wall will be easy.
Although he has less than a year of service as a deacon before ordination to the priesthood, he hopes to use the time to hone his preaching skills.
“I will be preaching here in the seminary to an audience of my brothers, and unlike the congregation, I have to live with them. They are usually not shy about offering advice!”
Deacon Carlson, as a permanent deacon, will be serving two parishes in Winslow: St. Joseph and Madre de Dios. He realizes that there are still many painful memories, as Winslow was one of the towns in the Diocese most affected century by the abuse scandal. But he loves his community, and expresses hope that he can be an agent of positive influence.
“There’s still tension out there, but most folks are pretty well connected with each other, so we’re healing those wounds. This is a community with a lot of wonderful, prayerful people, and I look forward to praying with [them].”
He also has high praise for the current pastor, Fr. Peter Short, saying that as he undertakes his new role as deacon, it will be helpful to have Fr. Short’s experience and guidance.
“The job of a deacon is to be there to support, and I’m offering my time and my effort to serve the life of the parish.”
View photos from the Ordination: