WCR PHOTO | RAMON GONZALEZ
Hyland and Harriet Fraser serve in Holy Trinity Parish in Stony Plain/Spruce Grove.
At an age when most people would rather retire and spend their days playing golf, Hyland Fraser is embarking on a new venture. The 67-year-old home builder is becoming a permanent deacon, one of three men Archbishop Richard Smith will ordain May 31.
"I find it very humbling to be called to the diaconate," Fraser says.
As a deacon, Hyland and his wife Harriet will spend their days serving the people of God in a variety of ministries at Holy Trinity Parish in Spruce Grove. They already do. Both serve as Eucharistic ministers, lectors and pastoral care ministers at the parish. Hyland also serves on the financial committee.
The Frasers have spent the past four years studying a variety of subjects, including Scripture, moral theology, sacraments, Church history, social justice and homiletics. They feel ready for their new role as a deacon-couple.
"We have been working as a couple for 45 years; nothing will change," Harriet points out. "We are happy to serve the Lord together."
Fraser doesn't know what his specific duties as a deacon will be but recently Father Jan Sobkowicz, the pastor, appointed him and Harriet to lead the RCIA.
The ministry of a deacon is liturgy, word and service. Among other things, deacons can baptize, witness marriages, perform funeral and burial services outside of Mass, distribute Holy Communion and preach the homily. They usually work with the poor as well.
"I think I'm ready," Fraser said. "We were well trained."
After his ordination Fraser will become the third permanent deacon at Holy Trinity. "I'll have two role models to see what they do. I'm good friends with both of them."
The Frasers hail from Heatherton, N.S., where they met, married 45 years ago and raised their 12 children, now aged 44 to 25. They both were active in their parish serving on the parish council, as catechists, Eucharistic ministers, lectors and fundraisers. They did volunteer work in co-ops, credit unions and schools.
As a youngster, Fraser served as an altar boy for 10 years. "We basically never missed Mass."
A graduate of St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish, Fraser worked in the insurance business in Heatherton and was a municipal politician for 15 years.
When most of their children came to Alberta looking for jobs, the Frasers sold their home and business and hit the road as well. They came in 2006 and have been living on an acreage in Holy Trinity Parish ever since.
"We never thought we would be doing this out here when we were travelling across Canada with all our possessions in a U-Haul," Fraser said.
"But as we travelled across Canada we always said every day, 'Here I am Lord,'" added Harriet.
In partnership with his two older sons, Fraser started a home building company. Business has been good but Fraser plans to retire as soon as he hires a new manager to help run the firm.
In 2007, when Deacon Pat Hessel was introduced to the congregation at Holy Trinity, Fraser began to think about the diaconate. He looked online to see what was involved and thought, "This is something I could do."
He began a process of discernment and prayed about it during a 2008 pilgrimage to Medjugorje. "I just kept thinking 'It can't be me.'"
In late 2009 he decided to apply to enter the diaconate program. "I just felt like I can still serve. I feel like I have lots to offer to people; we have lots of faith."
Harriet said her husband has his faith to offer as well as his ability to deal with people. "God called him to the diaconate, and when God calls who are we to say no?"
The Frasers have acquired considerable experience visiting the sick and the dying as they visit their youngest daughter, Shannon, who has been hospitalized for more than two years. They also visit other people who need a helping hand. Now they plan to add that ministry to their repertoire.
They also plan to offer their marriage skills. "We've had a very good marriage. We think we can pass some of that on to other people whose marriages might not be so stable," Fraser says.
Deacon Pat Hessel thinks Fraser will be a great addition to Holy Trinity. "Hyland is a wonderful man. He is a very holy man," he said.
"He is very dedicated to ministry, he is a wise person, he's had a lot of life experiences that have shaped him and he is a very giving person. He is the kind of person you need in ministry."
Hessel said he and Deacon Wesley Turton work well together and share weekend responsibilities. "Having three deacons will allow us to do more ministries and that's the very exciting part about it."