WCR PHOTO | CHRIS MILLER
Roger and Joyce Reilander have been active in St. Mary's Parish in Red Deer for 11 years.
May 26, 2014
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER
Back in the 1990s, Roger Reilander was asked by the parish priest in Lac La Biche if he would consider becoming a permanent deacon. Intrigued by the suggestion, he started some of the required studies.
However, he was soon posted to a new job in Calgary, and his formation for the permanent diaconate went by the wayside.
"My family was at the age where everyone was in college, and it was just wild and busy times, so the idea went on the back shelf because I was also so busy with work," said Reilander.
When his family moved to Red Deer in 2003, he again began discernment into becoming a permanent deacon.
Reilander, 60, was born in Edmonton, and raised in Lethbridge for most of his childhood. This is a year of celebration for him and his wife Joyce, as not only will he be ordained to permanent diaconate May 31, but in June the couple marks its 40th wedding anniversary. They have five sons, all adults now, leaving them empty-nesters.
"The focus of our sacramental life has been our marriage, and now we're taking that next step into diaconal life. It's a journey together," he said.
He was employed as a park ranger starting in the early 1970s until his retirement in 2009. Stationed in many towns throughout Alberta, wherever the couple went, they made close connections with the local church.
Roger and Joyce have been active parishioners for 11 years at Red Deer's St. Mary's Parish, a vibrant congregation of about 3,300 families.
At each stage of their lives, they focused on different ministries. They were involved with everything from Marriage Encounter and youth to teaching catechism and leading Baptism preparation. He has been with the Knights of Columbus for many years, while his wife coordinates the music ministry at the church.
"We've really grown into the parish. It's become the centre of our lives, I guess," said Reilander.
Since retiring, he has even more time to devote to parish life. Both he and his wife got involved with the secular Franciscans, and have been coordinating the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults for several years. They also take Communion to a seniors' residence. He attends daily Mass and helps serve at funerals.
"When I retired, I said that I'd like to serve some sort of charity. I didn't know what it would be. That's what I was thinking, to find something appropriate while I was still young and healthy. I was encouraged by my fellow parishioners and some of my family members to again consider the diaconate," said Reilander.
Upon his ordination to the permanent diaconate, he will continue teaching RCIA, preparing people for the sacraments, and assisting with a few charities within the parish.
But he will also be penciled into the preaching schedule, sharing homiletic duties with Father Les Drewicki, Deacon Mike Whalen and Deacon Claude Baril. They will work together as a pastoral team, serving wherever they are needed, perhaps tasked with Baptisms and weddings as well.
The four-year formation period for the permanent diaconate is a demanding process. Yet Reilander said it was a wonderful time of growth for him and Joyce. Aside from the homework and assignments, they went monthly to St. Joseph Seminary and Newman Theological College. He enjoyed the instruction provided by the priests and lay teachers there.
"Being a cradle Catholic, I think there are so many things we just take for granted. What I realized is how little I actually knew," said Reilander.
"It was an enriching experience to understanding more about my faith. We focused a lot on Scripture, moral theology, Christology and Church history. All of those aspects we just skimmed over before, but here we went in-depth."
Joyce is thankful the wives are included in the formation. "I wish we would have learned all this when our kids were little because then we could have transferred some of that knowledge to them. We were amazed by it all."
She will retire from Red Deer College in June and looks forward to her new full-time role as a deacon's wife.
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