By Eric Brooks
One of Deacon Michael Kopczewski’s strongest principles is to, “Seek truth, goodness, and beauty and the ultimate end of these is God.”
He was ordained as a permanent deacon in 2016, a process requiring almost a decade of formation, prayer, and study. According to Deacon Michael, he did not wake up one morning and decide on his vocation, it was a lifelong “drawing and feeling that became more intense over time.” He further describes it as a series “nudges” from Jesus to go deeper.
Deacon Michael further describes that, while feeling Jesus’ call, he used every dodge and excuse to stave off the inevitable. In fact, he states that he went through every one of the excuses used by the Old Testament prophets. It was also clear to those close to him that Deacon Michael was being called. While dating his future wife Camille while they were students at Ohio State, she once asked him if he needed to enter seminary. However, that was not the path God had chosen for Deacon Michael and the two of them would marry at St. Andrews in Upper Arlington. It was not his home parish, but the parish he was a part of while attending college. Camille, at the time a Methodist, so he describes it as “neutral ground.”
There were a handful of pivotal “nudges” for Deacon Michael and one of his favorite stories involves our former pastor Fr. Swickard. The deacon describes himself as an introvert and “painfully shy.” Shortly after our future deacon was married, Fr. Swickard approached him and admitted there were no lectors available for that Mass, asking him to volunteer. Following the example of those ancient prophets Deacon Michael produced a litany of excuses why he could not and Father went on to choose another volunteer for the readings.
Throughout the Mass Michael felt a growing sense that he should have said “yes” to the opportunity and following the service approached Fr. Swickard to apologize for not agreeing to answer yes. Fr. Swickard promptly replied that “I wasn’t the one asking you.” He stated, “Fr. Swickard probably didn’t think anything of it, but it made me realize that simple small opportunities and invitations to say “yes” to loving and serving Jesus are placed before us every day, many times by those people in our everyday lives”
Other nudges came from Deacon Michael’s involvement with Camille in Pre-Cana, RCIA and his work training altar servers. “My wife Camille has an enthusiasm and passion for caring for people that is inspiring. Working with her in RCIA was a joy and also a gift.” A pivotal nudge came when he became involved with Disciples for Life. He explains that “Jesus was relentless in the pursuit of me to go deeper in my faith and prayer, and I could feel a longing to serve the People of God.” Formation with the Disciples for Life Retreat team and its retreats themselves gave him an opportunity to reflect upon God’s call. The humility, service, and the witness of faith of those on the retreat team was, and still is, inspiring. They most definitely demonstrate in real actions saying yes to being disciples.
What followed was contacting the Diaconate Office at the diocese and a series of Saturday courses at the Josephinum on history, philosophy, and theology specific to the permanent deaconate over the next three or four years. Next was a serious assessment from the diocese and a year as an Aspirant. At this point Michael had to petition to the Candidacy, a serious undertaking that also involved a letter of permission from Camille. He received the call from the bishop and over the next three years undertook an intense period of contemplation, formation, prayer, and study. This candidacy lasts for three years and involves reaffirming your desire to remain in the process on a yearly basis. Michael progressed from Lector to Acolyte and was then ordained to the clergy on November 26th, 2016 along with eleven of his fellow permanent deacons.
Deacons are the first of three groups or orders of ordained clergy. During their time in seminary priests are ordained as “transitional deacons” who are then later ordained into the presbyterate or priesthood. However permanent deacons remain in that vocation; permanently. All ordained ministers are called to functions of Word, Sacrament, and Charity and exercise these in different ways. According to the USCCB “As ministers of Word, deacons proclaim the Gospel, preach, and teach in the name of the Church. As ministers of Sacrament, deacons baptize, lead the faithful in prayer, witness marriages, and conduct wake and funeral services. As ministers of Charity, deacons are leaders in identifying the needs of others, then marshaling the Church’s resources to meet those needs.” For anyone interested or considering the deaconate, more information regarding deacons can be found at the USCCB website: Deacons.
Deacon Michael enjoys drawing, painting, and sculpting both professionally and as a hobby as well as being outdoors. Doing so has given him an eye for recognizing the beauty of a perfect sunrise or an exquisitely formed leaf on a tree, recognizing that God created that beauty. Our parishioners also provide him with beauty, and he describes himself as “being among living saints.” Deacon Michael is particularly humbled by all the works our parishioners are quietly performing without any recognition or need of recognition. “I am so grateful to those who quietly go about giving of themselves in service to the Church.”
If he could have one wish, Deacon Michael would like to share that sense of the beauty of God’s love with the entire world and that God will always love them. “People are attracted to true beauty, beauty that is more than just appearance. It is more than just a superficial or exterior thing. True beauty is the love of God, or in other words God Himself, He seeks us out and we are drawn to Him.”
Michael also appreciates how permanent deacons “straddle two worlds” between the secular and the religious. In the workplace Deacon Michael views himself as “being a witness and humble servant.” It is not through loudly proclaiming fire and brimstone, but by simply living his faith that he hopes to influence our increasingly secular and post-Christian world. “Nor do men light a lamp and put it under a bushel, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” (Mt 5:15 – 16) It takes a special kind of courage, a special beauty to proudly live our Catholic faith when it is seemingly attacked from all quarters.
There is also a beauty in surrendering to God’s will and Deacon Michael regularly does this. Being that introvert, every time he accepts the blessing and walks to the ambo for a gospel reading or homily he prays, “Holy Spirit, work through me, that your people may hear your words not mine. I need your help with this.” It also does not help that his wife Camille is an extraordinarily gifted, passionate lector and he sometimes has to follow her. Deacon Michael readily admits that she is integral to his calling and working together in the parish has deepened their faith both as a couple and as individuals.
In addition to art, Deacon Michael loves spending time with his family. The time he gets to spend with his wife Camille and two daughters Michaela and Melina is truly precious. “I am truly blessed to have such an amazing family and be able to spend time with each other.” Perhaps surprisingly, Deacon Michael also has a passion for motorcycles in his spare time. “Riding a motorcycle is the closest you can be to flying without being in an airplane.” He started out as a child with dirt bikes and then went on to rebuilding larger bikes. Deacon Michael currently most often rides a BWM all road. While it may seem counterintuitive, riding bikes gives him “a time of peace and reflection.” He humorously adds, “Even deacons ride motorcycles.” Deacon Michael also enjoys cooking, giving him yet another opportunity to help prepare a time to gather and be together.
“He has made everything beautiful in its time; also he has put eternity into man’s mind…” (Eccles. 3:11)