Q&A: Meet Deacon-candidate Dennis Garrou
By the Denver Catholic Register
In a historic event for the Denver Archdiocese, former Anglican minister Dennis Garrou, 64, will be ordained to the diaconate Dec. 3 in a step toward the priesthood. Below is a Q&A with the deacon candidate.
Name: Dennis James Garrou
Birthdate: Nov. 21, 1946
Parish: Christ the King Church, Evergreen
Occupation: Detention chaplain, Jefferson County Detention Center
Wife’s name and wedding date: Jill Garrou; June 1, 1968
Children: Steven, 40; Sara, 37; Jonathan, 33
Q: Describe your educational and professional background.
A: Bachelor of Arts, Wheaton College 1968, major in Bible and philosophy; Master of Divinity, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, 1986; diploma in Anglican studies, Virginia Theological Seminary, 1994; supervisor, passenger service, Continental Airlines, 1970-1983; pastor, United Methodist Church, 1984-1989; chaplain, Cancer Treatment Center of Tulsa, 1990-1993; priest, Episcopal Church USA, 1994-2000 (served two parishes in Oklahoma and Colorado); priest, Anglican Mission in America, 2000-2008 (planted two churches in Colorado); detention chaplain, Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office, 2005-present
Q: You are a former Anglican minister. What prompted your conversion to the Catholic faith and when did you formally enter the Church?
A: I was confirmed by Auxiliary Bishop James Conley on Aug. 5, 2008. I was moved by the uniform recognition of the Catholic Church that Jesus is truly and completely present (body, blood, soul and divinity) in the holy Eucharist and by the catholicity of the Church. Neither of these exist in the Anglican Communion or its theology. There is uniformity in Catholic theology and practice, compared with Anglicanism, with which I wanted to be united. The more I studied Church history, the more clearly I saw the connection of Catholic faith with the Catholic faith of the apostles and earliest Christians. One of the most prominent and most unfortunate results of the Protestant Reformation is division and dissipation. I saw in Catholicism an opportunity for me, at least on an individual level, to take a step into unity by uniting with the Church in which I believe Christ intended us to live.
Q: What prompted your entering formation to eventually become a Catholic priest under the new process established for former Anglican clergy?
A: I had given attention to the Pastoral Provision, instituted by Pope John Paul II in 1980, for several years and knew several former Anglican priests who had made the transition. EWTN’s “The Journey Home” program was an encouragement to me. Archbishop Charles Chaput, O.F.M. Cap., graciously met with me in April 2008 to explore a possible path to conversion and priesthood.
Q: You will be the first former Anglican clergy to be accepted into the Denver Archdiocese under the new process, how does it feel to be a pioneer of sorts?
A: I merely hope I can do justice to the privilege and serve God and the Church faithfully and fruitfully. By “faithfully” I mean doing what I should do, doing it well and doing it for the long haul. By “fruitfully” I hope there will be benefits to the faithful and the kingdom of God from my ministry.
Q: Your conversion meant a radical change to your life and career. In what ways was your life and that of your family changed?
A: One of the most notable changes for me has been embracing the discipline of the Liturgy of the Hours for the past year. It has meant carving “hours” out of each day and it has been a great blessing.
Q: What are you most looking forward to about serving the faithful as a Catholic cleric: as a deacon and then eventually as a priest?
A: The privilege of returning to the ministries of the altar and preaching cannot be overstated. These ministries, where Christ works through human beings with the power of his Holy Spirit, are very important to me.
Q: What do you find most daunting about serving the faithful as a Catholic cleric: again, in your roles as a deacon and eventually as a priest?
A: The quantity and detail of knowledge needed is daunting. I don’t want to lapse into errant spiritual ways of the past, due to oversight or carelessness. Yet, I do want to bring forward the best qualities and practices God has built into me consistent with the Catholic faith.
Q: Is there a particular apostolate to which you feel uniquely called by God in your role as a cleric?
A: The ministry God has given me as chaplain at the jail has been a unique calling, and one I wish to examine afresh from the perspective of a Catholic cleric.
Q: Can you describe how God led you to this particular area of service?
A: I began serving as a volunteer chaplain at the jail in 2003 while I was an Anglican priest. When the detention chaplain, who oversees the volunteers, became vacant in 2005, I was asked by the administration to apply for the position. I was not interested at first, since I was already serving as pastor to a small church. But God steadily drew me toward the position and continued after I was hired to pull my heart along with me.
Q: How do you plan to balance your ministry to the Church with your responsibilities to your spouse and family?
A: My wife and I make sure to have time together regularly. Our three children are all married adults with families of their own. It might be another issue if our children were still young and at home with us.
Q: How do you feel your experience as a husband and father will contribute to your ministry as a cleric?
A: Hopefully, I will be understanding of the needs of married couples and families and be able to bring the love of God and nurture of the Church to those I serve.
Q: Do you have a favorite Scripture verse? If so, what is its significance to you?
A: There are two, among many, that come to mind. Genesis 18:25 is Abraham’s rhetorical question, “Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?” Of course He will and that satisfies a lot of unknowns for me. There are many things I may not be able to explain, but I can count on God to always do what is right. John 6:55-56: “For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me and I in him.” This is the eucharistic consummation of the relationship of our Savior with each believer. In the holy Eucharist, rightly understood and received, I am in complete union with Christ.
Q: Do you have a favorite saint to which you feel a special bond?
A: St. Ambrose of Milan is significant to me after a trip to Milan in 2006. When I entered the lower level of the Duomo, Milan’s great cathedral, and saw the archaeological excavation, with an ancient baptismal pool and other artifacts it was as though I had made a connection with the saints of 1,700 years ago. St. Ambrose was instrumental in the conversions and baptisms of many during that era, and bringing people to living faith in Christ is very important to me. Also, my namesake, St. Dennis, who was the first bishop of Paris and was martyred with a priest and a deacon, speaks to me of the price and importance of planting the Church where it has not been before. These two inspire me.
Q: Is there anything you would like to add?
A: I owe a debt of gratitude to many, but I would like to especially acknowledge Father Regis Scanlon, O.F.M. Cap., who I first met during his volunteer ministry at the jail. I thank him for his patient catechetical ministry with me as he prepared me for confirmation. May the Lord raise him up again following serious illness.