35-year deacons reflect on their ministry of service and charity
By Nissa LaPoint
This year, the service of the Denver Archdiocese’s deacons will be recognized with a Mass and dinner Aug. 10. Profiles of those deacons celebrating 35 years of ordination follow.
Deacon Kenneth Hawkins
Deacon Kenneth HawkinsDeacon Kenneth Hawkins once saw a photo in the Denver Catholic Register of men prostrated on the floor and wearing clerics when they were ordained to the diaconate.
“I looked at those and I thought, ‘Boy, you’ll never get me in one of those,’” he recalled.
Two years later on April 2, 1977, he was ordained to the diaconate in Denver after graduating from St. Thomas Seminary.
“I never paid any attention to (the diaconate) at all until I saw that picture,” he explained.
His ministry has affected his faith, family and all those he has come to know.
“It’s been a great experience,” he said.
A Santa Fe, N.M., native, the 84-year-old came to Colorado as a young boy and later attended the University of Colorado. He graduated with a master’s degree in biochemistry and became a chemist for, among other organizations, the Rocky Mountain Arsenal for the U.S. Army and Children’s Hospital. He retired after a 15-year career as a chemist for Industrial Laboratories.
He met his wife, Barbie, who goes by “Donna,” in high school and they later had five children together.
He spent the majority of his ministry serving the parishioners and pastors of Shrine of St. Anne Parish in Arvada. In 1984, he took on the added responsibilities of coordinating the continuing education of deacons and began leading marriage preparation classes with his wife.
Being able to spread God’s word and serve others are among the greatest things he’s thankful for. His role as a deacon brought him greater appreciation of those who serve Christ’s Church and forced him to become more outgoing, he said. It also challenged him to deepen his faith.
After a brief time serving at Notre Dame Parish and participating in airport ministry, Deacon Hawkins returned to Shrine of St. Anne. He retired from the diaconate in 1999 but continues to serve when needed.
“If any man has any inclination and wants to serve the Lord more than kneeling down every Sunday … this is a great way to go,” he said.
Deacon Karl Matz
Deacon Karl Matz has found his 35 years in the diaconate to be a fulfilling ministry, one that has taught him to value his faith.
“You learn to appreciate the Eucharist more and all the good things about the Church,” he said. “That includes a lot of the people you meet.”
The 81-year-old Wisconsin native received his bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Colorado and did graduate work at the University of Northern Colorado, specializing in urban sociology.
He married his wife, Mary Ann, in 1952 and they had six children together. He spent his career as a training officer for the city and county of Denver as a Career Service Authority.
When he was ordained a deacon in 1977 by Archbishop James Casey, he was assigned to service at St. Martin de Porres Parish in Boulder. With a classmate, he helped launch the Sister Carmen Community Center in Lafayette and became the assistant director. After the passing of its president, Deacon Matz was named president in 1982. Some 10 years later, he left that position and continued to serve at St. Martin de Porres.
He credits his wife and fellow clergymen for supporting his ministry through the years. Serving the Church, he said, has brought him greater fulfillment than he ever imagined.
“It had more to offer in every way,” Deacon Matz said.
Deacon Alfonso Sandoval
Deacon Alfonso SandovalDeacon Alfonso Sandoval, a Colorado native, was baptized and raised a Roman Catholic.
After completing a Bible study with a group, he was prompted to search for something more.
“I thought, ‘Well, what do I do now?,’” he said. “For me, (the diaconate) was a logical extension of my faith.”
He was one of the first few graduates of the diaconal formation program of the Denver Archdiocese and was ordained in 1977.
“It was fairly new at the time,” he explained. “Not many pastors knew what to do with deacons.”
Deacon Sandoval was a trailblazer for diaconal service here when he became the first deacon assigned to All Souls Parish in Englewood and began a special ministry to the archdiocese’s ever-growing Hispanic population.
He married his wife, Frances, in 1954 and they spent four years serving in the U.S. Air Force in Texas. They returned to Denver under the G.I. Bill and Deacon Sandoval completed his engineering degree at the University of Colorado. They had seven children together.
His career spanned positions with Aero Dynamics in California and Martin Marietta in Denver, where he worked on projects for its space program. He retired from a 27-year career with Lockheed Martin to minister full time in the Church.
Among other assignments, he was appointed diaconate liaison for Hispanic Ministry and became deacon at the parishes of Our Lady of Guadalupe and later at St. Cajetan, both in Denver, and at St. Pius X in Aurora.
He was appointed director of deacons for the archdiocese in 1998. He also served on the Permanent Diaconate Advisory Board and was appointed liaison for the Couple to Couple League.
He and his wife were honored for their service in 2005. They were inducted into the papal knightly Order of St. Gregory the Great, given to couples who display extraordinary service to the Church and the papacy.
Diaconal ministry, he said, has brought him many graces.
“It’s a very special blessing to have been able to do that for the Church,” he said.
It has also had a profound affect on his faith.
“The ministry of the deacon is all about service and deacons are all about charity,” Deacon Sandoval said. “… You’re doing the ministry of Jesus and that is caring for others.”
He found it fulfilling to minister with fellow deacons and to work on their continuing education while watching the diaconate grow under Denver’s supportive archbishops.
“It’s been a very blessed experience,” Deacon Sandoval said.