My Journey to the Diaconate

From Retail to Faith Formation

by Deacon Rob Claypool – St. Mary, Eldora

Looking back it seemed that my years in formation went by rather fast. In 2009, when I was accepted into formation for the diaconate, I wasn’t exactly sure what I was getting myself into. I knew I’d be giving up a lot of Saturdays in the coming years, yet I also knew the Holy Spirit would be a continual guide for me along the way. I believed I was doing exactly what the Lord was asking me to do at that point of my life. My wife Sharon and our three teenage kids were very understanding. Soon I would come to find out how critical it was for candidates who were in formation, to be lovingly supported by their wives. I wanted to become a deacon in the Catholic Church. Yes, I most certainly did miss out on some family functions while in formation, but I knew my family would agree it was all worth it.

Our class consisted of ten candidates. As each year of formation clicked off our group morphed from being classmates into Spiritual Brothers. It has been a rewarding experience. On May 3rd of 2014, our class of ten candidates was ordained permanent deacons. The pomp and circumstance of this occasion made it even more special.

I have tremendous respect for Fr. Paul Kelly who was the main Priest at St. Rose of Lima in Denison during our time there. When I celebrated my first Mass as a deacon he spoke in his homily all about the diaconate. St. Rose had never had a deacon before. Many of our parishioners were eager to learn more about it. They encouraged and prayed for my family and me. The deacon’s role in the Church is one of a servant. What kept me going was the fact that I wanted to take as many things off of Fr. Kelly’s plate as I could, to enable him to focus more on the needs of St. Rose and his ministry. It was an honor.

You may have noticed in the accompanying photo, from my Ordination, I appear to be dressed as a priest. In the Sioux City Diocese, deacons are allowed to wear the collar as long as a deacon’s cross is prominent as well. In my ministry, I strive to always wear apparel with a deacon’s cross very visible. I want our parishioners to know that I am always here for them. That is important to me. In the Archdiocese of Dubuque, Bishop Jackels prefers his deacons to not wear the collar.

I kept busy in my role as a deacon at St. Rose. Six days after I was ordained, I found myself in front of a very packed St. Boniface Church in Charter Oak, Iowa officiating my first wedding. Gulp. I was in charge of preparing couples for
marriage. Each couple I worked with was unique and I enjoyed getting to know them on a deeper level. I also worked with couples who were planning to have their babies baptized. The Sacrament of Baptism is one of my favorite responsibilities as a deacon. I assisted Fr. Kelly with the annual RCIA classes each year. It’s very rewarding on Holy Saturday Mass to see people whom we’ve worked with come into the Catholic Church. I love Holy Saturday Mass, such a tremendous part of the church year. I enjoyed learning the role as a homebound Eucharistic minister. I realized early on that for any given person receiving the body of Christ, that I might be the ONLY person they would see that day. Often, I would learn things about our faith from them that would enhance my ministry. I miss being able to just go and visit the nursing homes etc. Pray that can resume in time. We relocated to central Iowa in the Spring of 2018. It allows us to be within close proximity to each of our family members. It’s wonderful to be close to our oldest son Ryan, his lovely wife Sarah, (Teske) and Libby Grace Claypool here in Eldora.

When Sister Connie announced her retirement, a St. Mary parishioner asked me about the possibility of me making a
career change. I am glad I made the decision to do so. I’m surrounded by very knowledgeable people in our parish cluster. Working with Fr. Kevin is a great experience, he is so passionate about his faith, and he challenges me in a positive way to enhance my role as a deacon. I look forward to getting to know our K-12 kids, along with their parents in this upcoming faith formation year. This is definitely a change of pace from forty years in retailing, a welcome change of pace. I believe I’m growing into this position each day, and I so enjoy working each day in a church environment.