Profiles in Service: Deacon Bruce Scott
“PRAYER IS OUR CONSENT TO GOD’S PRESENCE IN US.”
Q. How did you discover your vocation?
A. My pursuit of my vocation to the diaconate began in 2014 when I received a letter saying a deacon class was scheduled, and I was suggested as a possible candidate. I laughed and thought, “No way.” I told my wife, Joy, and she asked, “What is a deacon?” We had never been in a parish with deacons. I told her what I knew, most of which turned out to be wrong. She responded, “You should do that. You would be good at that.” I questioned if she understood how much time on the weekends would be required. I had just gotten a job with weekends off. I contacted Fr. Richard Thibodeau, CSsR, who had been my spiritual director and had officiated at our wedding nearly thirty years earlier. Fr. Thibodeau encouraged me to apply and see if God might be calling. Next, I went to my parish priest, Fr. David Zimmerman, who was also very supportive and ready to write a letter of recommendation.
After filling out the lengthy application, Joy and I scheduled the required appointment for a psychological evaluation. Next, we met with the formation team. Joy was saying things about me she had never told me before. She talked about me as a husband and a father. I was amazed and thought maybe she had forgotten the dumb things I had done or said not that long ago. Gratefully, I was accepted into the program.
During this time, Joy’s pre-existing health problems began to worsen. The first weekend of the diaconate program, I had to admit Joy into the hospital. She was very ill and slept most of the time. I decided I wasn’t going to the meeting and would let them know later I wasn’t entering the program. About six hours before the class started, Joy woke up and said, “You need to get going.” I explained to her that I felt it was more important to be there with her. She strongly encouraged me to go. I did. It was the longest drive ever. Our son Ryan and daughter Jessica stayed with Joy, so I could call several times a day to check on her. After the weekend, I returned to the hospital to take Joy home. Unfortunately, her health continued to decline. Our children would come and stay with her so I could attend diaconate classes. Then something unusual happened. Our class was assigned to a parish. For the next year, we met one Saturday a month for three hours. Not being gone the whole weekend made it easier to care for Joy.
Joy’s condition deteriorated, and on September 24, 2016, she died. It was devastating, and I thought about leaving the program. I spoke with Fr. Chris House, who advised that if I discerned my calling had changed at any point, it was OK—the Church was not asking for a decision immediately. This lifted a huge burden, but I continued to struggle at times while alternately feeling confident I was where I needed to be. Now, as a deacon, I get to pray with Joy every day. The word joy is in the Psalms daily and often appears in Scripture—it has deep meaning and lifts my heart.
Q. When did the compassion of Christ become real to you?
A. My faith in Christ became very real when my children were born and even more as I watched them grow. Before that, I was self-centered and thought of God as basically a granter of wishes (or not), based on whether I was good enough. As my children grew, I learned what words like patience, love, forgiveness, and understanding meant and how they work in relationship with one another. Eventually, I was able to transfer that to my relationship with God. I realized that God didn’t provide for me based on how good I was but rather because of his love for me, just like I provided for my family.
That was a big step in my understanding and growth in my relationship with God. It took a lot longer for me to recognize how that relationship was a personal one. How God was big enough to desire a relationship with me and that he was the one who initiated that relationship. Through the diaconate formation and spiritual direction, I understood just how much God desired to be in my life—he was waiting for me. I have been able to bring this to ministry by sharing my story and working with people to help them see what they often couldn’t see yet: how God is waiting for their yes.
Q. What role does prayer play in your life now?
A. One of the formators for the diaconate program said early on, “If you want out of the deacon program, stop praying.” This holds true for any formation to a sacramental way of life. Consenting to God’s presence and involvement in our life is done through our prayer life. Before entering the diaconate, my prayer life was genuine and natural, but I struggled with Sunday Mass attendance. One Sunday, while out to breakfast with coworkers, a parishioner came over and said, “Bruce, I haven’t seen you at Mass lately. I hope everything is all right.” I explained that working two jobs had made it difficult to make it to Mass. I had prayed sometime earlier, asking Our Mother of Perpetual Help to help me get to Mass on Sundays; I made the request again. Approximately a year later, I had a new job with weekends off. A couple of months later, I got the invitation to consider joining the diaconate program.
As a deacon, prayer has taken on a new dimension for me. Now I have responsibility for the eternal life of everyone I am ordained to serve. As part of the ordination rite, I am praying the Liturgy of the Hours in the morning and evening. I am also bringing my public ministry to the altar and participating in the Mass every Sunday. As the one who proclaims the Gospel, I take time to pray with the Gospel in lectio divina and in the presence of the Eucharist. Even the Church’s rich devotional prayers take on new importance in the life of the deacon. They play a significant role in ministering to those in need of prayer.
Christ gave his disciples many examples of the need to pray. He took them out from the crowds and spent time being present to them, with them, and for them. Our time with God in prayer is our formal consent to God’s active presence in us. Sometimes other activities can easily take on importance, as we are creatures that like to be doing. But in prayer, God is calling us to be with him and in him, that our doing will truly be through him.
Q. Do you have advice to future leaders on seeking out the unchurched or finding new life in the Church?
A. I try to live out the spirit of Mychal’s Prayer by Fr. Mychal Judge, OFM: “Lord, take me where you want me to go; let me meet who you want me to meet; tell me what you want me to say, and keep me out of your way.” I think the Church is here for times like now, when people seek the truth. We should ask ourselves: Am I ready to meet the people God has put in front of me and to allow Christ to show himself to them in ways that are concrete and tangible? The Church is here to stand as a beacon of hope.
A short time before my ordination as a deacon, I spoke to the formation team and told them I felt a calling to discern the priesthood. I asked if there was a pathway for me and received an affirmative response. I’ve entered St. Meinrad’s Seminary and School of Theology in Indiana, studying and discerning a vocation to the priesthood. I am continually surprised by the number of people supporting me through my journey. It is incredible to see God at work in people’s lives and to get to minister to them. Don’t be afraid to encourage someone who could have a call to religious vocation. Sometimes, it begins with a simple invitation to come back to Mass.