Profiles in Service: Deacon Jerry Stoverink
Exemplifying God’s goodness
Q. How did you discover your vocation?
A. My father was diagnosed with cancer in January 1983. Toward the end of his life, in 1984 when he could no longer attend Mass, his pastor was called and my father asked for holy Communion to be brought to him at his home. His pastor said, “No, I do not do that.” My mother, myself, and my four siblings were shocked at this response. Our solution was that I would bring the Eucharist from my home parish and all of us would gather each Sunday afternoon at my parents’ home and have a Communion service. During the next several months, I discerned that if it were possible, I would prevent families from experiencing what had happened to us as a family. That discernment led me to enter the diaconate formation program in 1989 and being ordained in 1993.
Q. What are the signs of God’s presence in your vocation?
A. Doing good things for God’s people are signs of God’s presence in my vocation. Especially during this pandemic, people are responding to the needs of others. My siblings and I grew up knowing that God’s goodness is in everyone. Sometimes we may have to look deep, but it is there. During formation, through my instructions and class experiences, this mentality deepened further. I am the spiritual advisor for our parish’s St. Vincent de Paul Conference. During the pandemic, despite the reality that parishes were closed and many people were without work, we still received donations, which enabled us to help the less fortunate.
Q. How have you experienced God’s goodness in your ministry?
A. Post-ordination, I felt a strong conviction to want to do every baptism, every wedding, and anything else that came my way. I even tentatively scheduled a wedding the afternoon of my ordination. My wife and my pastor very quickly talked me out of that. I soon realized if I continued at that pace, I would not be an effective minister. That’s realistic and sincere. Bottom line, my wife of almost fifty years, good spiritual directors, friends, parishioners, colleagues, and all who have challenged me in my ministry are signs of God’s goodness.
Q. What gives you hope in the Church today?
A. Church leaders are accepting late vocations, adding a new dimension to the priesthood and religious life. These individuals often have developed leadership skills in the laity. They can help younger priests and religious develop skills before they are named pastor or to leadership positions in religious communities. Also, dioceses and archdioceses are developing parochial administrative positions that can help parishes and respond to the need for priestly vocations.