OSHKOSH — When Paul Vidmar was ordained as a deacon on Saturday, May 13, it marked the culmination of many little seeds planted along the pathway of his life.
When Deacon Vidmar was 9 years old, he was a server at his home parish in Ely, Minn. One day, the priest asked him, in front of a number of people, if he had thought about becoming a priest. “What was I going to say in front of all of those people?” Deacon Vidmar said. “I said yes.”
It was a spur-of-the-moment answer, but “the seed was planted,” said Deacon Vidmar. As he grew to adulthood, graduated from college, married his wife, Kelly, started a family and started a career in radio, “that seed was growing as my faith in God started to grow,” he added.
Another turning point came through Deacon Vidmar’s young daughter, Megan. One day after church, she asked him, “How come you don’t put anything in the offering?”
“God worked through her that day,” said Deacon Vidmar. The next week, he tossed in an empty envelope, just so that she could see him put something into the basket.
By Tuesday, the priest contacted him. “I think you forgot something,” he said.
He talked with Deacon Vidmar about Malachi 3:9-10 about the importance of tithing to the church and “giving joyfully without expecting any kind of return.”
Deacon Vidmar said he didn’t see how he would be able to afford to tithe, but “the priest challenged me, so I did,”
“Good things started happening in my business life and personal life that strengthened my belief in God,” he said. “We just saw many, many blessings. God became more real to me.”
As Deacon Vidmar continued to grow in his faith, that seed returned, nudging him that “maybe you should check out the diaconate,” he said. He continued to think about it for two more years. “I was very business-minded, looking for a return on investment.”
The call got stronger and Vidmar reconsidered the role of a deacon and developed “more of an attitude of it being a vocation and not a job.” At the age of 55, the top age for beginning the formation program, Vidmar was told it was now or never.
“Something moved in my heart, and I said, ‘It’s now,’ ” said Deacon Vidmar. “I’ve never looked back.”
Deacon Vidmar has been in the program for five years, the minimum time required before being ordained. “It’s an awesome program,” he said. “I’ve needed every minute to learn, discern and make sure I was doing the right thing. Discernment is a lifelong process.
“The most surprising thing for me was that when I started out, I was questioning everything. Over the five-year period, all of those questions were answered,” he added. “It gives me peace of mind that they know what they are doing. Everything they were doing had a meaning and a purpose and is going to come into play after ordination.”
Deacon Vidmar and his wife sold the two radio stations they owned, and he now works for Dale Carnegie, “helping people grow and develop their leadership skills, confidence, communication and people skills, and improve their attitude,” he said.
As service work, he works at Father Carr’s Place 2B, conducts communion services at Park View Health Center in Oshkosh, offers pastoral care by visiting people in their homes, lectors, and serves as an acolyte during Mass, setting the altar, purifying the vessels and assisting at Mass.
“What I am doing right now I can do without being a deacon,” he said. “Through ordination, I can become a shepherd. I want to be more conformed to Jesus Christ and by the grace of God to be a shepherd to serve my brothers and sisters in Christ on our journey to the kingdom of Heaven.
“I hope through the grace and love of God I can serve the people God chooses for me to serve, to listen to them, love them and serve them.”
He said he is grateful that his first assignment is to his home parish of St. Raphael the Archangel in Oshkosh. As a deacon, he will be able to baptize, marry and perform funeral services, as well as preach at Mass.
He assisted at all five weekend Masses at St. Raphael, May 13-14, and baptized his two youngest grandchildren, ages 7 months and 9 months. “I’m very happy about that blessing from God,” he said.
He said his family – wife, Kelly, who is a chaplain and serves people in hospice situations, and their children Megan, Ryan and Greg – all have been very supportive of him becoming a deacon.
He said that some things come to mind on an everyday basis. St. Jude, the patron of hopeless cases, “is very important to my family,” and he asks for intercession daily. His parents were married at a later age and were told they would not have children. But after prayers to St. Jude, they had three children.
And he has heeded the phrase “count your blessings and not your troubles” his entire life. “You do have a lot more blessings than troubles,” he said. “It’s really helped me focus on the positive.”