MANITOWOC — When former TV personality Tom Tomaszewski sought insight on becoming ordained as a deacon, he turned to — who else? — a TV personality named Tom who was ordained as a deacon.
And, thankfully for the newly ordained Deacon Tomaszewski, the feedback arrived just in time.
“I had thought about being a deacon for many years,” said Tomaszewski, a former reporter at WLUK TV in Green Bay. “So when I gave up fighting that feeling, that sort of tugging inside me, I sent an email to Deacon Tom Mahoney (a now-retired meteorologist at WFRV TV in Green Bay), because I knew he was ordained.”
“Deacon Tom explained to me the things that went into his decision, and all of that was very helpful. And, sort of as a postscript to the note he sent back, he added, ‘Tom, I looked at your age on your Facebook page and you know what — you need to make a decision soon,’” said Deacon Tomaszewski with a laugh, noting men need to apply to become a deacon by the age of 55 — and his 55th birthday was right around the corner.
“That was a clear sign I had to make a decision and stop procrastinating,” he said. “I had a profound feeling of loss when I thought of not becoming a deacon — enough so that in praying about it and thinking about it, it became clear that this was the right thing for me to do. And every step of the process has been fabulous, beyond expectation. It’s everything I could’ve hoped for, and more. To journey with people through their lives is a tremendous blessing.”
Deacon Tomaszewski, now 60, a Chicago native and Two Rivers resident, will serve at his adopted home parish, St. Francis of Assisi, in Manitowoc.
Fr. Dave Beaudry, a guiding light in Tomaszewski’s development the past few years, said the diocese is fortunate to have someone like Tomaszewski entering the diaconate.
“Tom has a heart as big as Manhattan,” said Fr. Beaudry. “He has so many life experiences that he has brought to bear, and all of those gifts are varied and many. He’ll be a great preacher.”
Deacon Tomaszewski was drawn to church as a youngster. His interest in the diaconate took root during his days in Chicago at Brother Rice High School, where he was surrounded by positive influences.
At that time, he also worked at Maryville Academy in the Chicago suburb of Des Plaines. The institution, originally built as an orphanage, was led by Fr. John Smyth, a former star student-athlete at the University of Notre Dame.
“That sense of mission for other people was something ingrained in me early on in my family and grew out of my experiences,” said DeaconTomaszewski. “The priests and nuns I admired while growing up were active in the community and worked with families and people in the neighborhoods, not just in the church.”
Deacon Tomaszewski went on to attend St. Norbert College in De Pere, where he developed a passion for news and a love for one of his classmates, Nancy, whom he met on the first day of class. They married in 1978 and have three adult daughters (Kathryn, Jessica and Samantha). He now works in advertising and Nancy teaches at Roncalli High School, Manitowoc.
After graduating from college (where he was editor of the student newspaper), Deacon Tomaszewski began working full-time as a reporter at WLUK TV. That, in turn, led to opportunities at TV stations in other Wisconsin markets and Minnesota.
Eventually, Tom and Nancy settled down in her hometown of Two Rivers to begin raising their family. It was there that they joined St. Luke Parish, which merged into St. Peter the Fisherman. After a while, they gravitated to St. Francis of Assisi Parish.
Along the way, Deacon Tomaszewski said he embraced the teachings of area religious leaders like Fr. Dave Beaudry, Fr. Dan Felton and the late Fr. Greg Smith.
Looking back, Deacon Tomaszewski sees some parallels between his role as a reporter and his interest in becoming a deacon.
“There’s always a holy aspect about trying to illustrate the truth in a given subject and help people understand it,” he said. “I learned important lessons about the value of afflicting the powerful and serving those who needed help. That was always a part of the job I loved the most. I recognize that as a constant theme. That’s why the diaconate is a perfect fit — I’ve got one foot in the world and one foot in the church.”
He is comfortable knowing he has the support of God, the diocese, the parish and his family.
“I know this about me — I am a better person, a better husband, a better father, a better coworker when I pay attention to my relationship with God,” he said. “And being a husband and a father has been a tremendous influence. My wife, my daughters, my family, they’ve all helped me understand what God’s love is in ways I haven’t before. Anytime I get nervous about what this journey is, all I really need to do is think about that. And I can feel a kind of peace that explains the phrase: ‘Do not be afraid.’ ”
As for his advice to others who are contemplating becoming a deacon, Deacon Tomaszewski said simply, “Don’t wait.”
“It is truly better than you imagine it could ever be,” he said. “You’re blessed to be part of this ministry. God’s graces are amazing, so it’s worth taking that step.”