Dr. Ebben to expand outreach as a deacon

By Amanda Lauer | For The Compass | May 24, 2013

The culmination of years of preparation, hard work and discernment.

KAUKAUNA — When Dr. Mark Ebben of Holy Cross Parish in Kaukauna is ordained a deacon for the Green Bay Diocese on May 18, it will mark the culmination of years of preparation, hard work and discernment.

For Dr. Ebben, who has led a life of service, it wouldn’t seem like that much of a stretch to take a vow of service to the church. He said he felt a constant prodding to become a deacon for years, but it wasn’t until the fall of 2009 that he formally committed to the program.

A native of Little Chute and a graduate of St. John Elementary School and High School, Dr. Ebben had good role models from an early age which inspired his call to serve.

“I have a cousin who’s a missionary priest and my wife, Mary, has a cousin who’s a missionary priest,” he said.

Dr. Ebben is an optometrist and has been practicing in Kaukauna since 1980. He started doing volunteer work in his field when he was still in college.

“I’ve been doing Third World eye care since 1977,” he said.

He and Mary will be celebrating their 30th wedding anniversary in September and did an extensive amount of volunteer work together in their early wedded years, including service trips to the Appalachian Mountains, TEC, Cursillo, youth leadership trips to Colorado every other summer and eye care mission trips.

The couple adopted two brothers from Haiti and around the same time found out they were expecting their first child. Within six months they had three children 4 and younger.

“Then we concentrated on our children,” said Ebben with a laugh. “We went from complete immersion in church and service to immersion in our family.”

Through the years the family expanded with the birth of their two girls and the adoption of another daughter. As the kids got older, the Ebbens were able to get back into volunteering more extensively, particularly the service trips.

“We take our kids whenever we can,” said Mary.

Their children, Dave, Dan, Katie, Angie and Leah, are all young adults now, with their youngest graduating from Xavier High School in Appleton later this month.

“When Angie was one, the Capuchins from Monte Alverno approached me and asked if I’d start providing eye care again. That’s when we started going to Nicaragua and we’ve been doing that for about 20-some years. That’s when I got involved in Volunteer Optometric Service for Humanity,” said Dr. Ebben, who is currently the president of the Wisconsin chapter.

“I saw how the church had evolved in that area,” he added. “When you’re in the middle of a rain forest in Nicaragua it is completely different than what it is here at Holy Cross as far as church is concerned. The priests who take care of those areas might have 50 or 60 parishes. They go on missions. They have maybe a parish a one-day walk or horseback ride from the next. You go to one parish and spend a day or two and you go to the next. That parish might see a priest two or three times a year.”

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